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?
I was speaking to a group of administrators last week in Chicago and I got to do one of my most favorite things during the “off” times: just sit and chit chat with people! I think I end up learning so much by just listening to what principals are asking and what they are struggling with. One of the question that came up was, “How do I get my teachers to see me as a coach hem in times when I am not their evaluator?”
My answer to the guys I was talking to was this: you can’t.
I am not even sure that that’s even what we want to do, really. I mean they always need to see you as the administrator and evaluator, so you don’t want to confuse people by changing your role. But what I think we are really asking in this case is how do I approach my teachers in a way that allows them to be open about improving their teaching?
Here are a few of the things that I shared with the administrators at my table. Note: They’re small moves, but make a big impact on teachers and help them to feel more comfortable with us as we give feedback:
Tell teachers that you will always be their administrator, but there are times you will be working in collaboration with them about the quality of their teaching and that this will look a lot like coaching
Determine a structure for your coaching that is not the same as the evaluation form or process
Tell the teacher that you will provide feedback to them and suggest things they need to change, but that you are not officially documenting this in their file
Just be trustworthy and keep your word…if you say you’re not going to officially document, then don’t! If you say that you’re going to show up at 2:40 for an observation, then do! (Trust is so simply built, really!)
If you liked this blog post, then I bet you’ll love this, too!
Question: Do you have anything in your “toolbox” that would help a district to select their in-house coach. What are the characteristics they should or shouldn’t look for?
Excellent, clear communicator
Highly skilled and disciplined teacher
Superb classroom manager
Very organized and can keep a detailed calendar
Does not give up on things or people when the going gets rough
Able to read social situations and people (this is crucial and often overlooked)
Has boundaries and is not afraid to say no
I used to give a list of tangible, skill driven things that the coach had to be able to do. A lot of it was content driven and about what they “knew” not just who they “were.” I think this is a really big mistake, which is why I have changed my tune! This list shows the type of person who is likely to be a successful coach…the rest can be learned!
I received this question from a Facebook principal friend of mine: Hey Jill! I’m a principal who is about to embark on a new adventure with my staff. My hope is to create an atmosphere of professional growth from peer observations, feedback and administrative observations. I’m going to begin with a staff meeting that shows where we have some improvement needs. Any suggestions or words of wisdom before I roll this out?
Here was my response:My best advice is to give very specific examples of what needs changing and why. Bad example: We need to be more collaborative. Good example: We need to stop correcting papers and having side convos during our team meetings. Instead, I would like you to take notes in your team notebook and rotate the team lead responsibilities every week so that we use our time wisely and are on the same page with implementing new ideas. When you want them to stop doing something, be sure to give them a behavior to replace it with. Break a leg!
As many folks know, I am in the process of writing my fifth book! It’s about instructional coaching…tentatively titled “How to Coach Teachers to Teach (Almost) Anything” – – – I mean, it’s not like it’s going to be published by Yale or anything, right?
One of the things that I wanted to really drive home for coaches are the fundamental skills that teachers have to have in place. So, I broke those fundamental skills down into five categories:
Lesson Planning (the most often un-coached skills that is the starting point of a successful lesson)
Delivery of a Basic Lesson (like the very least the teacher has to do to deliver a successful lesson)
In this series of five blogs, one on each of the topics, I have broken down those skills for you, too!
If you’re a teacher, you can use these as a checklist for lesson planning
If you are a professional developer, you can use this is a checklist for a new teacher (or veteren teacher) training program
If you are a principal, you can use this to help you set your instructional goal and as a tool to determine where you staff might need strengthening.
If you are a coach, you will use these lists to prioritize the content that you will coach. If a teacher is struggling with any of these, then that struggling point is where your coaching should start. After all, if a fundamental is missing, then the teacher doesn’t have much of a chance of getting the fancier stuff well implemented.
Here are the Student Engagement Priority Skills for Coaching
Teaches with a swift pace with a good mix of teacher talk and student action
Has written response signals in place for the whole class and individuals
Has verbal response signals in place for the whole class and individuals
Has physical response signals in place for the whole class and individuals
Does not rely on raised hands as an engagement tool
Uses engagement tools to have all students do the work during whole group, partner and independent work time
Walks around the room to monitor what is said, done and discussed during lessons
Uses engagement techniques to practice the most important content and does not allow the techniques to overshadow the content of the lesson
Explicitly teaches the difference between compliant engagement and true engagement through modeling
Requires students to use complete sentences and academic language as they are engaging with the content and their classmates
Uses engagement to correct content errors, require students to extend their responses and give high-quality academic feedback