By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Although I usually write our blog posts, two of our PIIC instructional coaching supporters wanted to share these words of wisdom as the new school year begins. As a former coach and administrator working with our instructional coaching model, they offer three sustainability tips to think about when implementing the before, during and after cycle of consultation in an urban school district: 


Sustainability Tip #1: Fight for what for what you believe. Whenever a new administrator comes on board, there may be a quick turnover of initiatives as this new leader establishes a new path or new vision. Frequent dialogue may arise as to cutting an instructional coach or increasing class sizes to 40. Be prepared to collect quantitative data to support instructional coaching. Reports on the number of coach/teacher interactions can also be powerful. Administrators need to keep current with the research supporting coaching and be prepared to present this to the school board or administration on a regular basis.  

Sustainability Tip # 2: Little things make a difference. Taking time to return emails, answer questions, or provide resources all make a difference. As a coach, look for little ways to open dialogue. Sometimes a kind word, a piece of chocolate, or a cup of coffee can go a long way to build relationships. Be mindful to follow up on everything you promise or agree to do when working with the teacher. A good rule of thumb for the coach is to “under promise and over deliver.” Follow this and you will maintain a positive, trustworthy rapport with all.  

Sustainability Tip #3: Maintain Coaching Fidelity. Instructional coaches should not be the first “go to” people for reports or preparing for special events because they do not have an assigned class. Although coaches may be a valuable resource for such projects, it is important to respect the coaches’ time for engaging in one-on-one and small group support working directly with teachers in the before-during-after coaching cycle. As a coach or administrator, be prepared to conduct conversations to preserve and honor the culture of coaching. As a coach, strive to immerse yourself in the ongoing BDA process with the teachers. This is the true path toward sustainability and positive school change.

The Pennsylvania High School Coaching Initiative (PAHSCI) started a movement in 2005 that honored collaboration and ignited a passion for effective teaching. Following in 2009, the Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC) refined the framework bringing leaders together to continue creating opportunities to expand the circle of leaders and their influence.

It is never too early...what tips can you share about sustaining instructional coaching in your school/district?

Deb Carr is currently an Assistant Professor of Education at King’s College. She previously served as Director of Curriculum & Instruction for the Hazleton Area School District and was the district’s PAHSCI/PIIC initiative contact. She is an instructor in the Instructional Coaching Endorsement Program at King’s College.

Jessica Jacobs is currently serving as an administrator of Curriculum and Instruction at the Luzerne Intermediate Unit. She was an instructional coach for Hazleton Area High School and a PIIC Mentor. She is also an instructor in the Instructional Coaching Endorsement Program at King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Welcome back to school! I hope your summer was relaxing and at the same time, energizing, stimulating, and empowering. Doesn’t sound like relaxing belongs there, does it? But, in reality, relaxation can engender all of the above. 

A third-year coach emailed me last week and shared how relaxing this past summer was for her. But then, she asked if it was normal for her to be full of anxiety and at the same time, invigorated to start the new year. She read our book, Instructional Coaching in Action: An Integrated Approach That Transforms Thinking, Practice, and Schools and knew that she wanted to start the year with excerpts from the book and plan short articles for her monthly book/article studies for the year yet she was worried that she didn’t spend enough time this summer reading articles about adult learning and how to engage her colleagues in meaningful conversations.

I shared with her my teaching “stage fright” each September when I worried that I didn’t add enough to my repertoire of tools to continue making a positive impact on my students or for the teachers I coached when I made that instructional switch in responsibilities. I shared my nightmares that I wouldn’t be able to answer my students’ questions or my teaching colleagues’ inquiries when engaging in coaching interactions.  All of these fears are quite normal and to be expected after spending some much-needed time reflecting on past practice. Those reflections help make adjustments towards future practice. I call that “controlled anxiety!”

That’s exactly what coaches do… they reflect on the past, think about the present, and plan for the future. This occurs when the brain relaxes and the coach takes time to envision where to go. Our brains need to de-clutter before we can re-imagine where we are going and how we will engage our teaching colleagues in constructive conversations about teaching and learning.

So, fear not the anxiety about new beginnings and engage in productive thinking as you consider how to support your teaching colleagues this year. That anxiety is a good thing… it propels you into action!


So, what are some of the ways your summer thinking has shaped your beginnings for the new school year?