What is an Instructional Coach?

It's been awhile since I have blogged...I think this is the longest blogging break I have ever taken, yikes!  This is my first year as an Instructional Coach and I am still adjusting to the new job, new district, new school, and new responsibilities.  Over the first half of the school year I have learned that the role of an Instructional Coach (IC) is different across the country, districts, and even schools.  

If you google "what is an instructional coach?" you will find that there is no set job description or role, it truly is different for each school.  It all depends on the vision of the district and the Principal to determine your role as an IC.  I wanted to share with you a glimpse of my role as an IC.  

First, I am never in my office.  It's hard to track me down because my schedule is always busy.  I am responsible for providing PLCs every Tuesday, assist with the RTI process, ensure our state Read to Achieve initiative is being implemented, conduct classroom walk throughs, ensure our district's new curriculum and Lesson Plan is being implemented, and many many more things!

At the beginning of the year I was given all of these technology tools!  The Chrome book is for all communication, our district is moving towards Google drive for EVERYTHING!.  The Dell mini is so I can print.  Our technology peeps are not allowed to install a printer on our Chrome books because of the move to straight digital, but lets be real I need to print some things!  Finally, the iPad is again for our all digital movement and makes doing walk throughs easier than carrying the Chrome book everywhere.  We also use mClass state assessments and the iPad is a must have for those.  Even with all of these I still bring my personal computer to school because I like it better...I LOVE my MAC!

It was my responsibility to decorate our PLC room, this was a fun project for me.  Our district didn't do so well on last year's assessments and we have been drilled on these numbers since the fall.  So, in order to keep them the focus of our instruction and remember that we need to make some improvements  this is the front BB in our PLC room.  Our Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction loved this board when she came to visit. She didn't love the numbers, but loved it was part of our focus.

This year our district adopted the Learning-Focused Lesson Plan.  It's a format that ensures that all best practices are included in your lesson plan.  Right now our teachers are only required to use it for their Math lessons.

Every Tuesday I provide PLC for my teachers (we are a 3-5 school).  PLC's focus on our new ELA Curriculum, Learning-Focused plans, planning, Math strategies, etc.

We are using Pam Allyn's Core Ready materials for ELA this year.  This is an AMAZING curriculum!  It's not a basal, but Common Core aligned lesson plans that use literature!  I love it because it teaches students about reading and writing with BOOKS, not a basal!  To help my teachers I have started creating Smart Board plans for them to use.  The lessons are step by step and I create the slides for them to use with each of the lessons.  Part of being a coach my goal is to help take some of the stress and work load off of my teachers, so I try to help out as much as I can.

One important part of my role as an IC is to go into classrooms and do model lessons.  This is also one of my favorite parts of my job!  I will model a lesson if a teacher asks for help, or if he/she is struggling with teaching a skill, classroom management, or just wants to see some new strategies.

Each week I send out a newsletter with information related to the topic we discussed in PLC.  I also include important dates, links to TpT freebies, a reflection quote or question, and other important information.  I know that not all my teachers read the newsletter.  I will say the biggest challenge of being an instructional coach are those teachers who are not open to new ideas or who are not reflective in their practices.  I have learned to not focus on those who are not open to the help, but rather invest my time in those who are reflective and want to improve their best practices and teaching methods.

My goal this year is for more of my teachers to use Collaborative Pairs (from Learning-Focused) and/or Cooperative Learning Structures.  I am always reminding them the importance of using them in their instruction and model CP in my lessons and PLCs.  

As an IC you can quickly pick up on the school's climate. You know when everyone is happy and loving their job and you know when everyone is unhappy and hating their job because ONE more thing as been asked of them.  When the ONE MORE THING has hit I try to leave my teachers with a little morale booster.  I also hold off on telling them about another thing the district or state wants them to do. 

I honestly LOVE being an IC!  It has been the best decision I have made in regards to my teaching career.  I love helping other teachers plan and create lessons to meet the needs of their students.  Even in this role my number one priority is our students.  If it's not in the best interest of our students I will speak up, my teachers discovered this very early on when we had an LLI "issue" at the beginning of the year.  I will also stand up for my teachers, for example my 3rd grade team has a LOT on their plate with local and state ELA assessments.  I have not yet told them about ONE more thing the district wants them to do.  I knew if I told them before break many would not come back after break :)  So, I will share it with them after break and answer to who I need to answer to. :)

Does your school have an Instructional Coach, Literacy Coach, or Math Coach?  What are their roles?


  1. wonderful post.
    You are super busy and it shows that you are doing a GREAT job!

    When I grow up, I'd like to do this too!
    Hodges Herald

  2. We don't have ICs at our school, but we sure could use one! I like how hands-on you are!

  3. I love your post! I agree that like a Reading Coach, an IC instructional hat changes depending on your school and district initiatives. I was once a Reading Coach, but missed having my own classroom. Sometimes the demands of a school on an IC can weigh you down. I wish you strength and continued passion in what you do. Coaching is not for the weak of heart! Its a difficult job. I'm glad you are able to bring assistance to teachers. I hope they continue to utilize you and all of your talents.


  4. Jess~
    This post is AMAZING! I wish I worked with you because you are really doing a fabulous job of thinking about what your staff needs! Kudos to a great decision in taking this job!
    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

  5. I am a new IC this year. Are you in NC, your district focuses seem similar to ours here in NC. I look forward to reading more about your journey.


Back to Top