I’m hearing from coaches everywhere that they are feeling especially stressed and overwhelmed right now. It’s not because of their coaching roles per se, but because of the “other duties as assigned” that are included in many coaches’ job descriptions. If you are overloaded and questioning how much longer you can continue like this, you are not alone. You can get through this period with some straightforward strategies and support from your peers.

As schools grapple with teacher and substitute shortages, coaches are being called on to make up the difference between staffing needs and available educators. Many coaches are taking on duties from covering classes to serving as the class’s teacher of record, from extra bus and recess duty to new committee assignments.

As schools grapple with teacher and substitute shortages, coaches are being called on to make up the difference between staffing needs and available educators. Click To Tweet

As master coach Heather Clifton pointed out to me recently, coaches are vulnerable to those “other duties as assigned” because they are not officially committed to a group of students waiting in a classroom yet they so clearly understand the needs of teachers and students and how to address them.

For the vast majority of coaches, this additional deployment into classrooms has not been accompanied by a shortened list of coaching responsibilities. It is truly and other duties, not instead of, so the work piles up.

How can you accommodate these increasing demands? Not by adding more things to each day’s to-do list! Instead, take a strategic approach, carefully evaluating what is and is not possible, what items need to be prioritized, and, most importantly, how to manage others’ expectations.

Here are some timely tips that experienced coaches have shared with me about navigating this challenging time:

Meet with your principal or supervisor to review expectations and ask for guidance in prioritizing work. Ensure that your supervisor understands the time-intensive items on your list, and then ask for his or her input in prioritizing those items, as well as input about which smaller to-do’s can be shifted to others or temporarily put on hold. Being a good team player does not mean accepting more responsibilities without question; it means collaborating for the good of all involved.

Be transparent with teachers about your additional responsibilities and your priorities. Do so in a way that is informative and matter-of-fact, so they don’t perceive it as complaining. Make your schedule more visible. If you have to shift the schedule of a coaching session, let the teacher know why. If you’re a person who enjoys social media, consider tweeting or posting about your own learning and growth as a classroom teacher, recess monitor, or other new role.

Shift your coaching focus from individuals to teams. Or even better, shift to coaching team leaders. Empower team leaders to continue the work and processes you’ve established with the team and coach into developing their coaching and leadership skills.

Streamline your coaching. Create protocols and processes that lead to desired results and can be followed consistently even when you are not present to lead the work. Then trust people to follow them or adapt them as necessary.

Establish alternative sources of support for teachers, especially less experienced teachers. It might feel rewarding to be needed by the teachers you support, but there is a hefty price for such gratification. Instead, build a web of support for teachers by connecting them with peers and other support staff with complementary expertise. This has the added benefit of building lasting networks of collegial interactions that benefit students as well as teachers.

Set boundaries for your work and your time. If you’ve always been on call for your teachers, now is the time to define the kind of emergency for which a teacher should expect an immediate response from you. Clarify what constitutes a realistic immediate response. Define these for yourself and communicate them to teachers, and then consistently adhere to them. Changing habits (yours and others’) takes time, but you’ve spent time helping teachers become more intentional and reflective about their practice. Now you have an opportunity to give them space to practice that learning in a more independent way.

As you juggle your many responsibilities right now, remember that flexibility is a key asset of effective coaches. One of our longstanding commitments is to be role models of how to learn and grow through challenges.

''As you juggle your many responsibilities right now, remember that flexibility is a key asset of effective coaches. One of our longstanding commitments is to be role models of how to learn & grow through challenges.'' Click To Tweet

You may secretly find yourself enjoying your new roles and tasks, especially working with students directly again. If so, you might feel a sense of divided loyalty or even guilt about that enjoyment. Don’t worry about it. Relax and take it all in. Your heart is big enough to love more than one facet of your work, especially when you aren’t overwhelmed and stressed by it all.

Hear from Sharron Helmke and other instructional coaches who are living in this tension and who have found ways to cope, manage, and even thrive while coaching during “other duties as assigned” in a recent Learning Forward webinar. Click here to learn more.

Acting Vice President for Professional Services at Learning Forward | + posts

Sharron Helmke is a Gestalt and ICF certified professional coach. She’s a senior consultant for Learning Forward, facilitator of the Mentor and Coaching Academies, and co-facilitator of Learning Forward’s virtual coaching class Powerful Communication Skills for Coaches.