Coaching Through Covid-19

Instructional Coach(es):

Supporters. Improvers of Instruction. Listeners. Partners. Reflectors. Leaders. Servers. Resource Gatherers. Providers of Professional Learning. Relationship Builders. Modelers. Analyzers. Goal Setters. Feedback Providers. Planners. Observers. Content Chameleons. Professionals. Communicators…the infinite list of hats Instructional Coaches wear.

Well, guess what? There’s a new title now: lifeline.

Our Current Reality

Covid-19 transformed our world overnight. The morning catch up at the copy machine is a thing of the past. The joy of welcoming students through the door with a high-five is gone. And, our happy place, within four classroom walls, disappeared for the foreseeable future.

It’s tempting to want to join others and curl up with a good book however, we have a job to do.

One Thing We Know

More than ever, educators, administrators, students, and families need us.

The Elevator Speech

Pre-Covid-19 you could ask an Instructional Coach to define their role and they’d struggle to articulate a succinct response. Ask an Instructional Coach today what their role is, and they may still struggle. We’re all struggling with the ambiguity of our ‘new’ roles in education, but we know that the end game is the same…supporting educators to continue increasing student achievement.

Lifelines are listeners. When the horn blows, they answer. They anticipate the rough waters and plan to navigate them. When overwhelmed, conflicted, eager to share, or searching for someone to process with, your lifeline is whom you call.

What We Know

Humans are relational. Our relationships matter. Amid our current reality, we must turn to our Social-Emotional Skills.

Typically, we think of lifelines as rescuers, carrying out the function to save. Instead, let’s think about lifelines when we need to keep contact with a person, like the connection between the mother ship and a diver. Lifelines should be there whether they are needed or not.

This is the function of your role. 

Addressing the human element needs to be the priority in conversations. Below are some prompts you may use:

How are you?

What do you need right now?

These are essential prompts, during a time of heightened emotion and stress. While you might start every call with Hi, how are you? the prompt above sends the message that you care. It’s intentional.

Be open and honest with one another.

Have compassion.

Be a listening ear where judgment is unheard of.

What Does It Look Like to Create a Digital Connection?

While the most meaningful connections are in-person, suddenly we are experiencing a time when waving through the screen is the closest we get. It is time to get creative! 

Here are some ideas:

  • Invite a colleague to a virtual coffee hour. Be the ear they needed to vent to, the smile they needed to see, or the thought partner they’ve been craving.
  • Be creative. How do we reestablish communities from isolation? #SpiritWeek? Optional virtual game nights? Zoom Happy Hour? Virtual Donuts and Discussions?
  • Include some humor in your virtual meetings. Consider Conference Call Bingo, Virtual Tours of workspaces or Play I Spy.
  • Last but not least, be sure people aren’t only hearing from you with a task request or deadline.

The Coaching World Just Changed Overnight

Teachers are faced with extreme circumstances and it looks different for everyone. Some may be in survival mode and need full access to their lifeline. Be there for them.

Others feel more confident with this shift but need some tips. If that’s the case, keep the lifeline visible, but loose.

Partner with administrators to understand what the expectations are for teachers. Be proactive in anticipating challenges they may encounter and think through them, providing small lifelines to distribute in advance.


Take a moment and refer back to the hats outlined in the initial paragraph. I know you. Your sitting here thinking:

I’m not coaching right now.

I’m not guiding anyone through the Reflective Cycle.

I don’t have pre/post conversations scheduled etc.


Don’t get caught up in models and structures.

Focus on being available, be a lifeline.

Ask yourself, How can I continue supporting individual and collective capacities? The context is irrelevant.

One of the most digestible ways to think about your role is through Jim Knight’s popular definition: a partnership.

Through the good, the bad and the ugly partners stick together. You can’t cut the diver loose. And let’s be honest, we’re all in this together.

Students Can’t Learn If…

The other day I heard someone say, Students can’t learn if they don’t feel seen, heard, and loved. Well, guess what? Those same students grow up to be the adults who need you right now.

Here are some ways to see, hear and love on our adults:

  • Send an email reminding your team that you are here for them. Remind them they may be out of sight, but they are not out of mind.
  • Collect their new “working hours.” Keep these in mind when responding to requests. If your contribution will hold others up from moving forward, make sure it’s in their inbox before their next “working hours.” Time is essential.
  • Continue to share resources. OpenEd Resources that will make their digital learning less stressful, a good read to escape reality with or some tools to maximize the new role of working from home while simultaneously parenting.
  • Without being a mental health expert, have some community resources in your pocket, just in case.
  • Share some borrowed YouTube Videos on setting up Teams, facilitating a Zoom meeting or any other resources that will make their digital teaching easier.

Whole Child

A term that’s not new. We know the value of ensuring each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

Whole Educator, another term that’s not new, but is less prominent. Add this term to your vernacular.

Educators like guidance. We like to know: what is happening, when, how we will get there and why it’s important. A lack of Pandemic planning makes this time unsettling.

There is no survival guide. It’s scary. It’s essential that we name our emotions, tackle processing them, and attempt to navigate our fears.

There are lots of hopes for what will come, but when that time comes, we will come back to friends and families who are suffering losses, students who have been removed from content for several months, and systems and structures that are being built as we are using them.

Unfortunately, we need to delicately dance between surviving this moment and thinking ahead. While we may be physically isolated, we can still increase our connection.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Schedule time with your administrator and counselor to start thinking about the “return” plan and how you can support it.
  • Bring the conversation to a virtual Leadership or Climate and Culture Committee, be proactive while you have the time!
  • Be solution-oriented, start thinking about strategies and systems that can support this transition, present them to leadership.

The Last Thing to Remember

First, take care of yourself so you can give your best to others. Experience your emotions, prioritize self-care, and engage in gratitude exercises. Just because your someone’s lifeline, doesn’t mean you don’t need one too.

Stay tuned for some tips and strategies for taking care of yourself in the next post.

…and #Stayhome

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