I have been asked by a new district client to make some suggestions regarding what to “look for” as they begin interviewing candidates for instructional coaching positions for their elementary schools next year.
Here are the first elements/characteristics I suggested:
A Growth Mindset: Defined by Carol Dweck (earlier blog) Coaches need to believe that ALL students are capable of increasing their achievement with effort. They must have the same belief in the teachers they coach and in their own growth potential.
A Desire to Learn about Teaching and Learning: Candidates, who see a job as an instructional coach creating an awesome opportunity to learn, rise to the top of my list. These coaches will be partners learning aside of 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 listeners. They ask questions and paraphrase teachers who become increasingly reflective from their conversations with coaches. Coaches’ language is positive and future focused.
Optimist: Alan Loy McGinnis in the Power of Optimism describes behaviors of optimist.
- 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
In Unmistakable Impact, Jim Knight lists the following attributes of effective coaches: (122-129)
- Knowledge of Teaching Practices
- Emotional Intelligence
- Growth Mindset
- Humility and Ambition
- Informed and Adaptive Thinking
Carla Cushman and Nina Morel organized the start up of an instructional coaching program in Sumner County, TN. In a soon to be released book about their experiences, How to Build An Instructional Coaching Program for Maximum Capacity, they assist educators charged with initiating and supporting coaching start-ups. In an email they shared the following thoughts on selection:
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.”
Any thoughts on what’s been overlooked? I still have time to share your additions with the system.