The Seven-Week Itch: Instructional Coaching when the Honeymoon has Ended

Guest post by Kristy Gaudio

You’ve heard of the seven year itch when it comes to marriage, but for an instructional coach, it’s somewhere around the seven week mark when you notice that the building-wide honeymoon has worn off. Those first six weeks of big ideas and intentional focus can gradually revert back to old habits and the belief that we will NEVER have enough time to accomplish it all.

Though consistency is one of the greatest levers of success, it tends to be the first trait we discard when the going gets tough. We often find that the original goal we established when we had time, space, and clarity of mind dissolves in the face of adversity.

But I promise – there is hope! Whether you’re in your first or fifteenth year of coaching, there are key reminders you can give yourself to intentionally build your confidence and help your Student-Centered Coaching stay the course. While these reminders are nothing new, they will help you to narrow your focus and prioritize your efforts so that you can see the fruits of your labor in student learning and teacher growth.

REMINDER 1: Start small.

“Without evidence, we are teaching on a hope and a prayer”
(Student-Centered Coaching: The Moves, Sweeney & Harris, p. 59)

Gathering student evidence is the priority every time you’re in a classroom, and it always has a beneficial domino effect. Each time you collect student evidence, whether it’s on a sticky note or in a more formal seating chart, you’re keeping a pulse on student learning. This promotes noticing and naming while you are in the classroom, and then is followed by crucial conversations that result in thoughtful co-planning sessions. By simply collecting student evidence, you’re modeling formative assessment, which is in and of itself an essential element of effective instruction.

REMINDER 2: Your work is valuable. Don’t apologize for it.

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”
(John Dewey as quoted in Student-Centered Coaching: The Moves, Sweeney & Harris, p. 136)

Whether you’re struggling to get a cycle off the ground or you’re in the middle of one where the teacher(s) are beginning to pull back from your collaborative work, do not apologize for your efforts. When we apologize, it conveys the ideas that this work is for us and that it is interrupting what would regularly happen.

Instead, stay consistent with your plan. Rest assured that you set the foundation with a teacher and coach agreement, that your weekly co-planning sessions are promoting student-centered adjustments, and that measuring the impact of your coaching cycles will ensure reflection on the entirety of the experience. If you prioritize your time together as crucial to student learning, then teachers will too.

REMINDER 3: Those who support also need support for themselves.

While you may feel like an island, remember that you have at least two channels of support at all times:

  • Fellow coaches and others leaders outside of the classroom who can empathize
  • Teacher colleagues who will gain even more respect from you when you model vulnerability

Coaching can be a lonely role if you don’t set your own goals for self-care. Administrators and fellow coaches in your district can lend an ear to your concerns, a sounding board when you’re feeling indecisive, and even a genuine “I get it” when you’re feeling overwhelmed. The figure below reminds us that regardless of our years of experience, our needs often vary based on the time in the school year.

Common Challenges for New CoachesSupport for New Coaches
August Through NovemberEarly in the year, most new coaches are transitioning away from the classroom  and they often worry about how to most effectively spend their time. October is often the toughest month for new coaches, as they gradually become more concerned regarding how to make an impact on student learning.At this stage, new coaches benefit from collaborative learning that is rooted in their day-to-day work. Topics include the following:

  • Building a partnership with the school leader
  • Fostering relationships with teachers
  • Understanding the core practices for Student-Centered Coaching
  • Launching coaching cycles
  • Building a schedule for the first few months of the school year
  • Using the Results-Based Coaching Tool to measure the impact of coaching cycles

From: Student-Centered Coaching: The Essential Guide (Sweeney and Harris, 2020)

In Closing

While you may feel as though you need to be all-knowing when it comes to instruction, remember your own years in the classroom; you most valued and respected leaders who demonstrated vulnerability. Brene Brown defines it best: “I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. To be human is to be in vulnerability.” The best leaders model vulnerability so that others can feel safe to do the same. Open up to your teachers and watch how quickly your relationships with them can grow.

No matter where you are in your student-centered coaching “relationship” with staff, students, and yourself, take a moment to pause and reflect on these reminders. You are more than enough. Your work is valuable. You can’t do it all. Keep carving your own path, and know that we’re all rooting for you, because, in the end, there are many of us out here trying to do the very same thing!

 

Kristy GaudioKristy Gaudio is an instructional coach and former middle school ELA teacher in Kenosha, WI. She holds a Master of Science in Educational Administration from Concordia University, earning Principal and Director of Instruction licensures. She values blending the expertise of education, business, and self-care professionals in order to support the needs of her staff and students. While coaching embodies her professional passion, her two sons, Jonah and Andrew are the driving force and greatest blessings in her life. Follow her on Twitter: @KristyGaudio

2 thoughts on “The Seven-Week Itch: Instructional Coaching when the Honeymoon has Ended”

  1. I’m so glad we were on the same wave length, Charlotte! I am ending a few cycles of my own at this point, and it’s always a challenge to walk away after 4-6 weeks. I’ve found that reflecting on student success in response to shifts we made tends to encourage sustainability. When teachers can articulate which efforts produced the most “bang for their buck”, they’re more inclined to continue best practices when we’re gone. Kudos to you for moving forward and knowing that all good things must come to an end. Happy coaching!

  2. This is so timely as I am currently making my exit plan with an administrator on how to end our first student-centered coaching cycle for this school year. The teacher will continue to need support, but I also need to start cycles with many other teachers now.

Leave a Reply