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.