F Marisa Dahl: What I wish I knew my 1st year as an Instructional Coach

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What I wish I knew my 1st year as an Instructional Coach

DISCLAIMER: This may be my deepest post I have written, readers be nice {Please}. As a reflective practitioner, I know it is important to reflect and what better way then to archive it here on my blog. I write this in hopes it will help others going into new roles as teacher leaders.

Last year I took a job as an instructional literacy coach. I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do as a coach day in and day out, but I knew I wanted to work with teachers and students to improve achievement through improved instruction. Here is a list of things I wish I knew before I started.

1. During the busiest times for teachers, coaches may have some down time, i.e. Beginning of the school year, conference time, state testing time, before school breaks, and end of the year. 

2. During down time it is okay (at least it was for me) to read to learn. I choose to read books focused on RTI (Response to Intervention), i.e. Simplifying Response to InterventionPyramid Response to Intervention, How to Respond When Kids Don't Learnand

Differentiating Reading Instruction for Success With RTI. I also read many books on instructional coaching, most of those by Jim Knight. 

3. You are not the expert, even if people think you are because of the role you are in, you must let them know you are there to partner with them as a team. 

4. The importance of building relationships. I came straight out of the classroom from a district where I started my teaching career 7 years ago. Over those seven years I grew not only as an educator, but as a person. This year I stepped into a new district and I didn't' realize the importance of building those relationships and having to establish who I was. It wasn't easy, and it took some learning on my part. I came up with this quote as I learned how to accept this. 

5. Everyone is in a different place in their learning. You have to meet them where they are and take them on the journey. Also, it is a journey, not much can happen over night. I am also on my own journey, continuing to grow as an educator. This reminds me of a quote an administrator of mine shared with me after sharing this new learning of mine. 

6. Teachers may not understand what you do, word spreads fast though, so keep doing what is right for kids and they will quickly learn they want to work with you. 

7. It is NOT about how many people you work with or how busy you are, it is about student achievement and the quality of conversations you are having with teachers, not the quantity. 

8. "Work with the willing." This was a quote that came from the same administered who shared the picture/quote above. You may not work with every teacher, remember #5. This year I got the opportunity to work with a related arts teacher, our work wasn't focused on literacy, but she came to me wanting to improve, so we partnered together. She was one of the most appreciative teachers I had worked with. 

9. Listen.....

10.  Listen more, shut your mouth, and LISTEN! This is something I continue to work on, and probably will for the rest of my life. I can't find the quote that I read awhile back that it had a lasting effect on me, it was about how God gave us one mouth that you can close, and two ears that are always open for a reason. 

That is my constant battle with myself. 

This is only a small list of the things I learn, I could go on and on, but I didn't just become a better coach, I became a better person. I am a lifelong learner, join me. 

This year I am excited to change roles. I accepted my dream job as an instructional technology consultant. {More about this in an upcoming post}. I am prepared to take what I learned from last year to be a better coach this year in my new role. I am excited to keep learning, and the challenges ahead of me. 

Would you add anything to this list? Please comment below!


  1. It sounds like an amazing year of learning Marisa. I love the power of reflection!

  2. Thanks Lindie, I am looking forward to learning along side you next year!

  3. Great post Marisa! Reflection is a great and powerful thing. I too learned so much this first year. It appears that we learned many of the same lessons. I would echo that relationships are vital to the work that we do. I love the quote you posted " accept me for where I am, help me to grow and learn"

    I can't wait to work with you this year and see how we both continue to grow as educators, professionals, and most importantly as people.

  4. It sounds as if you're well on your way to helping others develop the cognitive capacity toward self-directedness both independently and as members of a community - the mission of Cognitive Coaching (the oldest known educational coaching model)