The title of instructional coach doesn’t really tell the story of what I do each day. It doesn’t say anything about how often and how much I advocate for teachers and students, nor does it hint at the “behind the scenes” work that is done to try to make the work of teaching and learning more manageable for those who are in the trenches doing the actual work. It’s hard for others to understand my job, especially if they are not or have not engaged in any ongoing work with a coach.
We’ve considered changing the title to “peer collaborator” or “teaching partner” or “professional learning associate.” No matter the title, I’m still not sure others would understand what I do until we have had time to plan, teach, and reflect together. So the question becomes, what does my title say and what doesn’t it say?
The word coach can connote a whistle and clipboard wielding individual running up and down the sidelines calling plays while players are on the field are engaged in the game. The way I see the word coach, in regards to what I do, is a knowledge wielding individual sitting or standing side by side in the classroom co-planning, co-teaching and observing or co-observing. All of this work is done, not in order to call plays, but rather, to serve as a second set of eyes to understand how children are responding to the teaching that occurs. The “plays” are determined WITH teachers based on data, conversations, questions, and reflections. Nothing in my title really speaks to any of this.
My title doesn’t say anything about all of the behind the scenes work that occurs outside of the typical work day. It says nothing of the research and reading that I do to help teachers think more deeply about what puzzles them. I’m not necessarily trying to find answers because I believe only the teacher can find the answers. Instead, I believe my work is to read and research in order to provide opportunities in my coaching relationships for teachers to find the answers. That can occur through a shared teaching experience, an article, an excerpt, or simply a conversation that starts with the two words, “What if…?”
No title could possibly convey all of the work I do as an instructional coach because underneath that title is one that I value even more – teacher. I am a teacher, and I approach all of the work I do as an instructional coach first and foremost as a teacher. A teacher who cares deeply about those she works with. A teacher who thinks about and puzzles over things long after the coaching session has ended. A teacher who cares and wants to make a difference, not just for the adults, but also for the children in my schools.