Does a Checklist Really Work? {Team Meetings}

Does a Checklist Really Work? {Team Meetings}

If you didn’t read my first post on the power of checklists to manage the teacher/coach/principal workload, then click this to take 10 seconds and get caught up!

I am checking out another checklist that I created – what do you think?  What am I missing?

Checklist for Team/Department Meetings


sheet and time arrived


Read agenda together


Set time for Item 1, discuss and record next steps/questions


Set time for Item 2 discuss and record next steps/questions


Set time for Item 3 discuss and record next steps/questions


Review individual notes, responsibilities and next steps


Each teacher signs off notes back to principal/coach


sheet time dismissed
Why Teachers Drop a Skill After Coaching

Why Teachers Drop a Skill After Coaching

A very common question that I get from coaches is this: What do I do when a teacher has been coached in a skill and yet when I get back into the classroom, they’ve dropped or stopped using the skill?

I think that sometimes coaches take this personally – after all, everyone has put a lot of time in effort in coaching and learning a new/updated skill!  But, I find that when I ask myself these three questions, I can usually get to the root of why that’s happened…and, more importantly, I can fix it with the teacher:

  1. Did I break the steps of the skill down to the –nth degree or was the skills we were working on really like five skills rolled up into one?
  2. Did the teacher understand what I wanted him to do? (And a nod of the head isn’t a confirmation…the teacher should be able to fully explain what you want him to do in his own words – make sure to weave this into your debriefing each time!)
  3. Did the teacher simply forget to keep doing it and do we need to add some sort of note on his desk or in his lesson plan book so that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle any longer? (Teachers have lots to remember and can simply forget. It happens to all of us!)

The most important thing is to avoid going straight to the line of the thinking that the teacher is stopping the practice on purpose.  By digging just a bit deeper through the questions, you’ll find an even more efficient way to work with a teacher…and it doesn’t have to affect your relationship one bit!



6 Questions We Didn’t Know We Needed to Answer Before We Plan Professional Development!

6 Questions We Didn’t Know We Needed to Answer Before We Plan Professional Development!

You know how you learn something that is so important that you wish that you could go back and erase about 10,000 things from the past so that you can do them right?

Well, I feel that way about planning professional development.  My approach has always been that ‘more is more’ and that in order for a teacher to learn to do whatever it is that I am trying to teach them, they have to know EVERYTHING and EVERY NUANCE of that thing.

What I’ve come to realize (and it’s taken me, ummm…oh, just 14 years to realize it!) is that I need to give teachers the least amount of information that I can get away with so that they can quickly carry things back to the classroom and get started.

Here are the six questions I now ask myself when I am teaching anything to any educator:

  1. What will trip people up?
  2. What are the five parts of the thing I’m teaching that they absolutely have to learn?
  3. What is the order that the things in #2 above should logical be taught and learned in?
  4. What is the best way to learn each of the steps? Should we read about it?  Model it? Practice in the training room? Watch a video?
  5. What is the least amount of training that we can provide or get away with?
  6. What skills have teachers already developed that we can hook this new thing to so it doesn’t feel brand new?



Coaches Should Bring Relief and Take Responsibility

Coaches Should Bring Relief and Take Responsibility

I thought of a connection between two words recently – and I think they have an important tie to coaching teachers in the classroom: relief and responsibility.

Relief is a feeling of reassurance and relaxation following release from anxiety or distress.  Responsibility is the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over.

Here’s the connection that I made between the two words as it relates to coaching: A top priority as a coach is to provide relief for a struggling, frustrated or just plain overwhelmed teacher.  We provide a sense of relief through a simple statement like, “Hey – I know that teaching _________ is super frustrating when you have kids that don’t get it right off the bat – let’s work together to solve this for you!”

However, then the whole responsibility thing kicks in.  Once we have primed the pump with the teacher so they aren’t leading with their frustration or overwhelm, we then owe it to them (and the students) to take responsibility for actually helping them overcome the barrier or get better at teaching.

I’ve run into coaching philosophies that are designed almost entirely around providing relief for teachers in need, but they miss out on the responsibility for solving the problem.  That’s where the real coaching work comes in and begins to transform a classroom.

Skillfully Coaching Crabby Teachers

Skillfully Coaching Crabby Teachers

This is a comment that was made on a recent blog that I think brings up something that’s super important for all of us to remember.  Take a look and let me know what you think!

Comment from a reader: I have been coaching in a building that held a lot of resistant staff. I think I have been focusing too much on them and not enough on those that are open to coaching. I have to report to my district leaders every month about who, and how often, I have 1:1 coaching sessions. I think I’m so worried about the district seeing that I may never have those 1:1’s with some teachers. I feel like if I’m not coaching everyone I will be seen as a failure to my leaders. So, I invest a lot of energy trying to make those opportunities happen instead of spending more of my time with those few that want coaching.

My response: I think you’re right on.  It’s important for us to think about the long-term big picture, but we have to deal with things in the here and now.  (I try to remember this is in my own life, too!)  Yes – focus on the teachers that you can make movement with.  You’ll become more and more confident in coaching while you’re helping people who really want it.  As you build confidence (even if you’re already confident, we can always learn more tricks of the coaching trade!), you’ll be even better at dealing with those who are more unwilling.  I often tell coaches I am coaches “Go for the joy!” – go for the win, build some excitement and then tackle the tough stuff!

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