As an instructional coach, I adhered to the traditional method of observation and feedback cycles, often seen as the bedrock of teacher development and support. Equipped with various checklists and forms, I meticulously followed these established protocols. However, a significant issue persisted: the infrequency with which teachers invited me into their classrooms for observations and feedback. Instead, I found myself conducting these sessions at the behest of the administration, frequently uninvited and often met with reluctance. This was largely due to the process mirroring the administrative evaluations teachers underwent annually, which focused more on critique than commendation, making the prospect of additional observation cycles unattractive and somewhat redundant.

This experience propelled me to champion a paradigm shift in the approach to instructional coaching, leading to the concept of teacher tag-outs. In stark contrast to the traditional model of walkthroughs, with their rigid observation and note-taking mandates, tag-outs are founded on the principle of teacher autonomy. They empower educators to choose their own learning paths by selecting the classroom they wish to observe, without the constraints of predetermined templates or the need to justify their observations post-visit. Crucially, during a tag-out, it is the instructional coach or an administrator who steps in to teach the teacher’s class, providing the teacher with the freedom to engage in peer observation. This not only alleviates the burden of finding class coverage during their absence but also ensures that their focus can remain solely on the learning experience they seek, rather than on the logistics of classroom management.


The Limitations of Traditional Coaching Models

In the conventional coaching framework, the emphasis on structured observation and feedback can inadvertently perpetuate a sense of surveillance rather than support. Teachers, already subjected to frequent evaluations and pop-in visits, often view additional observations as intrusive rather than helpful. The routine is seen not as an opportunity for growth but as an extension of performance appraisal, overshadowing the potential for genuine professional development.


Embracing Teacher Tag-Outs: A Shift Towards Empowerment

Teacher tag-outs represent a transformative approach to instructional coaching. By allowing teachers to temporarily step out of their classrooms to observe peers, this strategy fosters a culture of voluntary, self-directed learning. Here, the power of choice is a fundamental principle, enabling teachers to decide their focus areas and whom they wish to observe, thereby cultivating a sense of ownership and intrinsic motivation in their professional development journey.

Practical Implementation of Teacher Tag-Outs

To effectively implement teacher tag-outs, schools need to adopt a structured yet flexible framework that honors teacher autonomy while ensuring operational feasibility. Here are some practical suggestions:
  • Create a Supportive Policy Framework: Establish clear guidelines that outline the purpose and process of tag-outs, emphasizing their voluntary and developmental nature to ensure teachers feel safe and supported in opting for this approach.

  • Schedule and Coverage Planning: Develop a scheduling system that allows teachers to plan their tag-outs without disrupting the regular teaching schedule. Don’t require them to observe other teaches during their prep time. Instead utilize instructional coaches and administrators to cover classes.

  • Encourage Reflective Practice: While freeing teachers from the obligation of structured note-taking, encourage them to reflect on their observations and consider how they might apply new insights to their teaching practice, fostering a natural integration of learning into their professional growth.

  • Foster a Culture of Openness and Shared Learning: Promote an environment where teachers feel comfortable sharing their tag-out experiences and learning outcomes, enhancing the collective knowledge and collaborative spirit within the school community.


The Benefits of Teacher Tag-Outs

The adoption of teacher tag-outs can have far-reaching benefits for the school community:
  • Professional Development Autonomy: Tag-outs empower teachers to choose their observation focus and whom they observe, fostering a sense of professional autonomy and personalized professional development.

  • Relief from Logistical Concerns: Teachers don’t have to give up valuable prep time to observe, arrange for substitutes, or burden colleagues with extra duties, as the coach or administrator ensures that their class is covered. This smooth arrangement enhances the feasibility and appeal of participating in tag-outs.

  • Enhanced Understanding and Empathy: Coaches or administrators teaching the class gain firsthand insight into the daily challenges and dynamics teachers face. This experience can lead to more empathetic and effective support for teachers, as well as informed decision-making in school leadership and coaching practices.

  • Building Trust and Relationships: When teachers see instructional coaches and administrators actively involved in classroom teaching, it can strengthen trust and rapport. Teachers may feel more supported and understood, fostering a stronger partnership between them and the school leadership.

  • Modeling Instructional Strategies: Tag-outs present a unique opportunity for coaches and administrators to actively engage in teaching, allowing them to practice and refine instructional strategies firsthand. This engagement not only keeps their teaching skills current but also enables them to demonstrate effective practices directly. Such practice serves as a potent professional development tool for the coaches and administrators themselves, ensuring their teaching methods remain relevant and impactful.

  • Encouraging a Culture of Learning: When school leaders actively participate in the instructional process, it signals a commitment to continuous learning and improvement, not just for teachers but for all members of the school community. This can help cultivate a culture where professional growth is valued and encouraged.


Overall, the practice of having a coach or administrator cover classes during tag-outs enriches the professional development experience, strengthens school community bonds, and supports a more collaborative and empathetic educational environment.

The shift towards teacher tag-outs in instructional coaching marks a significant move away from traditional, directive models towards a more empowering, teacher-centered approach. By prioritizing teacher choice and autonomy, schools can foster a dynamic environment of continuous learning and collaboration. This transformation not only enhances professional development but also contributes to a more inclusive and supportive educational ecosystem, ultimately leading to greater teaching efficacy and student achievement. As we embrace these changes, we position instructional coaches not merely as evaluators but as facilitators of a thriving, learner-centered community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *