One of the fundamental skills for being a good instructional coach is being able to provide the right resource at the right time for the teacher(s) you’re working with. It takes time, emotional labor, tremendous patience, and a keen ear to understand what your “coachee” needs. And this all assumes you already have a repository of quality resources from which to pull and that you won’t have to say, “hold on, let me Google it.”
There are many skills that a coach needs to master and one of those skills is curating resources. The wonderful Jennifer Gonzalez on the Cult of Pedagogy blog recently wrote a terrific piece asking if you were a curator or a dumper. As our team discussed it, we acknowledged our own tendencies (we’re learners too!) as well as how often we run into teachers who have been previously overwhelmed by the “support” they were given by another “dumper” at their school. But being a curator requires more from a coach and so we decided to take this a step further and try to build on the habits of successful curators. Introducing: COACH.
Collect – Where are you going to get/find resources?
It’s important to have a system in place to actually find resources at the outset. Do you have particular Twitter chats in which you participate? Are there specific people in your network that are constant sources of new ideas? Do you have conferences that are must-attend to keep you up-to-date with what’s new in education? It’s important to articulate where you go to get your good ideas as this can help identify knowledge gaps and can help you grow and develop your network as you try to build on your strengths and address your weaknesses.
Organize – What tools do you use keep track of your resources?
Ok, so now that you’ve found a resource, how are you going to keep up with it? Our team at the Friday Institute are notorious page-parkers, so we totally understand when we’re in a PD session and it sounds like the 101st Airborne is about to take off. But as a long-term storage solution, you should probably come up with a better solution than just keeping all of your favorite sites as open tabs. Services like Participate’s Collections, current team favorite Raindrop (the less-popular cousin of Pocket), old-school jam Diigo, or even just a well-organized collection of folders for your browser bookmarks can be tremendously helpful in sorting and organizing your resources, especially if you are thoughtful about the overall structure of your organization.
Aggregate – What are your quality standards? (tagging, labeling, getting rid of things, etc)
Let’s put something out there right off the top: this is HARD. This is what separates a good coach from a great one. The Organize step will allow you to gather up many resources, but the way to transition from dumper to curator is to begin thinking about quality standards.
How will you sort, select, and truly curate your resources so that you’re keeping the good ones, getting rid of the ones that don’t quite make the cut anymore, and able to quickly identify the right resource for the right teacher at the right time?
If you’re using a bookmarking service like Raindrop, Pocket, or Diigo, think about the tags you’re using as well as the specific folders/labels where each resource is housed. And yes, you should probably have a specific system for the continual review/recategorization/removal of your resources. Besides, how many times has someone mentioned a tool you used way-back-when but they’re suddenly showing features you definitely don’t remember? Sometimes, staying up-to-date is as much about Aggregation as it is Collection…
Create – How are you sharing resources with your teachers?
The most important thing for this step is to know your people. The better you know your teachers and students, the more effectively you can create the kinds of sharing systems they need. Possible solutions include a weekly newsletter, popping into their PLT/PLC meetings, co-planning/teaching lessons, creating a curated resource website, or all of the above. (Notably, this step comes after the Aggregate step to make sure you’re sending the right resources based on the specific needs of your teachers and students!)
Help – How do you integrate these tools/resources in your coaching conversations?
Ah, the final step. This where the rubber really meets the road as an instructional coach and all of the previous steps have been leading up to this one. How, specifically, will you actually do the hard work of coaching? The kinds of supports and resources that you made in the Create step are about to be put to the test. Taking the time to create your own coaching plan of action will help you make sure you are meeting the needs of all of your teachers and that you aren’t just gravitating to those teachers you find it easier to work with!
It is our belief that using these COACH strategies will help you become a better curator and ultimately become better at serving those with whom you work. Take a moment and write down some ideas for ensuring that you are differentiating for your teachers and ensuring equity: how are you giving each teacher the kinds of access, opportunity, and scaffolds they need to be successful as a result of your presence? Knowing your people and being aware of the ways you are serving each teacher can help identify what additional kinds of resources you need to curate next. And hey, nobody said coaching was easy, but if you take the time to collect, organize, aggregate, create, and help, we think you can establish yourself as an instructional leader who is working for the benefit of your teachers and students. And that’s a pretty good reputation to have, if you ask us!
If you’d like to download and edit your own COACHing card, make a copy of this Google document and you’re on your way. This card was developed for a session held during a meeting for the North Carolina Digital Leaders Coaching Network, NCDLCN. To learn more about the North Carolina Digital Leaders Coaching Network, click here. And if you’d like to be notified when our 2018-19 program is announced, fill out this interest form and we’ll email you!