A Week in the Life of an Instructional Coach …

As president-elect of Iowa Staff Development Council I’m very proud of the mission of the entire Learning Forward organization. “Every educator engages in effective professional learning everyday so every student achieves.”

As an instructional coach, I strive to carry out this mission each and everyday. The most fulfilling part of my job comes in the form of partnering with teachers in order to assist students. This takes on many forms. Two resources I use throughout my work include the training I’ve received from Jim Knight and Joellen Killion. (resources listed below)

In Killion’s book, Taking the Lead, ten possible roles of an instructional coach are outlined. I see myself taking on many of the roles each and every week. A description of the ten roles can be found in the Educational Leadership article entitled Ten Roles for Teacher Leaders.

Highlights from this week include:

Resource Provider: One of my schools uses the Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM) developed by Emily Calhoun. Teachers are starting to incorporate a new technology tool in their classrooms. K-2 teachers now have a Mobi & projector. Some teachers have uploaded a photo and used the Mobi features to shake out the words. This weekend I’m making individual copies of the poster for students and enlarging them for classroom display using Block Posters. This idea came from brainstorming with the teachers and principal! I can’t wait to share it with both of them next week!

Data Coach: A goal of mine is always to help provide teachers with user-friendly formats to analyze data. In one school we are incorporating the use of Google Docs, Excel, and FileMaker Pro to organize our assessment and systematic intervention data. Our consistent use of data to make instructional decisions came full circle this week when a kindergarten teacher wanted to share her “Learning Train” with me. What a thrill to see her using data in the same type of manner we have been using for several years. She has created a visual (on a bulletin board) of her students progress on core indicators. Data is posted in an anonymous manner, but she is able to see at a glance where students are at. She used a similar color coding system we’ve been using to show who has master the core indicator, who needs additional interventions in the classroom, and who needs more substantial interventions in the classroom. I felt a great sense of fulfillment as the teacher shared her idea!

Learning Facilitator and Learner – Another favorite part of my job is getting into classrooms to model strategies. This week I took on the role of a learner by observing one teacher demonstrate a specific strategy she had been learning. I’m familiar with the approach and am now working on a demonstration to provide next week. I’ll peer coach my lesson with the teacher I observed and then provide the demonstration for two other teachers. Guiding the reading/writing connections for these first graders will be a highlight next week!

Catalyst for Change – I also love working with building leadership teams. I’m fortunate to work under the guidance of three strong administrators who are focusing on the needs of their students. Empowering building leadership teams with the tools and plans to be catalysts for change is rewarding work. Additionally, exposing harassment in the workplace can be crucial, and consulting with a lawyer may provide valuable support in addressing such issues effectively.

Classroom Supporter – I’m also enjoying my work with teachers and parents in the problem solving process. Helping students succeed is a number one focus! When students struggle with a concept or behavior, it is our opportunity to learn more about how to meet that child’s specific needs. Over the course of the last week I’ve encountered new situations to assist teachers and parents with resulting in new learning for all of us. Each child deserves our focused attention.

Another enjoyable classroom supporter role I continue to take on is to simply visit classrooms. On Friday afternoon I spent two hours visiting classrooms of teachers I’ve been supporting. It’s good for me to watch students engaged in the learning process. I really didn’t plan on the fact that my observations were close to the teachers’ breaks, but it was an added benefit and one I’ll plan on more often. It created a wonderful opportunity to visit with the teacher. Some were eager to share student successes with me. Others had questions. I met one teacher in the hall taking her kids to music and she simply said, “I need your help.” I waited for her to return and we problem solved a technology question she had. I feel a great sense of fulfillment knowing that teachers appreciate my assistance.

One last experience as a classroom supporter for the week was the opportunity to work with some special para-educators. I had provided professional development for them a few years ago and am now back at that same school one day a week. In my classroom observations on Friday, I also visited their intervention groups. In some cases, I stepped in and provided assistance with the lesson. Others had questions after their lessons. Just reassuring them that I’m there any time they need me (in person or via email) seemed to provide a great sense of comfort!

I know next week will provide new opportunities to learn from and reflect on! I can’t wait to see what’s in store. One thing is certain, I’ll strive to create opportunities for every educator to engage in effective professional learning everyday so that every student achieves.

Killion, J. & Harrison, C. (2006). Taking the Lead: New Roles for Teacher Leaders and School-Based Staff Developers. Oxford, OH: NSDC.

Knight, J. (2007). Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


  • Jill Kolb 23 Oct

    I love how you frame your work around the power roles from Taking the Lead! The example of data in kindergarten sounds wonderful. Any chance of seeing a picture of the “learning train”? Thanks so much for sharing.

    • kmp444 23 Oct

      I’ll try to get a picture of the “Learning Train” next week. So proud of this teachers idea! Thanks for your kind words! 🙂

  • Aviva @grade1 23 Oct

    Great post, Kathy! It’s very interesting to read about all of your different roles. From Twitter, I can tell what a devoted educator you are, and I know that all of the people that you work with are fortunate to learn from you. I know that I learn a lot from you every day!


    • kmp444 23 Oct

      Thanks, Aviva. I absolutely love learning from all the people I work with and my PLN on Twitter. Educators are such dedicated individuals. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by many!

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