Last week, I attended the first meeting of a Supervision and Evaluation course I'm taking as part of an administration credentials program. The bulk of our class period was spent discussing the question: Can administrators--who must evaluate teachers as part of their roles--also be instructional coaches?
What a hard question to answer.
As an instructional coach, my role is deliberately non-evaluative. In fact, a primary argument in favor of having instructional coaches in a building is the idea that teachers are more willing to be vulnerable with a coach than they might be with an administrator, since anything a coach observes or assists with will not have any relationship to evaluation or employment.
I have seen first-hand that this model works, as long as the coach is adept at building relationships and approaching other teachers with empathy, patience, and positive encouragement.
Yet, can we bring some of that same philosophy into administration? Can an administrator serve both as a coach and as an evaluator? I guess it depends on how well that administrator has build up trust and credibility with their faculty.
Dr. David Franklin of The Principal's Desk recently discussed "5 Ways Principals Can Build Trust" in an article on the ASCD Edge. He argues that a principal should:
This advice hit home for me. The best supervisors I've had--both in education and outside of it-- have always followed these principles. Their doors were always open and they were always willing to give me their full attention when I needed it. They were direct and open with me about what I needed to know, even when I didn't like it. They took the time to understand my perspective. They stayed current with the work being done by their employees and participated in community events. And they always kept the mission or goal of the work in the forefront--something that we could all agree on, even when we disagreed about the methods by which we met that mission or goal.
And as a result, I did go to these supervisors for coaching and mentoring, knowing that they valued what I was learning as much as they valued my results.
So...can an administrator be a coach? I think the answer is a qualified "yes". But I suspect that it takes empathy, deep wells of patience, a solid understanding of human nature, and a never-ending trust in people to do their best when given the chance. I hope that I can live up to those standards as I transition into school leadership.