Education Opinion

Instructional Coaches: An Invitation to an Advice Column

By Elena Aguilar — September 04, 2012 3 min read

I’m going to come straight out and confess: I’m on a mission to see effective coaching programs in all schools. I dream of seeing coaches supporting teachers, principals, and superintendents, of coaches working with educators at all levels of an organization.

This mission is driven by my belief that coaching might just be the secret to transforming our schools, good coaching, that is--coaching that attends to an educator’s behavior, beliefs and being; coaching delivered by coaches who have a ton of support, rigorous professional development, and who practice a research-based model of coaching; coaching that is focused, intentional, and of course, that gets results--that leads to improvements in student learning.

I’ve seen this kind of good coaching transform individual educators, teams of teachers, and entire schools; my own practice was transformed by working with effective coaches. There’s also a growing pile of research that indicates the benefits of a coaching program; I’ll share this at some point. But first, some back story.

My Path to this Blog

I’ve worked in the Oakland Unified School District in Oakland, California for 18 years--first as a teacher then an instructional coach, a leadership coach, and now as a manager of coaches. When I became an instructional coach I knew I’d need resources. So I went to the usual places for books looking for literature on coaching. I was surprised by how little was written specifically on coaching in schools. I also needed professional development guided by an expert coach and I craved a community of coaches with whom I could share stories, strategies, and successes.

As the years passed, I moved into coaching roles where some of these needs were met. I found community, master coaches, and more resources. And I started seeing the impact that I could have on others--on teachers and principals, and indirectly, on students. These experiences have led me to become a vocal advocate of coaching.

In order to fulfill this mission, I identified some things that I could do.

  1. Because coaches working in schools need more resources on coaching teachers and administrators, I wrote a book--The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation. It’s being published by Jossey-Bass and will be out on 3/13/13. I really hope that it helps others in this field.
  2. In order to advocate for coaching programs, I figured I needed to lead one. This year I’m managing/supervising/supporting a team of instructional and leadership coaches that are working with schools engaged in transformation. I’m learning a tremendous amount about what professional development for coaches needs to look like and how to roll out an effective program.
  3. Coaches need colleagues. I haven’t found many communities on the web specifically for coaches of teachers and administrators, therefore, this blog idea was conceived.

An Invitation

This blog intends to be an advice column of sorts. Coaches: I invite you to email me with the challenges and questions arising in your work. I’ll respond and hope that readers will chime in with their insights, observations, wisdom and suggestions.

The irony of this blog being an advice column is that coaches don’t really give advice. A coach leads someone through a reflective process, helping another solve her own problems, guiding her through her maze of thoughts and in order to make sense of what she’s experiencing. But I love the advice column genre--the stories and easy tone that feels like you’re talking to a trusted friend. So I’m going to explore and see what happens when a coach attempts to coach coaches through an advice column.

So coaches--instructional coaches, literacy coaches, curriculum coaches, new teacher coaches, whole school coaches, and even principal or leadership coaches--what challenges are you encountering as this school year begins? What’s on your mind? What would you like some support around?

Email your stories to me at: info@elenaaguilar.com

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.


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