For The Instructional Coach Or Principal Who Feels Less Successful Than They Are

For The Instructional Coach Or Principal Who Feels Less Successful Than They Are

I recently facilitated a pretty tough conversation between a principal, coach and the staff.  Before they talked with the staff about how they were going to ‘right’ the coaching ship, we scripted what they were going to say and then practiced it a bunch of times.

Here was the basic outline of what the principal and coach shared with the staff:

“Staff, I want to take a few minutes to talk about our coaching plan.  First off, I want to acknowledge that I have done a pretty weak job in the past at setting up the coaching role. 

Our greatest asset on campus is our team of teachers and in order for us to increase how well and how effectively we teach, we need to continue to hone our craft.  This is where Bonnie comes in.  Bonnie was hired as our coach three years ago.  At first, I don’t think any of us had a clue what to do with her!  I know Bonnie would agree! 

When I first rolled out to you the idea that we were going to have a coach, I realized that some of you were less-than-excited and instead of explaining what the coaching would look like, I assumed (incorrectly) that when Bonnie showed up, everyone would be on board.

So, in her first few weeks she visited classes and got to know your kids and you a bit better.  Soon after, we pulled her from her coaching roll often to cover for teachers when we couldn’t find subs – I remember even asking her to cover the phones when we were short on office staff. 

Obviously, this is not what the role of the coach is designed for.  The longer time went on, the more Bonnie would try to get into your classrooms, but it was difficult for her because it appeared that you were not open to coaching.  Let me be very clear: I am not surprised that you appeared disinterested or resistant to the coaching.  After all, I gave you absolutely no context for what was expected of you…and Bonnie. 

I want to apologize for handling coaching poorly…and for letting it go on so long.  I also must apologize to Bonnie, as I was not supportive of her in the way that I need to be in order to get the results from coaching that we are expecting.

So, I ask you to allow me to hit the ‘reset’ button on our coaching process.   Our scores have shown that we are doing a lot of things really well for our kids instructionally.  Recent data has shown that our struggling students in Reading and Math are continuing to struggle – we are having difficulty moving that group of students.  I see this as a very important focus area for our coaching from this point out.

Over the next two staff meetings, I have asked Bonnie to share with you the role of the coach, the flow of the coaching, the timeline for coaching and what she sees as a logical place to start with each of you.  Please know that I have asked and do expect Bonnie to be working with each of you regularly. 

Some teachers might meet with Bonnie more often and some less often, but everyone on our campus will receive coaching from Bonnie.  How you are coached will be up to Bonnie and you – she has a structure for how to do this.

I appreciate your taking all of this information into consideration and allowing us to start fresh with our coaching work.  We know that the most powerful form of professional development is coaching – and we want to be using our coach in ways that have the greatest impact. 

While coaching might not be easy and it might require additional time from you, it is a major tool that we will use to continue to improve our service to our kids.”

What do you think?  Is there a principal on your team who needs a do-over?

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Instructional Coaches And Principals Who Want to Quit Work Some Day

Instructional Coaches And Principals Who Want to Quit Work Some Day

Have you had someone from your instructional coaching team tell you that they weren’t quite sure if this is the right fit for them?

I find that those kinds of conversations usually come out of a frustration with crabby teachers…people who make coaching a real trial for whatever reason.  It’s disheartening for a coach who is enthusiastic and excited about making a big splash on student achievement by working with the teachers.

Here’s a recent question I had from a frustrated coach…I wonder if this is something you might want to share with your coaching team as they think about the new school year?

Coach: 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 to “Go for the joy!” – go for the win, build some excitement and then tackle the tough stuff!

What do you think?  Is there a member of your instructional coaching team that needs your encouragement on this?

If this resonates with you, check out what we’re doing next! 

6 Questions You Have to Answer Before Scheduling PD

6 Questions You Have to Answer Before Scheduling PD

You know how you learn something that is so important that you wish that you could go back to 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 20 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.

I know it sounds weird and I’m not going to say “less is more” because I don’t mean that.  It’s not just about doing less, it’s about working on the RIGHT STUFF.  We are plagued not by inaction these days in our schools, but by too much action.  And we have to think about this as we coach.

Here are the six questions I now ask myself when I am teaching anything to any educator.  These questions help me trim the fat and give them just what they’ll need and not much more:

  1. What will trip people up? (Spend extra time on this)
  2. What are the [five] parts of the thing I’m teaching that they absolutely have to learn? (And dump the other content)
  3. What is the order that the things in #2 above should logically be taught and learned in? (So that it flows and can be easily remembered)
  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? (Not every piece of content is the best fit for a stand-and-deliver training)
  5. What is the least amount of training that we can provide or get away with? (Again…cut, cut, cut!)
  6. What skills have teachers already developed that we can hook this new thing to so it doesn’t feel brand new? (Helps folks feel like it’s always something new…but an advancement in something they’re already doing)

What do you think?  How might this info help your instructional coaching team?

Quick Heads Up!

(And I get that this is quite ironic that I’m inviting you to more training after the above writing,

but you can confidently file this under “the right thing” training…see you in September!

How to Effortlessly Coach Teachers without Being Eaten Alive

How to Effortlessly Coach Teachers without Being Eaten Alive

So, let’s help our instructional leaders and coaches get over their fear of how to talk to teachers about their instruction.

I mean, our teachers are pretty reasonable and mostly on-board with the coaching work, but sometimes principals and instructional coaches tip-toe around the first conversation that jumpstarts the coaching relationship.

Here are four really simple lead-ins your team can use right now to approach any teacher.

  • “You know, as I was reviewing our school data I noticed that your department was struggling with helping the kids master the vocabulary portion of the weekly assessment.  Talk to me about that.  Did you notice that?  Why do you think that is, where can we start to work on that?”
  • “Tell me, what are the things you said you picked up from our math training on Thursday?  How can I support you in getting started on that?”
  • “I was working with the seventh grade English teachers on getting students to respond in writing to an open-ended prompt – would that be something we could work on in your English class?”
  • “Hey, I wanted to follow up with you on our last team meeting.  How is your pre-teaching of the vocabulary to the English Language Learners going?  Are you seeing improvement in their comprehension of the text?”

Notice, we aren’t being weird or springing a weird convo on a teacher like a stranger jumping out of a bush (ha!)…we’re tying it to something we’re already doing, which keeps things feeling really natural…a key to getting teachers into the idea of coaching.

What do you think?  How might this info help your instructional coaching team?

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The Most Expensive Instructional Coaching Mistake

The Most Expensive Instructional Coaching Mistake

Do you remember that Ron Popeil infomercial from a long time ago?  He demonstrated how you could put a chicken in this contraption that sat on your countertop and just “Set it and forget it?”

Well…ol’ Ron Popeil and his chicken contraption were wrong.

The reality in our curriculum and instruction world?  I see us throwing away valuable training, time and relationship away because we haven’t done a very simple button-up.  And we pay the ultimate price for it: wasting time.

So here’s my simple answer when I’m asked: What do I do when a teacher has been coached in a skill and yet when I get back into the classroom, they’ve 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!)

These three questions are the antidote to forgetting a coached skill or falling back into old practice.  And they really help to get the coaching and teaching back on track.

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!

What do you think?  How might this info help your instructional coaching team?

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Advice to Instructional Coaches And Principals Who Can’t Seem To Get Started

Advice to Instructional Coaches And Principals Who Can’t Seem To Get Started

One of things that gets in the way of instructional coaches and principals getting into the classrooms and getting into the nitty gritty of teaching is that they are struggling with getting everyone excited about coaching.  Let’s just say that a lot of strong opinions emerge when we start talking about getting into classrooms and reflecting on the teaching. Right?

  • Some people think they don’t need coaching…
  • Some teachers think they are beyond it…
  • Some teachers are afraid of looking inadequate…
  • Some teachers are rarin’ to go…
  • Some are just waiting for retirement and hope you’ll mosey on by their classroom door…

BUT I have discovered the only way that we work quickly through this apprehension and dragging of the feet: setting the expectation that everyone gets coached.  It really clears the stage of all of the hemming and hawing we see…

Watch this 1-minute clip on my best advice:

What do you think?  How might this info help your instructional coaching team?

 

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