Starting the School Year Strong: 5 Tips for New Instructional Coaches

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Tonya Moody, instructional coach in Westfield Washington School District in central Indiana, shares her practiced techniques for new or transitioning instructional coaches to start their journey on the right foot.


oohoo! As the school year begins, many new instructional coaches are starting their journey. For me, the thought of becoming an instructional coach and spending every day focused on great instruction was a dream come true—I couldn't wait to begin. But as the summer came to a close, I started to get very worried.

As a classroom teacher, I knew exactly what I should be doing to start the school year successfully. As an instructional coach, I literally had no idea. At first, I set up my office, sat in a chair, and stared at the wall. However, the beginning of my second year looks vastly different because I have developed a plan—based on my first year of successes and failures—on how I can start this year strong and successful.

Five Ways to Start Strong

1) Create Positive Relationships

Forming positive relationships with your teachers lies at the heart of great instructional coaching. Creating a plan for forming relationships is most important because they don't magically form from just being in the same room. Relationships require thoughtful steps to make them happen. Learning names and intentionally getting to know someone personally is key, but so is making sure you're visible and excited to interact with your colleagues daily.

2) Get Your Job Description in Writing

This should truly be your top priority when hired as an instructional coach. If you are lucky, you have a team of coaches to collaborate with when creating a mission and job description. If you are alone, it is important to articulate exactly what you do for you personally, and also your peers! Ambiguity is not a method for success. Clarity is key!

3) Share Your Job Description with Every Teacher

Making sure that every teacher you coach knows what you do is crucial. Vagueness is the death of instructional coaching. If teachers cannot articulate what you do for staff and students, you will get very little traction. Be concise and clear and verbalize your role to the entire school.

4) Decide What You Value

How you spend your time is a direct reflection of what you find most important. Increasing student achievement should be an instructional coach's number one goal and the only way this is possible is through spending deep and meaningful amounts of time in coaching cycles. Being a friendly resource is one aspect of our job, but it should not be the majority of our time. The most student impact will come through partnering with teachers to help students reach their goals! Create a schedule that values what's important for students!

5) Invite Teachers to Collaborate in a Coaching Cycle

Get an invitation out to all teachers inviting them to participate in a coaching cycle and include the dates of when coaching cycles will be available during the year. An invitation allows teachers to decide when a coaching cycle might be best for them during the school year. It also implies that coaching is for everyone—which is crucial to a successful school year. For instance, my district uses a student-centered coaching cycle model. You can read all about the benefits of student-centered coaching by Diane Sweeney in her most recent article.

Final Thought

Starting the school year strong is vital for any instructional coach! Enjoy the journey that each school year brings and know that your role is an important part of your school’s success!

About our Guest Blogger

Tonya Moody is an instructional coach in Westfield Washington School District in central Indiana and has over ten years of teaching experience. Prior to coaching, she taught Kindergarten and Second Grade and worked as both a reading specialist and literacy coach. She has a passion for encouraging her colleagues and collaborating with fellow educators. Tonya loves growing her PLN on Twitter and would love to connect with you!

Follow Tonya on Twitter @MrsMoodyIC

Read more from our guest bloggers

Topics: Tips and Tricks, Guest Blogger, Coaching, First Year as a Coach, Instructional Coaching, Coaching Cycles

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