Grace Worrell and Melissa Llano, instructional coach and principal at Franklin Park School District in Illinois, reflect on their collaborative partnership together built on trust and respect.
s teachers, the emphasis of our work is based on the relationships we have with our students and without those relationships, significant learning isn't possible. As instructional coaches, however, our work is primarily based on the relationships with our staff.
When starting my career in coaching I focused on building relationships with teachers. We're taught to initially coach "light" and to be our school's cheerleaders in order to build a relationship. These crucial relationship-building tasks will then, in turn, lead to coaching "heavy" and significant learning. However, the piece of the coaching puzzle that's often overlooked yet absolutely crucial to success is the coach and principal relationship.
A Coach's Perspective: Grace Worrell
I'm lucky enough to be in the unique situation where my principal is a former instructional coach. It's nearly impossible to understand a coach's role or, even more importantly, a coach's potential impact, without living the day-to-day life of an instructional coach. This understanding and advocacy for an instructional role are vital components to a coach's success.
My position is even more unique in that my principal and I came to our school together, where we were able to establish ourselves as individuals and as a team. As individuals, we each have our own agendas. For example, as a coach, I'm also the mentor for all first- and second-year teachers in our building. I don't share with my principal the goals I'm working on with my mentees unless they explicitly ask me. Similarly, my principal doesn't share any evaluation information with me—allowing us to successfully do our jobs without overstepping each others confidentiality agreements.
Principal's Perspective: Melissa Llano
Having been an elementary instructional coach myself, I know firsthand exactly how much the support from a principal can impact the work you do with teachers. When I became an administrator in a building that had instructional coaching, I knew immediately what type of support those coaches would need and that I wanted to be sure I provided it!
One of the biggest supports I wanted to include was to truly make the instructional coach my collaborator and thought partner for the building. In doing so, my first step was to include the instructional coach on what my hopes were for professional development within the building. Although I'm in classrooms daily, Grace's time spent collaborating with teachers helps provide a deeper in-class perspective to the types of professional development opportunities teachers may be seeking. In addition to collaborating with my instructional coach, I regularly suggest staff members seek her input and collaboration after giving my own suggestions, or if I'm unsure of an answer to a specific curricular material or technology. This simple action shows that I personally value the knowledge and input our instructional coach has to offer all staff members, including me.
That being said, there's definitely a coach-administrator line we don't cross. The work she does with staff members is confidential unless they give her permission to share and I never share most of the day-to-day tasks I handle that relates to the building or evaluations. While we're a team and work closely together, there is an ethical understanding on both of our parts that some things aren't to be shared or asked about.
Coach & Principal: Team Perspective
Our impact is felt, seen, and heard by most when we work together. By starting the journey together, we were quickly able to establish a positive working relationship and tackle school improvement goals, professional development plans, and more together. Also, we are each other's go-to for advice, feedback, a sounding board, and thought partner; we both know that the other is someone we can always count on!
Relationships are the cornerstone of education. Without a collaborative relationship between a coach and the principal, coaching will not have the impact that the two hope to achieve. We hope that our relationship will inspire you to create one yourself with peers and administration!
About our Guest Bloggers
Melissa Llano is the principal at Pietrini Elementary School in Franklin Park, Illinois. Prior to this role, she was an assistant principal in Deerfield Public Schools 109 and an instructional coach in CCSD 62 in Des Plaines, Illinois. She has classroom teaching and coaching experience at the elementary level, and has also served as a math area service coordinator and consultant for the state of Illinois. Melissa is passionate about building instructional capacity, curriculum and assessment, as well as quality professional development.
Grace Worrell, formerly Grace Kowalski, is an instructional coach in Franklin Park School District, located in the suburbs of Chicago. Before this, she was an instructional coach in Deerfield Public Schools 109 and an elementary teacher in both Berwyn South School District and Columbia Public Schools. Grace is the co-author of the award-winning book, NOW Classrooms, Grades 3-5. Grace is passionate about enhancing teaching and learning through technology as well as creating engaging, personalized professional development for all teachers.