coaching · professional development

Who coaches the coach?

Who coaches the coach?

This question was posed at the Choice Literacy Coaching the Common Core workshop. It’s one that is sticking with Deb and me.

Instructional coaches (and I think this is a little true for teacher leaders too) live in a land between. We aren’t administrators and we aren’t teachers. We live between the two worlds. It can be confusing to know exactly what your role is, because it is a little bit administrator, a little bit teacher, and a whole lot of something else.

Even the term instructional coach means something different from school to school. After ten years in the role, I tend to sidestep the question when asked what I do. I say things like:

I help teachers with writing instruction.

I lead professional development about teaching writers.

I encourage teachers to learn more about how students learn to write.

(Usually I have to also explain that it’s not handwriting that I’m talking about when I say writing instruction…but that’s another story!)

When we can’t even define what we are, how do we find opportunities for others to come alongside us and help us do our work more proficiently? Who coaches the coach? There are experiences I can pinpoint as essential to my growth as an educator. One of those experiences was being part of a study group led by Carl Anderson one school year. Along with 24 other teachers, I studied with Carl for 12 days over the course of a single school year. Yes, I typed that correctly…it’s almost too good to believe, right?

I’ve been thinking about this experience and the question that keeps tumbling around in my mind — who coaches the coach? What if there was a study group for coaches? What would it look like? How often would they meet? Is it something schools would allow their coaches to attend? Is this the start of a pipe dream?

I’m learning to trust my dreams; they are often the way new learning bubbles up for me. I’m interested in this new territory of supporting instructional coaches and teacher leaders. I’m wondering what this will look like and how I can use my voice to encourage, nudge, and make a difference.

8 thoughts on “Who coaches the coach?

  1. Ruth, I think our All Write!!! coaches’ group has intentions toward support; I often feel incredibly energized by our conversations. I also rely on my supervisor for sound advice/coaching, and I think I am lucky in that she has a VERY CLEAR vision of how my job should look. I am completely protected from administrative work; I am truly a teacher/coach. I am allowed to do my job as I see fit, as long as I honor the parameters of my job duties. These were spelled out to all administrators–and to me–before I ever took the job. They have held true, unwavering. That helps. I talk to other coaches, read a lot of books that guide me into new thinking, blog about, read responses, use social networks, use the TWO WRITING TEACHERS page, etc. I have recently started a coaching group for our Title I leaders. We are more in common than not, and we are reading about leadership and thinking about developing relationships and leaders. So I feel supported in many ways–in addition to workshops, etc.


  2. Hi Ruth,

    Thanks for sharing your dream. It’s mine, too. I work as a coach in a small system with one other coach. We have developed a tremendous collegial relationship that is supportive, but we are both new coaches with no where to turn for guidance or…well, coaching. I feel very much like Mindi does; changing our job description does not prepare us for or sustain us in this incredible job (it does get wacky at times, doesn’t it?!). I have tried to connect with other coaches via social media, but the medium does not lend itself to the prolonged, deep learning that we are looking for. But maybe that is a good place to start. What learning about coaching are you looking for?


  3. I hope you all don’t mind if I just agree with everything that’s said. Like Mindi, I’ve been teaching a long time, and keep learning, know much of what to do in many kinds of situations, but this work of coaching is another area in which, also like Mindi, teachers see me as administrator although I’m not their evaluator, and those who are new to the school don’t necessarily know that I “know” anything. Some of the best coaching I have been given is listening to people like you Ruth, and all of you others who coach, & because I also work for another school advising three interns from their program who work at our school, I get the benefit of their training for advisors (like reflective coaching, etc.) I’d love to be a part of a coaching group! Terrific idea, Ruth!


  4. Ruth…
    This is my first year as a coach, and not getting any coaching myself is one of my biggest frustrations. Yes, I have been a teacher in my district for almost 20 years. Yes, I know my stuff when it comes to best practices in literacy. But knowing how to have those coaching conversations and how to relate to colleagues who now see me as a quasi-administrator (though I have no evaluative duties) is not something you magically learn just because your job title changes from Teacher to Literacy Coach.


  5. Hi Ruth,
    I’m not a teacher in the same way you are. I don’t have students in a classroom or teachers I’m trying to coach. I’m blogging several times a week trying to teach writers how to get published. There are so many times I know what I want to say, or teach, but I’m not sure my followers are learning. Am I teaching it the best way I can? Are they learning enough of the craft to make them successful? I hope they are. That’s why I love coming here and reading your blog. It sparks ideas and helps me think more like a teacher, learn more strategies. Sometimes you’re coaching this coach, even though you don’t realize it. (Ha! No pressure.)
    Thanks for all you do.
    Random Writing Rants


  6. I think you’ve come up with a tremendous idea — and no, it isn’t a pipe dream. It’s timely. It’s relevant. And, yes, it is oh so necessary. Coaching is inspiring…but it can be lonely, like you so wonderfully described in your post. I would love to be part of a group of learners, just like me, who can support and encourage each other to do this big work :). Keep letting that idea tumble around, Ruth. It’s a sturdy one.


Comments are closed.