Saturday, August 30, 2014

The AD as an Instructional Leader

The AD as an Instructional Leader

Would we all agree, the most important hat a school principal wears is the hat of “Instructional Leader?” If the function of a school is to educate young people, and education primarily takes place in the classroom, and the principal is the school leader, should not the principal be actively-engaged in the educational process by visiting classrooms, evaluating teacher performance, and helping them improve their instructional methods through whatever means necessary, including new resources? And shouldn’t the principal do that for all teachers? And shouldn’t all that effort be part of a plan that will improve learning and test scores toward some measurable goal? 

If you don’t agree, please abort now. If you do agree, I’m going to throw something at you that is a huge challenge for schools. I’m going to suggest, as the principal is the instructional leader for classroom teachers, the athletic director is the instructional leader for coaches. I’m going to suggest, the AD should be actively-involved in the improvement of every coach, for every sport. The AD should be out there observing practice sessions, using some sort of evaluation form used to grade the coach in several areas, some of which are: 

What is the ratio of time on task vs standing around?
How long did it take to teach something new and did it stick?
Was error correction quick?
Was practice organized? Was there wasted time?
Did practice start on time? Did it end on time?
Was there a lesson plan? If so, was there a goal and was that goal met? And were the players informed of the goal?
Did the coach change the lesson plan during practice?
Was practice enjoyable for the players? 

Do you agree? Easier said than done isn’t it? It’s difficult enough for a school principal to make the time to be the instructional leader (and I mean BE the instructional leader, not hit a classroom once a week or so). And they do it during the school day. But if the AD is going to do the same, he or she must work late afternoons and even into the evenings because that’s when practices take place. That’s family time. 

Is this too much to ask? Is it too time consuming for an AD to coach every coach? In a small high school, it’s very possible for the principal to observe and coach every teacher, and it’s being done all the time. In larger high schools, that responsibility is shared with a vice-principal. The same can be done for the athletic director. 

We are assuming, the AD was a master teacher before becoming AD. This is not always the case. So how can we expect an athletic director, who knows little about real effective teaching that gets results, to instantly morph in to an expert? There is only one way that works. The principal calls that AD into the office and says, “Your primary job is to evaluate and improve your coaches, particularly in the teaching area in practice session. When you help them become master teachers, the results, like winning, will take care of themselves. Now get out there and do it. If you need anything to make that happen, let me know and I’ll get you the help you need. Come into my office, every Monday morning, and give me a detailed written report on what you have done and the results.”

Necessity is the mother of invention. That AD will make it happen because the expectations are clear, resources are available, and there is monitoring and followup. Yes, the AD has many responsibilities such as budget and scheduling, but the primary one is training coaches how to teach, run very productive practices that result in improved game performance, and here’s my last point, the game is fun for the players. 

Do I need to give you links to remind you of all the coaches in recent history that have made the sport a bummer for the players? One was throwing basketballs at his players and kicking them. We’ve got coaches getting in players’ faces, belittling them during practices and games. Sports should be fun and the AD needs to make sure the coaches are not only becoming skilled master teachers, but the players are having a good time and want to come back the next day. 


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