Introducing “The Coach Approach”

Never in my life did I ever aspire to be a principal…until I became one! My first year out of the classroom was to serve as an Instructional Coach. I was so fortunate to have been given the opportunity and training to do so, by a principal who saw stengths in me that I didn’t even know I had (Thank you Melanie!). It was an incredible year of getting into classrooms to observe, provide feedback, and go through coaching cycles with individual teachers and groups of teachers to provide them with the support that they wanted and needed to improve the teaching and learning in their classrooms. I loved the feeling of having an impact on more than just the 30 students that had been in my classroom in each previous year of teaching. This experience led me to make the decision to move into school administration.

I took an assistant principal position at a middle school that was in its 5th year of being deemed as failing by the state and had this final year to “turn it around” or be taken over by the state. Talk about pressure. I had the amazing opportunity to work with a great principal, Raul Pina, who was well known for being a “turn around” principal. He is still the most courageous and fearless leader I know, with a never ending passion for doing right for students. I learned so much from working with him as we made significant changes in that school. Long story short…the school did turn around that year and continued to rise up the ranks over the years. I took my experience into my first year as principal with the same mindset of wanting to turn around a school. I made mistakes (I’m sure my teachers have a list!), but fortunately I realized early on that I could not lead with the same mentality. I realized that in the former school, the intent of that principal was to make quick and drastic changes before turning the school over to a new principal that would be there for the longterm. I realized that if I wanted to stay in my school (I had a bought a house less than a mile down the road from our school, so I did have plans for my family to stay!) I could not lead with the same mindset and strategies that the turnaround principal and I had led with.

I wanted to go back to my experience as an instructional coach, but also struggled, because a principal cannot just operate as an instructional coach. It is just simply not feasible. As I began having conversations with Kathy Perret and Shira Leibowitz on #educoach, we came up with the concept of a coaching hat; a hat you can wear, but take off when you need to put on the evaluator’s hat. Years of conversations and writing work have finally resulted in our book that is being published by ASCD this May, and is scheduled to be the May ASCD member book:

Now, believe it or not, the three of us spent at least five years (or more) writing this book and never met together in person until we made it to ASCD #empower17!  Four years ago, Kathy and I did meet in person at ASCD in Chicago and together, we took copious notes when we attended a session led by ASCD authors, Nancy Frey and Doug Fisher on how to get your idea published in an ASCD book (you can read my notes from that session HERE). That session was obviously helpful!

Posing together for our faux ASCD magazine cover!

We had several people ask us how we wrote a book together if we never met? Easy. We had already had conversations each week in #educoach, and as co-moderators we planned those weekly chats in a google doc together. To write a book together we did the same. We worked together in google docs and had regular google hangouts for live discussions. What I believe is most interesting about us as co-authors is that we are each so different; we are in 3 different states with 3 completely different backgrounds. Kathy is an Instructional Coach and independent consultant. Shira is a Rabbi, has been a school administrator for 20 years and just founded a brand new project based school. Together, we can actually tell the joke “A rabbi, a principal and a coach walk into a bar…” Ok, actually we can only say we walked into a Starbucks.

So, there’s the story behind The Coach Approach. We were super excited to meet face to face with our editor, Susan Hills from ASCD:

We also got to meet Thomas Lytle, the graphic designer who created the hat/cover of our book. We were so fortunate to each be given a hat as well!

We were also obviously super excited to share our work to lead a session at ASCD, were thrilled to have a packed crowd and enjoyed seeing tweets like this afterwards:

If you’d like to read more about The Coach Approach book, you can find more information and some of our favorite quotes from the book on my Coach Approach page.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Jessica, you are my hero! Can’t wait to read your book and your notes about writing your own book…someday when I grow up I want to be a writer!

  2. Amy's Reflections

    I am so excited to read your book! I have enjoyed so many #educoach chats (and meeting Kathy in person at ASCD years ago). Congratulations to all of you!

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