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  • Tamra Simpson

Understanding The How of Instructional Coaching

As an instructional coach, it is imperative to have the willingness and ability to reinvent yourself. Coaching, mentoring, training, and consulting all require a common skill set for success. You must possess the ability to see and adapt to the needs of the one you serve.

SERVE, that is a verb that we should take some time to break down and understand. However, I want to finish the original thought first.

So, let’s expand on the skills of foresight and analysis. When you are charged with supporting and building the capacity of others, you must first be able to see the areas in which they may need growth. The person you are working with will have all the facts and details to point you in the right direction. But it is up to you to have the ability to piece together all of the singular details that will be shared with you. At times, the person or organization you may be working for will feel as if they know the “problem of practice”. However, they may be too close to the source. Often times, when we are caught in the cycle or system that we are trying to change, we can become off balance and start confusing causes and symptoms. Therefore, it is necessary for us, as instructional leaders, to constantly strengthen our ability to not only see the problem of practice but to be able to identify the system or culture that allows it to exist.

Then, once you have analyzed and identified, you need to be able to adapt. The English proverb, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, comes to mind. This expression is used often to help others understand that as a visitor in someone else's space, it is customary to abide by the customs and norms of those around you. It is often thought to be advantageous to live by this proverb. As an instructional coach, I believe that it is essential to know your audience. Before, you start coaching or stating what the problem is, according to you, you should take time to learn the culture of the organization. When working with individuals, you should take time to learn how the coachee communicates and the way in which they need to receive communication. For example, some people are straight talkers. They want the facts and you do not need to sugar coat or add fluff to soften the constructive criticism or feedback. Others need more finesse and subtlety. Then, still, there are other personality types that will never receive the feedback, if they can’t see it themselves. When working with those of that personality type, you must be able to set the stage, so that the problem of practice has a spotlight. After you have created the conditions for the problem of practice to be visible, then you allow the coachee to point it out. If you have employed any of these strategies, then you have adapted to your environment.

The goal is to be flexible and comfortable with reinventing yourself, in efforts to get the job done. Most often, our responsibility as an instructional coach is to build the capacity of our educators, so student achievement and well-being increase. In order to successfully accomplish this goal, we have to know the master we serve.

Wow, the word serve is inescapable. In my next post, I will explore what serve, servant, and servant leadership means and why it is the most successful form of the How, in instructional coaching.

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