A very common coaching question that I receive is this: how do I differentiate coaching so that I can meet the needs of the teachers and reach them at exactly the point that they they need help?

Well – I put together some steps for our recent Coaching Academy and wanted to share the steps with you.  Here you go:

You start by taking your principal’s instructional goal and brainstorming all of the things the teachers will need to know how to do/do in order to accomplish that goal.  Do not over-think your brainstorming, just brainstorm – you can evaluate your ideas later!

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Then, take your brainstormed list and cross off anything that is irrelevant or is a repeating idea that is already represented on the list.  Now, take time to order the “things teachers need to know how to do/skills” from what needs to be done first through what needs to be done last.  I often ask the question while I’m sorting: “What skill do teachers need to accomplish the next skill?”

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Now, go through your prioritized, numbered list and attach when in the year it will need to be “worked on” – F = Fall, W = Winter, etc.  You can also put particular months of school (Month 1/August, Month 2/September, etc.) if that’s a more practical way to label the tasks.

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Now that you’d mapped out the coaching topics/tasks that ALL teachers will receive during staff meetings, team meetings and professional development sessions, start to map out what each individual teacher will need first. I use the following questions to help me figure out whether I need more information or data on a teacher (requiring another look at their data or another round of observations).

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I think the most important thing for us to do as we coach is to constantly drill down to the underpinning skill or starting skill that will push the other tasks/skills that we want teachers to be able to do.  Keeping things too “big picture” or vague only confuses and frustrates the teachers we’re trying to help!