If there’s one thing I hear more than anything else from other instructional coaches, it’s the frustration with the multitude of tasks competing for our time and the struggle to find the time to get everything done that we need to. So many coaches, myself included, look back on periods of time (the past week, month, day) and wonder what, exactly, we accomplished for all the energy that we expended.
Despite our district having a clearly defined evaluation tool that outlines the expectations for our job, coaches often end up spreading themselves an inch deep and a mile wide. It’s as if the evaluation tool is considered a “minimum bar”, similar to the “recommended passenger limit” on a subway car, and the school faculty or administration are the uniformed people on Japanese subways pushing “just one more” passenger in until the doors almost burst from overload. Many coaches around the country are doing tasks that stretch the definition of coach: substituting when subs cannot be found, helping at field day, providing interventions or enrichment activities for students, copying papers for teachers, or creating master schedules.
Somehow, we’ve got to figure out how to prioritize what’s most important for coaches to be doing. It reminds me of a metaphor I once saw for prioritizing the big, important things in life: if you consider your life to be a jar into which all the events in your life must fit, and the most important things are rocks, while the least important things are sand, it becomes obvious which you should fit into the jar of life first. If you allow the little things in life - the sand – to take priority, then there’s no room left over for the bigger important “rocks”. But if you make space for the rocks first, then all the sand will trickle through and find a way to fit. Only then will you have a balanced life with room for the things most important to you as well as those little things that just come up.
Coaches need to find a way to fit in the big rocks of coaching teachers and let the sand of “little things that come up” trickle through and find their own space. First we must decide: what are those big rocks of coaching? Is it modeling in classrooms? Extended time spent with a teacher gradually releasing instruction? Conversations with teachers exploring professional decision making? Once those big rocks are found, then they must be given priority, and that involves convincing your administration of the importance of the big rocks, and the inconsequence of the sand.
How have you been able to prioritize the important things in your life?