Opinion
Education Opinion

Five Pitfalls to Avoid as a New Instructional Coach

By Elena Aguilar — September 03, 2018 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Instructional coaches get very little training before stepping into the role--as least I wasn’t prepared when I started. What follows are the five biggest pitfalls to avoid as a new coach--the five pitfalls that can be the hardest to scramble out of.

1. Don’t overlook people. At first, don’t focus on content, instructional strategies, or curriculum. Focus on people and building relationships with people. You might be there to coach around English Language Development or Common Core Math, and you’ll get there, but to start with you need to build relationships with the people you’ll coach.

2. Don’t feel like you need to prove yourself. Don’t hang your credentials and certificates on the wall or brag about the test scores your kids got last year. You do need to demonstrate competence, but demonstrate your competence in listening, facilitating reflection, understanding kids, and being curious. Sprinkle in what you know, carefully. To be a great coach, you need to be excellent at guiding adult learners.

3. Don’t talk a lot about what you did as a teacher. Maybe don’t talk about it at all. Unless you’re asked. Your coachee is not you and can’t be you. Saying what you did can create distance and distrust. Get to know your client. And don’t think everyone else should just be you or do what you did. It’s not possible. And talking that way makes other people feel insecure.

4. Avoid ambiguity and vagueness. Know what your job entails or find out. Distrust comes from wondering: What does she do all day? What is coaching all about? Does she evaluate us? Does she tell our principal everything we talk about? You may need to ask your administrator for support here--perhaps offer them this blog to read, 10 Ways Administrators Can Support Coaches--in preparation for a meeting with you to discuss coaching. You need to be very clear with the people you’re coaching about what your role entails, what they can expect of you, and what the purpose of the coaching is. Transparency builds trust.

5. Don’t underestimate what you do know (but make sure to stay humble). It’s likely that you’re in this position because you do know something about teaching and learning, and with that knowledge it’s likely that you can help teachers. But a coach needs to guide adult learners--not push them or force them into places they don’t want to go. (Although sometimes you do need to be directive).

Here is a video in which I add texture and personal stories to describe these pitfalls. Coaching is so much fun and so rewarding and I hope you can experience those moments, as well as the normal steep learning curve, as you enter this field!

Here are some additional resources for new coaches:

First Steps for a New Coach

An Instructional Coach’s First Week

New Coaches: Technical Tips for Getting Started

How to Structure a Coaching Conversation

The opinions expressed in The Art of Coaching Teachers are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Education More Than 120,000 U.S. Kids Had Caregivers Die During Pandemic
The toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans, a new study suggests.
3 min read
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 file photo, a funeral director arranges flowers on a casket before a service in Tampa, Fla. According to a study published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, by the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)