Selecting Coaches | Steve Barkley

Selecting Coaches

I recently received this request from an instructional coach:
“I wanted to reach out to you for some resources. We are in the process of adding an extra coach to our building. I wanted to know if you have any interview questions, we can ask the interviewee? Since we know that many candidates will likely apply, we wanted to set up a rubric for the interview panel to use to help us determine the best candidate for the position.”

Coaching puzzleIn my initial response, I shared that developing a process was well worth the time investment. Deciding on the critical selection criteria will help select the best candidate for the position and will also set the stage for the person to take the role with shared expectations. The key for starting is to reach clarity with key decision-makers on what you want the coach to be successful “doing.” With that agreement, you can work backward to identify needed skills and mindsets. With that identified, you can create the questions for the interview and the key “listen fors.”

I was sure I had received a similar request in the past and had responded with a blog. I went searching and sure enough, I found it. To my surprise, I had written it ten years ago. After reading it, I forwarded the blog to this coach. It strikes me that the elements still apply rather strongly. What do you think?

  •  A Growth Mindset: Carol Dweck- “Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve.”
    Effective coaches need to apply this mindset to developing students’ success, teachers’ success, and their own continuous development.
  •  A Desire to Learn about Teaching and Learning:
    Coaching candidates, who see the role of instructional coach creating an awesome opportunity to learn, rise to the top of my list. These coaches will be partners learning alongside the teachers and administrators they serve. A caution flag goes up when candidates are anxious to “share” all that they have learned.
  • Strong Communication Skills:
    Effective coaches are great listeners. They ask questions and paraphrase teachers who become increasingly vulnerable and reflective from their conversations with coaches. Coaches’ language is positive and future-focused.
  • Optimism:
    Alan Loy McGinnis in the Power of Optimism describes behaviors of optimists, they…optimism word cloud on a digital tablet with a cup of coffee
    – Are never surprised by trouble
    – Value partial solutions
    – Believe they have control over the future
    – Plan for regular renewal
    – Have heightened powers of admiration
    – Interrupt their negative trains of thought
    – Are cheerful even when they can’t be happy
    – Have an almost unlimited capacity for stretching
    – Build plenty of love into their lives
    – Share good news
    – Use their imaginations to rehearse success
    – Accept what cannot be changed
  • Jim Knight’s Attributes of Effective Coaching (Unmistakable Impact)
    – Knowledge of Teaching Practices
    – Emotional Intelligence
    – Growth Mindset
    – Humility and Ambition
    – Trustworthiness
    – Informed and Adaptive Thinking
  • Carla Cushman and Nina Morel – Qualities and skills sets for instructional coaches (How to Build An Instructional Coaching Program for Maximum Capacity):

When thinking about the qualities and skill sets potential instructional coaches should have, we think it is important to remember the soft skills that coaches are so often called upon to use. While candidates for an instructional coaching position must present themselves as highly effective teachers, deeply knowledgeable in content and pedagogy, and well-versed in analyzing and interpreting data to inform planning and instructional decisions, applicants should also present evidence of creating and maintaining positive working relationships with peers, supervisors, students, paraprofessionals, parents, and other stakeholders. Perhaps harder to define, but readily recognizable, is the quality of with-it-ness—that keen awareness of what is happening in the moment, knowing (intuitively, perhaps) just how to respond, and responding accordingly. Additionally, applicants should possess excellent communication skills, particularly listening skills. Desirable candidates are those who, as Stephen Covey would say, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

As I reviewed the list again, it is quite demanding. Perhaps the key is a recognition that effective coaching, like effective teaching, is a career that I don’t have to worry about mastering prior to retirement. As a coach, I can look forward to lifelong learning.

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