Cardinal Sins of Coaching: What Instructional Coaching Is and Is Not

 Coaching Cardinal Rules

You have duties and responsibilities as an instructional coach.

In this post, I discuss some important boundaries and rules of thumb for what instructional coaching is and is not. These are great things to keep in mind as an instructional coach - make sure you do not break any of these cardinal rules!

What to look for in this post:
  • Do not be more invested than the teachers with whom you are working
  • Do not cancel meetings with teachers
  • Do not over promise or under deliver
  • Make sure your teachers know you believe in them

If you prefer to hear me talk through this, here are four videos featuring all of this content:

Do Not Be More Invested Than the Teachers With Whom You Are Working

This tip is a friendly reminder that you, as the instructional coach, cannot be more invested in the work you are doing with a teacher than the teacher is. I have, on more than one occasion, realized that this is the case as I am working with a teacher. If you find yourself wondering why they are not as concerned as you are, why they are not working on something as much as you would hope, or why you are spinning your wheels to be met with minimal effort on their part, this might be happening to you.

If this becomes the case, you need to reconsider the work that you are doing with that teacher. You should be supportive, but ultimately you should not care more about their work than they do.

Of course, there are exceptions to any rule. If you are modeling a lesson for a teacher, for example, then yes you will be doing more of the work at that point. You will need to make sure you are prepared, planned, and ready. Outside of that situation, however, I really cannot think of many times that you should be working harder than the teacher or putting more effort into something than the teacher.

It is just like teaching in a classroom. I often tell teachers that they should not be the hardest working people in their classrooms - the students should be! If your work as instructional coach is feeling out of balance, you need to consider how to increase engagement and get your teachers more involved in the work.

Students should be the HARDEST working people in a classroom.

Do Not Cancel Meetings with Teachers

Another important boundary that I set for myself as an instructional coach is not breaking meetings with teachers. If I have scheduled time to meet with a teacher, whether it is a regular meeting or a one-off, I do not cancel those meetings.

I cannot stress this enough. Do not reschedule them or put them off if you can at all help it. I think it is really important to honor their time, and it does a lot to build trust between you and the teacher when you do what you say you will do. Breaking a meeting breaks trust.

Breaking a meeting breaks TRUST.

 Again, there will be exceptions or moments where changing meeting times cannot be helped. An administrator may need you for an emergency. Illness or other outside factors may come into play. For sure, though, do not make a regular habit of breaking meetings with teachers. If another teacher wants to see you during a time you have another meeting scheduled, they will just have to get in line.

Do Not Over Promise or Under Deliver

In a similar vein of doing what we say we are going to do, as instructional coaches we should not over promise or under deliver. If we tell someone something will be done by a certain date or time, we have to deliver. In the instructional coaching world, it is essential that we actually UNDER promise and OVER deliver. Not doing what we say we will do breaks that trust with teachers - and we know trust is essential when it comes to coaching work.

It is essential that we under promise and OVER deliver.

Always keep your word. Make your deadlines, no matter what it costs you. If you can over deliver, even better.

Make Sure Your Teachers Know You Believe in Them

By keeping to the “rules” discussed above, you will continue to build trust with teachers. They will see you as a value-add to their work, as well as a source of support for them. Make sure you continue to seek sources of support for yourself as well, as coaching can be a lonely field. If you feel supported in your work, you will be a more effective instructional coach for your teachers.

Check out these related posts:
Coaching Teachers: What You Need to Know About Resistant Teachers and Setting Limits on How Many Teachers You Can Coach at One Time
Building Trust with Teams as an Instructional Coach
How to Build Relationships with Teachers as an Instructional Coach
Tips for Difficult or Uncomfortable Instructional Coaching Conversations with Teachers
Responding to Teachers' Concerns and Complaints as an Instructional Coach

Check out these related YouTube videos:
How Many Teachers Can You Coach Effectively?
Building Trust with Instructional Coaches
Use Your Planner to Strengthen Relationships with Teachers
Tips for Uncomfortable Instructional Coaching Conversations
Take Your Time to Respond to Teachers

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