7 Tips for Becoming an Instructional Coach

7 Tips for Becoming an Instructional Coach

Are you wondering what steps to take toward becoming an instructional coach?

These 7 tips will help you build experience for instructional coaching interviews.

What to look for in this post:
Diversify your experience
Try new things
Take on additional responsibilities
Lead professional learning
Begin coaching work
Shadow a coach
Start reading

If you prefer to hear me talk through this, here is a video featuring all of this content:

[0:34] Diversify your experience to prepare for instructional coaching

If you have only ever taught one grade level or subject area, I would recommend switching it up. I taught fifth grade math, kindergarten, and then third grade math. So even though my specialty was in the area of mathematics, I still got some different experiences teaching three different grade levels. I worked with different teams, and I had to start over a couple times.

Diversifying your teaching experience is important, because chances are you won’t be coaching just one grade level or subject area. If you are an instructional coach for a school, you are going to have to be knowledgeable about all the grade levels and subject areas. If you are an instructional coach for a district, you might only be doing one subject area but then you will be covering many grade levels. Ultimately, diversifying your experience increases your credibility in an instructional coaching interview as well as with the teachers you are coaching.

[2:30] Try new things in the classroom

There are a lot of buzzwords in education, and I’m not saying you have to get on every trend train that comes through. If there are some things that seem sound, however, it can be good try new things with your students. Other teachers may want to try them as well, and then you are the one with the experience.

For me, that thing was small group rotations. I had never really done it before, but I learned more about it and then jumped into it. Another thing I tried was Genius Hour - the idea of 80/20 time and passion projects. You could also start small with something like interactive notebooks, or escape rooms in your classroom. I encourage you to try some different strategies, techniques, and activities in your classroom, because that gives you great perspective to use when you are coaching others. You have the experiences, and you can speak to what works and what does not.

[4:44] Take on additional responsibilities

I know you’re probably thinking you don’t have time for any more responsibilities, and I totally get it. I encourage you to be selective about what you take on. If your school or district offers lead teacher positions, I would start there. If your school needs a testing coordinator, that might be a good thing to take on. You want to take on these roles that are potentially going to build your resume and build your experience.

[5:48] Lead professional learning

I suggest that you start providing some kind of professional development. You certainly don’t have to know everything, but you need to pick something. I know there is some magic that you have in your classroom that you can share, and that teachers in your building or district would benefit from.

Think of something that sets you apart in your classroom, and ask your principal if you can share that with the teachers in your building. If there is a district-wide professional learning day, you might be able to share there as well.

If you’re reading this and thinking either, “I already do that,” or, “I don’t have an opportunity to do this,” I’m going to push you in both situations: think BIGGER. Submit an application for a conference. Don’t be afraid that you aren’t good enough or that you don’t know enough. This is a learning opportunity for yourself as well, so you can start growing into that professional learning role.

[7:41] Begin coaching work before becoming an instructional coach

There are a couple different ways you can start coaching, even before you are an instructional coach. You can enlist a teacher friend who knows that you want to pursue coaching, and ask if they would be open to practicing a coaching session with you. You could also take it upon yourself to start mentoring new teachers in the building. I don’t mean telling them what to do, because that is not what coaching is. Instead, practice going in and listening. Have conversations with new teachers, and ask them if there is anything they need help or support with. Instructional coaching is all about relationships, and building trust with these teachers will develop into something bigger over time.

[9:11] Shadow an instructional coach

When you were learning about teaching, you had to go observe a teacher. One thing I tell all aspiring teachers is to spend as much time in classrooms as you possibly can - and don’t wait until it’s required. Volunteer, so you can see if you really like it. Have you ever met a student teacher who decided they didn’t like teaching? How awful to get through all of that coursework just to decide that you don’t really want to be a teacher.

So, I give the same advice for teachers who want to become instructional coaches. Ask for a professional learning day, if your district offers those, and shadow an instructional coach in your district. This is an invaluable experience, and it’s one of those things that allows you to speak knowledgeably in your interview for an instructional coaching position. If you find that you don’t enjoy it, of course, then you know it’s not worth pursuing further.

[11:18] Start reading books related to instructional coaching

My last tip is to start reading. Read books about coaching, leadership, research-based best practices, and anything else that interests or excites you most about instructional coaching or education. I have recorded a video about some suggested reading if you want to pursue instructional coaching here.

Want to become an instructional coach? A list of 7 tips: Diversify your experience, try new things, take on additional responsibilities, lead professional learning, begin coaching work, shadow a coach, start reading.

Looking for more instructional coaching resources?

You can join our monthly instructional coaching email list for free resources and tips.
My Instructional Coaching Time Tracking Tool is available on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Check out these related posts:
Instructional Coach Interview Tips
Instructional Coaching in 5 Words
4 Tips for a New Instructional Coach

Check out these related YouTube videos:
How to Become an Instructional Coach: Definition & Qualifications
Suggested Reading to Prepare for Instructional Coaching

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