Relationships between teachers and instructional coaches can sometimes be tricky to manage. When the relationship goes south, teachers can feel picked on or even spied upon—and coaches unheard or underutilized. Recently, educator Crystal M. Watson asked her Twitter followers about the best things their instructional coaches do, and we thought the responses were worth sharing.

Wondering “what the heck is an instructional coach?” You’re not alone! Many of the respondents to Watson’s thread said that they don’t have the role in their districts and aren’t familiar with it. Instructional coaches are subject matter experts who pair with teachers to help them develop their skills, set goals, and deepen strategies. For example, a reading coach might work with you on your small group teaching on everything from setting up the groups to identifying benchmarks to planning activities for the groups you are not working with one-on-one. At their best, instructional coaches help you to be your best for yourself and your students. Read on to see what teachers say great instructional coaches do:

1. They co-teach

Instructional Coaches co-teach

It’s a dream when instructional coaches actually serve as a co-teacher, assisting with lesson planning and differentiated instruction.

2. They cover classes so teachers can regroup

Instructional coaches cover classes

The gift of time is undeniable.

3. They plan collaboratively

Instructional coaches plan collaboratively

If more schools took the time for collaborative planning rather than top-down PD, we’d be in a better place.

4. They take over some of the boring parts of the job

Instructional coaches boring tasks

We love this example of an instructional coach putting together the basic structure of a PowerPoint for the teacher to flesh out later.

5. They know when to back off

Instructional coaches back off

Great instructional coaches realize when teachers need to hear feedback—and when they don’t. None of us can handle an avalanche of ways we can improve—it’s best to tackle one or two things at a time.

6. They know that observing other teachers is the best form of PD

They take us to observe other teachers as PD

How great would it be to observe other classrooms with your team so you can compare notes and ideas you want to try?

7. They ask where WE want to grow instead of pushing their own agendas

Instructional coaches don't push agendas

Believe us, we know where we need help. Let us get the support we need first.

One thing that was clear in Watson’s Twitter thread is that too many teachers don’t have instructional coaches at all or find their support lacking.

We’re curious, if you have an instructional coach—what have been some of the best things they have done to support you? Please share in the comments.

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