Lessons From the Coaching Chair: A SIPPS Coaching Experience

Instructional coaching is one of the best ways to support quality planning, implementation, and instructional best practices throughout a school building. Instructional coaches build capacity and they guide and support routines, strategic learning, and the building of common language. A strong coaching model can have a lasting impact on the craft of teaching and student achievement.

I have had the privilege of observing some of Developmental Studies Center’s best SIPPS program coaches. When it was my turn to sit in the coaching chair, I wanted to emulate the mentors I had observed. I wanted to support instruction in a respectful way. I wanted to improve the teachers’ routines without dominating the lesson. I wanted those I coached to be stronger SIPPS providers because of my support. My goal was to be effective-without being intrusive-in a short amount of time.

As always, authentic experiences provide the best learning, and my first SIPPS coaching experience was no exception. In my side-by-side coaching experience, I had to navigate modeling the SIPPS routines when necessary and returning the students to their teacher as seamlessly as possible. It was surprising, though, how often I had to restrain the urge to “jump in.” I had to remind myself that this was not a workshop but a classroom, and each coaching insertion was a distraction to the flow of the lesson. I had to strategically pick my coaching opportunities and remember that there would be other opportunities for learning. Having time to discuss the lesson afterwards was a great way to extend the coaching. The time allowed us to share successes and challenges. Truth be told, I learned just as much as the teacher during those discussions. The collegial process of instructional coaching is very powerful for all involved.

The most important lesson I learned through this experience was that a good coach makes their job look easy. “Coaching with finesse,” as one of my DSC colleagues explained, is an art form. An effective coach must be willing to let the teacher struggle a bit, yet know where the coaching supports may extend the teaching and enhance the learning. And all of this must be done while remaining respectful towards the teacher’s abilities and experience.

If you’re looking to improve your teacher practice, prepare for the Common Core, or develop a professional learning community this summer, we would love to help you. Check out DSC’s professional development offerings and take advantage of supportive programs tailored to your needs.

Read The Power of Side-By-Side Coaching by Gail Huizinga.