3 Important Lessons I’ve Learned as a First-Year Instructional Coach

Jeremy RinkelBlog, Connect Better, Lead Better


  • This post shares important lessons learned as a first-year instructional coach.
  • Being a good listener shows that you care.
  • Teachers are all at different places emotionally, technologically, and with their teaching styles. It’s important to get to know each teacher and meet them where they are at.
  • Give yourself grace in knowing that some days will be tougher than others.

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a million times: this year has been like no other year in education. My role as a first-year curriculum/instructional coach at a district that never had a coach became increasingly important when we decided to return in a hybrid learning environment in August. My role shifted from curriculum-focused to tech training on tools that teachers could use, as well as emotional and resource support for my teachers. 

As the first quarter ends, I’m reflecting on three things I learned (so far) about my first year coaching experience, the importance of listening, meeting teachers where they are, and giving myself grace. 

At the end of the day, I ask myself a question that my teacher mentor, Craig Lindvahl, once asked of himself: 'Who will be better because of what I did today?' If I’ve given my all and did what I could, it was enough. Click To Tweet

The Importance of Listening

My goal for the first year is to genuinely get to know my teachers.  To truly understand feelings, emotions, and show you care, one must listen. Journalist and author, Krista Tippett said, “Listening is about being present, not just about being quiet.”

I haven’t always been a good listener. It’s been a skill I’ve developed over time.

In our current learning environment, my role as a coach has involved listening so I can provide resources and support for my teachers. Some of my support comes in the form of providing tech training while other times I’ve supported a teacher by listening to them rant or even explain a challenge through their tears.

Coaching  Señora Thompson on Google Meetings with her Spanish 3 and 4 students.

Meeting Teachers Where They Are

Teachers are at a variety of levels emotionally, technologically, and with their teaching styles. One of the teachers I’ve had the honor of coaching and assisting with technology is a retired teacher who has been teaching Spanish 3 and 4 to students since 2003. She began her teaching career in 1969. Yes, 1969, the year man walked on the moon. 

Since we are in a hybrid setting and some students chose remote learning, she wanted to create a Google Classroom and be able to have a Google Meet every week. We started with the basics. She wrote out every instruction step by step. After a couple weeks of me assisting her, she runs the meetings on her own. While Google Meet and Classroom barely scrape the surface of what the Google Suite can offer, I met this teacher where she was at and helped her go from uncomfortable with technology to running Google Meets every week. 

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Giving Myself Gracehttps://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fsw-ke.facebook.com%2FEffinghamCoCEO%2Fposts%2F2739140626141983&psig=AOvVaw3F7pYViorTZWpkK_o0GElJ&ust=1602519066046000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CA0QjhxqFwoTCLiAhvX2rOwCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

I have a lot to learn in my new role and there are some days I feel like I haven’t done enough to support my teachers in the trenches. It’s a common thing I hear around coaching circles and in conversations with teachers when referring to their students. 

At the end of the day, I ask myself a question that my teacher mentor, Craig Lindvahl, once asked of himself: “Who will be better because of what I did today?”

If I’ve given my all and did what I could, it was enough. I need to give myself grace as I learn and continue to grow in this new role. Grace and compassion for all, especially this year. 

About Jeremy Rinkel

Jeremy is an instructional coach at Vandalia CUSD #203 in Vandalia, IL. He has earned a Masters in Educational Policy from the University of Illinois and a Masters in Teaching from Greenville University. His goal is to inspire students, teachers and anyone he comes into contact with to be a lifelong learner. Jeremy believes education is the key to solving our world’s problems. In his free time, Jeremy enjoys traveling, writing, spending time in coffee shops, and spending time with his family watching old TV shows on Netflix.

Monday Motivational Minute Podcast Link: http://anchor.fm/jeremyrinkel
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