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How to Time Block Your Week: A Productive Instructional Coach Habit!

Every Sunday afternoon, I figure out in advance everything that I need to do for the week ahead and create a time blocked plan to work from. Instead of trying to be generally productive or working off a random task list, I thoughtfully organize my work according to what must be done this week, divide my open hours into blocks, and assign specific work to the blocks. This kind of planning takes some time up front (usually sixty to ninety minutes for me), but it returns much greater productivity for the week that follows.

To give you a better idea of what this looks like, I’ll walk you through how I created a recent time blocked weekly plan.

Everything that you need to do in the coming week, including all of the random thoughts and ideas floating around in your head, must be written down and captured. Go through your email (print, if needed to pull out actions), coaching notes, google docs, etc. Also look back at your past week….what needs to be carried over to the coming week? Look ahead…what is coming up that you need to get started on this week? What coaching communication needs to be sent out or completed such as confirming coaching debriefs and updating coaching logs. The more thoroughly you CAPTURE all of these items, the fewer open loops you will have and in turn the less stress you will feel.

Once you’ve thoroughly captured all of your to-dos, you can then start to organize. Sort everything into like groups, and for each task add an estimate for how long you think that task (or group of tasks) will take. This will give you a realistic picture of whether or not everything will “fit” into your coming week. And remember, you’re only focusing on what MUST get done this week. Everything else will need to wait.

Cal Newport (love him!) talks about the importance of controlling your time through daily and weekly plans. I use Google Calendar for all of my time specific meetings and appointments, but for my weekly time blocked plan, I ALWAYS write it out in my Time & ToDo Planner. Pen to paper in this step REALLY helps me visualize all the different parts and pieces of my week.

Once you’ve organized all of your to-dos for the week and assigned time estimates, you can begin to block out chunks of time throughout the week to complete your tasks. Below, I’ll give a further explanation of my common time blocks.

Here’s an overview of my different time blocks for this week:

I begin my weekly plan by time blocking anything on my Google Calendar. I use a green pen and a thicker line to indicate these blocks. With these times blocked off, I can now see what open hours I have to work with for the rest of my plan.

I group all of my email and smaller administrative tasks into a daily morning block, so I can “batch task” these items. I will also block out two additional email blocks each day, so that I’m not working from my inbox all day. This isn’t easy, but I’m getting better.

For projects and deep work, I think about my coachees, grade level planning, PD, or anything else currently on my plate. Right now that includes:

  • 5 coachees
  • 5th grade
  • Friday PD
  • CMAS prep

I’ll then figure out what needs to be done for each of the project categories and I’ll block off time accordingly in my weekly plan.

Don’t forget to schedule a lunch break for yourself! My lunch isn’t always at the same time every day, and depending on meetings/coaching, I might not get a lunch break, if I don’t plan it. I like taking 30 minutes to eat some lunch and take a quick walk outside, so I’ll time block it!

The Daily Shutdown Ritual is another tip I picked up from Cal Newport. This is an important piece of his time blocking strategy, and I’ve been working on incorporating it into my own. The idea is that once your daily shutdown is “complete” you can move into the rest of your afternoon or evening free of any worries or stress about what you didn’t get done or what you need to do tomorrow. 

I also like to time block and plan personal things like exercise and dinner. Additionally, I’ve been working on reading more, so that is something reflected in this weekly plan.

With a time blocked weekly plan, you’ll head into your week feeling confident and in control. 

Yes, unexpected things will come up and you’ll need to stay flexible. But the important thing is that you have a plan, and with a plan you’ll be able to make more informed decisions as to what you’re saying yes or no to. Revisions can then be made fairly stress free.

Thanks for reading, and I will talk to you soon!

Other Posts You May Like

FREE Time Blocking Checklist Printable

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Also, check out the complete
Simplified Coaching Planning Kit…

including 6 different sections

Simplified-Coaching-Planning-Kit-6-sections

with 5 different cover options and the following tools to help you get organized, plan and prepare to be an awesome coach:

  • COACHING CONVO PLAN
  • COACHING LOG
  • COACHING SCHEDULE
  • DEBRIEF TOOL
  • COACHING WORKPLAN
  • GRADE LEVEL NOTES
  • IDEA TRACKER
  • KICKOFF MEETING
  • LIST IT
  • MEETING NOTES
  • MONTHLY MAP
  • NOTES
  • OBSERVATION TOOL
  • PASSWORD KEEPER
  • PD PLANNER
  • PD GOALS
  • PROJECT PLANNER
  • RESOURCE CHECKOUT
  • SMALL GROUP OBS. TOOL
  • STUDY GROUP CONVO LOG
  • TIME TRACKER

Get your Coaching Planning Kit Today!

How I Use Block Scheduling to Structure My Days

Hello, and welcome back! How’s distance coaching/teaching been going for you?

I feel like I’m finally starting to get my groove with all of the distance learning things (now that school is almost over, geez!). And just like you, I’ve been adjusting to new technology, new schedules, new expectations, and establishing a “new normal” work-life balance.

Today I thought I’d walk you through what my schedule is currently looking like and how I’m managing my time, so my days don’t turn into one big blursday (ha!). Let’s get started!

Distance Learning

So the main strategy I’ve used to help give structure to my days and weeks is…block scheduling or time blocking. Time Blocking! It’s pretty amazing when you put it to good use. Jordan Page at Fun Cheap or Free has a great blog post I recently revisited that got me energized to use the time blocking strategy during these distance learning days.

Let me start by giving you an overview of how I’ve set up my distance learning blocks/schedule.

I created this schedule given the guidelines provided by our school, but I was also able to “bundle” my instructional time to all be in the morning which works better for me.

Since I’m nearing the end of the school year, I’ve also done some planning ahead for what I want my summer time blocks to look like. You’ll see they look very similar to what my current blocks look like! I just switched out the “teach” block with work I’ll be doing for myself…working on my blog, as well as keeping up with the FIVE classes I have signed up to take this summer!

Summer Block Schedule

OK. Now that you have the overview in mind, I’ll give you a closer look at what’s happening in each of my blocks.

And as we take this walk through be thinking about how you might structure your own time blocks!

I’m a morning person, so my morning block is a big chunk of my day…and my favorite! I’ve structured this time so I’m able to work on my priority projects and also get myself set-up and energized for a great teach from home day.

Next up, is my “Teach” block. As I mentioned, I was able to bundle all of my student instructional time to be during this block which has really worked well. My instructional time includes daily crew meetings with students, one-on-one instructional support time, as well as small group instruction.

I’ve been working from the kitchen table which has been just fine. I set up all of my supplies…laptop, Time & ToDo Planner, weekly work-box, water bottle and I’m ready to go!

After teaching and before planning meetings I make time for a tea break with my favorite work from home buddy…Sombra! (Luke is holding up a treat for him to pose for the pic, so he’s looking very serious :)

For my morning meetings:

  • Every day I meet with the third grade team for planning and check-in’s.
  • And on Tuesdays, I meet with IDT. This is our instructional design team. We’re currently getting started on work planning for next year.

Oh, and as far as coaching goes, my primary focus during this time has been on teaching. Lynsey (math coach/teaching partner) and I have been able to collaborate to share and present ideas with teachers for how to structure their small group instruction. Otherwise, coaching has really taken a back seat. Depending on what next year looks like, distance/virtual coaching is something I’m really going to need to wrap my brain around!

Instructional Coaching

After a morning of teaching and a few meetings, it’s time for my “Plan & Meet” block. First, I’ll stop and have some lunch. One positive about working from home is that Luke and I have been able to have lunch together every day. He has always worked from home, though my being here to make him something to eat has been a treat!

After lunch I’ll work on any planning related tasks, and I’ll take another look through any emails that have come in.

In the later part of the afternoon, I often have various meetings. A few this past week have included:

  • Interviews
  • Planning for coaching next year with our principal
  • Planning for the new interventionist roles for next year
  • Meeting with our new interventionists (I will start next year as a mentor for this team)
  • Leadership Team
Instructional Coaching Distance Learning

Next up, is my “Personal” block! First, I’ll head out and take Sombra for his afternoon walk so we can both get some fresh air. I’ve been working hard during the day so I may also make a cup of tea and catch up on a book I’ve been reading.

Distance Learning Instructional Coaching

And then lastly, it’s time for my “Evening” block. I’ll make some dinner, clean up the kitchen, and pat myself on the back for a job well done today. After all that is done, Luke, Sombra and I will snuggle up and either watch a show together OR I might just jump straight into bed with my book! (Yes, I do go to bed quite early :).

Instructional Coaching Dinner

A few additional tips for time blocking your days:

  • Color code your planner/calendar -> I like to draw colored lines in my Time & ToDo Planner to help me stay visually on track throughout the day (ps – 2020-21 planners are coming soon!)
  • I also LOVE to use checklists for routine or recurring tasks during each of my blocks. For school I have been using Google Keep. And for home, I keep a laminated checklist in my planner.
Time Blocking Distance Learning

Phew, we made it! That was fun, huh? I know I love a good day in the life post.

I hope I have given you some ideas for how you might integrate time blocking into your own time management system. Whether this week, this summer, or even next year, give it a try!

As always, thanks for taking the time to hang out with me today and I will talk to you soon!

Interview Tips for Instructional Coaches: You’ve Got This!

It’s the end of the year, and I’ve got interviewing on my mind!

These past few weeks I’ve been on the interview committee for a few different positions in our building, one of which is for a new instructional coach.

Sitting in on these interviews has got me thinking a lot about how to best present yourself and showcase your knowledge, talents, and experiences while under the pressure of having questions fired at you by a scrutinizing interviewing committee of at least five. Gah! (are you sweating just thinking about it??)

Now, I’m not an interviewing expert nor am I claiming to be one (I don’t even like interviews!!), but I tend to be a strong observer as well as an overachiever and over-planner. As a result, I’ve gathered quite a bit of info on interviews and interviewing that I thought would be helpful to share.

OK, first things first.

You might be thinking, “Duh Kristin! I know!” But we’re still going to talk about it. From your head to your toes, make sure you are dressed to impress. Show up 15 minutes early so you can fix any wind blow hair. Carry one professional bag, not three bulky ones. Make sure your shoes match your outfit and aren’t badly scuffed. No chipped nail polish. I’m just saying…think about all those little details because they matter!

We want to get to know you!!

As an interview candidate, your job is to make the best case you can that you’re the right person for the job. And the candidates who really grab my attention are those who are able to provide specific examples or stories that relate to particular questions asked.

A great way to prepare for this is to think ahead of specific examples that would lend themselves to different categories of behavioral type questions you may be asked. You might also consider bringing in actual artifacts as well…a coaching plan or PD plan for example.

Preparing yourself to talk about your experiences in this way will really help you sell yourself as a candidate.

… don’t take it too easy either. I think sometimes when you hear “just be yourself” it can be a permission pass to not take the interview as seriously and you may come off a little lackadaisical.

So just remember to smile, answer the questions you’re asked honestly, and let your personality shine through in a professional and polished way.

Instructional Coach Intervieww

Then REPEAT!!

It can feel a little weird rehearsing answers to your questions out loud, so many candidates don’t practice.

Especially when you’re not as naturally confident, or you get a bad case of the nerves in interviews, not practicing can really put you at a disadvantage.

Practice in a way that aligns to the actual interview as much as possible. Write out a list of the questions you anticipate being asked, write out sample answers, practice your answers out loud in front of a mirror or with a friend. Video tape yourself and revise accordingly.

For a handy guide to support you with preparing for an instructional coach or leadership position interview, please check out the Interview Prep Planning Kit I recently created.

This planning kit includes a list of questions you’ll most likely be asked, planning templates for artifacts to bring, and much more.

Although I’m not actively interviewing, thinking through this process has really helped me reflect on my own practice and consider ways I can improve.

Thanks for reading!

Interview Prep Kit

Details

  • Interview Tips –> a few tips for before and during the interview process
  • Interview Questions and Categories –> common interview categories and questions for instructional coaching positions
  • Interview Checklist –> a checklist for important considerations before, during, and after the interview
  • Interview Overview –> a one page “at a glance” planning sheet for your interview
  • Coaching Cycle Example –> two pages to reflect on coaching cycles you’ve conducted
  • Planning PD Example
  • Additional Examples/Notes –> use these different categories/prompts to help you reflect on your skills and knowledge in these different areas
  • Interview Answer Planning –> specific interview questions and space for you to plan your answer
  • Interview Review
  • Cover Page

**prints standard letter size, 8.5 x 11″

How to Use

Here a few tips/ideas for working with your Interview Prep Planning Kit:

  • Download your planning kit and save to your computer where you can easily access it
  • When printing, set your printer to fit the entire page
  • Use a color printer if you can, but you can also print in black and white to save money on color printing
  • Print on standard, letter size paper, 8.5 x 11″ (I like 98 bright, 32 lb)

Delivery

Once your payment has been processed, you will receive an email with a link to download the planner. If you don’t see the email, check to make sure your junk mail didn’t grab it.

Terms of Use

I’m a hard working educator. This planner is for personal use only. You can print as many copies as you need, whenever you’d like. Please do not redistribute or sell.

5 Routines that Help me Keep it Together

Hello! Long time no blog. How are things?

Things with me are good! I just wrapped up a small group coaching cycle, am full swing into unpacking curriculum modules with our K-2 team, and have also been Work Planning with our leadership team for next year. Oh, and on the side, we’ve been hard at work getting next year’s Time & ToDo Planner going…exciting!

So yes, things have been good, but they sure have been busy.

And I have to say these last few days and weeks, I’ve been feeling especially overwhelmed.

More like I’m frantically thrashing through my days, rather than calmly and confidently flowing through them.

Do you ever have those days or weeks?

During those times when I’m feeling especially overwhelmed with lots of meetings, planning to do, and other commitments, I have to take a pause and get back to the basics. What are the basics for me?

Routines.

Yep. Routines, Routines, Routines.

Daily routines provide structure for our days and everything we do.

There are five key, daily routines that really help me to feel more in control of my days and on track.

Morning Routine

Oh my cherished, morning routine. I wake up particularly early. When it’s dark, it’s quiet, and it’s blissful.

This is my time to organize my thoughts and tasks for the day. To have some time for solitude and reflection. To “reset the room” from the night before, and launch myself forward into a successful day.

There are a few key morning habits, sequenced into a routine, that help make a great start to my day.

Start Up Routine

Once at school, I give myself 20 minutes to get set-up for the day.

Rather than diving straight into the thick of things, my start-up routine helps me make a smooth and organized transition from at home Kristin to Coaching Kristin :)

Shutdown Routine

In these past few weeks, I’ve found myself not making time for my shutdown routine. Not good!

When I don’t take time to get “clear and current” at the end of the day, and organize for the next, I find myself taking more work home with me and creating more stress for myself the following day as I try to catch up.

20-30 organized minutes at the end of the day serves me well in setting up for the next.

Afternoon Routine

When I get home after a long day, it’s super tempting to just sling my bag on the dining room table and throw myself down on the couch.

But nope. I’ve still got things to do.

The afternoons are when I take care of several of my “home management” tasks. Having a tidy home really helps keep me calm and happy :)

Evening Routine

And so the day is done. After dinner, I have just a few more key tasks to complete that makeup my evening routine.

One of the most important being, shine the sink! When I give the kitchen and the sink a good shine before I go to bed, it makes the tomorrow’s early morning something to look forward to.

What a routine packed day, huh?!

How about you? Do you have any key routines that help you keep it together?

Or maybe you’d like to work on putting a few key routines into place. If so, I’d probably start with the afternoon/evening routines. Those two make a really good foundation to build from.

And if you’re interested in reading more about building positive habits and routines into your day, these are a few books I’d recommend checking out.

Thanks as always for reading! Looking forward to checking in again soon :)

Creating a Coaching Invitation

Wouldn’t it be super awesome if you had teachers constantly knocking on your door throughout the year, excitedly asking to work with you in a coaching cycle?

“Hey Kristin! I’d love to get started in a student centered coaching cycle with you connected to the 3rd grade informative writing standard. This is an area I’d really love for my students to make growth in next quarter. I can get started on creating a pre-assessment for us to work from if that works for you??”

OR

“Kristin! What do you think about co-teaching together next quarter? I’m working to get a handle on this new curriculum and I’d love you as a thought partner in helping plan through some of the lessons. It’d be extra cool if you could micro-model a portion of the close read aloud and then we could conference with a few students together and learn from each other’s formative assessment data!!”

Ahhh, dreamy.

I’d love to say this is my reality throughout the year, but it’s not.

And that’s ok.

Teachers get busy, and stressed, and overwhelmed, and sometimes getting excited about working in a coaching cycle is the last thing on their minds.

So, what to do? Well you don’t just sit around and wait for the excited knocks to come, feeling defeated when they don’t.

You stay positive, get out there, and continue to nurture the culture of coaching you’ve worked hard to create.

One way I worked to put this move into practice earlier this week, was by sending out an invite. Yep, a coaching invite.

There were a few things I worked to keep in mind in creating this. Let me walk you through my invitation creation process.

 

 

Push yourself to work your creative muscles a bit, and think outside the standard text in an email message. Sure, it gets the job done, but you’re working to get teachers excited about coaching remember? So could you try:

  • Make a short animated video as an invite.
  • Create an colorful brochure using Canva, export it as a PDF, and embed it in your email.
  • Design a color print-out with some fun graphics, maybe throw in some candy, and drop it off in teachers boxes.
  • Build an illustrated newsletter using Smore.

The sky’s the limit!

 

 

You like being given some choices with your learning, and so do teachers. They may be up for working with you, just not right now.

When creating your invite, pull out your Time & ToDo Planner. Consider what chunks of time you have for the remainder of this year to work with teachers, and which periods of time work best, given breaks and testing schedules. Based on this, provide options for teachers around the time period when they might work with you.

 

 

Do teachers in your building even have a solid understanding of what coaching with you will look like? The time commitment included? How it will benefit them?

Hmmm…

Even if you have worked with teachers before, you may have changed some things, or maybe it’s just been awhile. Not to mention the new teachers who may be in your building this year.

Either way, this could be a good opportunity for you to revisit what a coaching cycle actually is. The overview is brief!

Think about how to distill the work you do down down to 3-5 major bullet points, and share this in your invite.

 

 

Teachers will naturally have wonders, worries, or concerns about working in a coaching cycle that may be preventing them from signing up. Take a minute to think through what these might be. Great. Now consider how you might tactfully address 2-3 of these, very briefly, in your invite.

Here are a few that came up for me:

  • I have a lot going on, is this going to feel like something extra added to my plate?
  • Can you tell me a bit more about what “coaching in the classroom” will look like?
  • I’d love to work in a coaching cycle with my team. Is this a possibility?

 

 

Consider how you’d like to structure your coaching cycles throughout the year. How many rounds will you do? How many teachers can you work with in each round?

Also consider teacher needs. Send your invitation out well before you’d like your next cycle to start. Give them some time to process your invite, and respond.

I decided to send my invite out two weeks before fall break, as I’d like to start my next round right when we get back.

Oh, and don’t forget to give yourself plenty of time to actually create the invite. It took me a good few hours to draft, edit, and finalize mine.

 

 

OK, so here’s a look at what your invite might look/sound like when it’s all put together.

 

 

You sent it! Great job!

But…you’re not done there. Just because you sent the initial invite doesn’t mean every teacher will be banging down your door with a “YES!” RSVP. You will likely have to follow-up with teachers.

 

 

Plan to follow-up personally with the teacher who you would like to work with but hasn’t responded yet. I like to think of my coaching invite as a conversation starter. So, no pressure here, just follow-up with them to chat about what might be on their minds for coaching.

I hope this post gave you some ideas for how you might think about how you work to invite teachers into coaching cycles with you.

Let me know if you have questions in the comments, otherwise get those fun and fresh invites going!

My Instructional Coaching Kit Set-Up

As I was walking through Target the other day, I got all excited when I came across the “back to school” aisle. I’m pretty much like a little kid when it comes to back to school prep. I love it!

One of my back to school purchases for this year was a new discbound agenda to use for setting up my Coaching Kit.

I’ve been using an Instructional Coaching Planning Kit now for the past several years, and it’s one of the most important tools in my “stay organized” coaching system.

For the past few days, I’ve been working on getting mine set up for this year, and I thought I’d give you a little walk-through of how it’s coming along.

Let’s take a look!

As I mentioned, I highly recommend using a discbound notebook for your Coaching Kit over a clipboard, three ring binder, or really anything else. They lay flat, and fold over nicely which comes in so handy when I’m in classrooms taking notes, meeting with teachers, or need my PD agenda ready to reference.

I love discbound planners so much, I designed one for Time & ToDo Planner. These discbound planners are brand new for this year!

I made a customized cover for myself to place in the front. I chose Turquoise to compliment my Time & ToDo Planner. In the shop, I’m offering customized covers if you’d like one as well!

Customized Covers - Cover

The Coaching Kit’s table of contents has a suggested order for setting things up. However, feel free to identify and order your sections in whichever way makes the most sense to you. And remember, you can always tweak and adjust as the year goes on.

I have both “school” and “personal” tabs in my Kit, as I find that my school and personal lives overlap in many ways. For example, I like to keep my Weekly Meal Planning sheets as a section, so I can stay on track with my goals for the week.

For the tabs themselves, you can use something as simple as white Avery label dividers, or you can purchase discbound dividers. To add a bit more color, I also like to use Washi Tape for making my labels.

Here are the current sections I have:

  • Coaching
  • Meetings
  • Grade Levels
  • PD
  • Projects
  • Flylady
  • Biz
  • Meals
  • Notes
  • Reference

Behind my cover page, I have a Vertical Year at a Glance. While I do keep all of my appointments and dates in my Time & ToDo Planner (TTP), I find that it is also helpful for me to have this Year at a Glance in my Coaching Kit for those occasions that I may not have my TTP on me. I also like the friendly overview of the school year that this calendar provides.

On to the first tab of my Kit, “Coaching.” To start, I printed off a copy of my First 90 Days as a Instructional Coach printable. Even though I’ve been coaching for awhile now, I still find it nice to have this as a reference to help guide me through those first weeks/months.

I also plan to use this printable to help me establish goals for the 1st Quarter. Goal setting I feel, is a great practice for all of us to take on in both our personal and professional lives. Having clear goals helps me stay motivated and driven in my work.

Although I won’t be starting any official coaching cycles the first few weeks of school, I’ve printed off a copy of my Coaching Schedule printable so I’m ready to go when I meet with our principal to discuss teachers to work with.

The next section is reserved for Meetings. Whether for an after school staff meeting, our weekly coaches meeting, or an impromptu meeting with a teacher, I have printed off a few of my Meeting Notes forms so I’m ready to go.

In my PD section, I have a copy of the PD Year Plan from my PD Planning Kit. It helps me to have a visual of PD scheduled for the year, as well as any sessions I will be responsible for facilitating so that I can give myself plenty of time to plan and prep.

I also have my agenda printed and ready to go for our first PD with new teachers this week!

I decided to include a Projects section this year, as I often find myself taking on different kinds of projects throughout the year. I use this sheet to help me plan, set timelines, and keep track of the different tasks connected to that single project.

Next up, I have my Flylady section. I use this as part of my home management/cleaning system. There’s nothing better than coming home to a clean and orderly house at the end of a long day, and this is one of the tools I use to help me with this. I plan my zone cleaning tasks weekly, and complete them after school. If you’d like to learn more about how I use the Flylady system, leave me a note in the comments :)

As I mentioned earlier, I do keep my Weekly Meal Planning sheets in my Kit. I actually find I glance at my meal plan rather frequently, either to remind myself of what we’re having for dinner and what I need to do when I get home, or to quickly jot down an item I’ve remembered that I need to get at the store that week.

My Notes section is reserved for any free form planning or brainstorming I might do during the day.

And lastly, I have a Reference section. As of now, I have our school calendar for the year printed off, a Resource Checkout Form which I know I’ll soon need, and an Idea Tracker. I use my idea Tracker to capture all those random thoughts/ideas that come up during the day, which don’t need to be recorded as a to-do in my Time & ToDo Planner, yet I don’t want to loose sight of them either.

So there it is! Having this ready to go for school beginning this week, has helped me feel much more relaxed and confident in starting the school year. There will be a lot to do, but my Coaching Kit will work its magic as always in helping me to stay organized.

All of these printables can be found in either my Coaching Kit, or other listings in my shop. Check it out, and please let me know if you have any questions!

Talk soon, and thanks for reading!

How to use Binders for Organizing Your Coaching Notes

Say what?! Binders?! Aren’t those a totally old school way to stay organized?

Well, I guess it depends on who you ask, but for me the answer is — Uh…no! Let’s chat.

At the end of the year, one thing I like to do is reflect back on all of the systems and structures I used to help me with my work and stay organized. I’m pretty much always tweaking, revising, or trying out different ideas.

One of the new systems I tried out this year to keep all of my notes organized, was a binder system. And I loved it!

Paper helps me think, process, and solidify all my various types of notes much more deeply than my laptop.

As explained in the article, “The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard,” taking notes on your laptop may result in shallower processing and less effective learning. In using pen and paper to take observation notes, coaching meeting notes, or planning notes, you’re forced to more thoroughly process the information coming in and record key takeaways you know will be valuable, versus just transcribing everything.

And for coaches, this is super important!! I would also argue that paper notes support focus, and are less distracting than having a screen in front of you all the time.

To be clear, I’m not anti-tech. I use G-Drive and Evernote as an extension of my note taking system, but largely paper is where it’s “mightily” at for me :)

OK, paper vs. tech debate aside, let’s talk binders.

I always thought binders were kind of dumb and annoying because the only ones I had ever really used were the standard plastic, flimsy ones. Then I watched a video of Alejandra (fellow neat freak!) share how she uses Better Binders to organize her home office. She got me thinking that these binders could be the ideal tool to help me keep my paper notes and plans organized.

I headed to Staples, grabbed a few, and found that they would be the perfect fit for my binder storage system.

Each binder would essentially be a different “bucket” for organizing my notes. I didn’t want too many, so I narrowed it down to four binders:

Each binder would also have different sections. So for the section tabs, I went with the Avery Ready Index Tabs. They’re super light weight, so they don’t take up a bunch of space, and I like how they provide a friendly table of contents view right up front.

OK, now that we’ve gone over the set-up of this binder system, let’s talk about how I actually use them to keep me organized!

In my Coaching Kit, I have a section titled, “Daily Materials.” At the start of each day, I’ll plan out what notes, observation forms, materials, etc. I’ll need for that day. Some of these notes/materials are often a continuation of work from the day before or earlier in the week. When this is the case, I’ll reference the appropriate binder, grab what I need, and quickly be ready to start the day.

Then at the end of the day, I’ll go through all my “Daily Materials” notes, check for any to-dos to add to my Time & ToDo Planner, then file the remaining notes back into my binders.

note taking system

This overall process ensures that my notes remain active and alive, rather than being buried in a notebook and forgotten about. I’m constantly reviewing and reflecting on past work which helps me to more accurately plan upcoming work. Furthermore, it’s hard for me to miss a “to-do” captured in my notes since this system of review just doesn’t allow it.

I’m feeling pretty good in my end of year reflection, as this will definitely be a system that I use again next year.

And speaking of next year, I’d love your feedback!

If you have a second, I would really appreciate if you shared your thoughts for how I can continue to support and motivate you in your work as a coach. As a thank you, here is a free download of the binder covers I use! They’re also editable so you can customize them with a monogram and title, to your liking :)

Share your thoughts, Get Free Binder Covers

Thanks so much, and hope your year is winding down well! If you have any questions, always feel free to ask in the comments.

PD Planning Kit

Details

  • Tell Us About Yourself teacher interest survey –> great for the beginning of the year to collect info on teacher interests that you can use to jazz up PD throughout the year
  • PD Sign In Sheet –> easily print and be ready for teachers to sign in at the start of PD
  • PD Year Plan –> use this to help you plan and organize PD topics throughout the year
  • PD Idea Tracker –> don’t let those great ideas for PD topics get away! This tool will help you collect and plan for where your ideas may fit into the bigger PD picture for your school
  • PD Interest Survey –> print this form, share with teachers, and use the gathered info to help you plan for Differentiated PD groups
  • PD Exit Ticket –> it’s important to collect teacher feedback for all of your PD sessions. Print and use this form to help you easily do so!
  • PD Annual Survey –> we use this 2-pg. form to help us collect teacher feedback on PD at the end of the year. It gives us a big picture understanding of what worked, and ideas for next year
  • PD Log –> don’t forget to track your PD progress throughout the year. This tool will give you an organized view of where you’ve been throughout the year, and will help you plan for next year
  • PD Planning Checklist –> great tool to print and use to keep you focused and well directed in the PD planning process. Just check-off as you go!
  • Example PD Email –> I included this as a sample of how you might communicate with staff regarding upcoming PD
  • PD Planner –> This is a one page planning tool to help you schedule logistics, materials, and create an agenda
  • PD Facilitation Skills –> I’ve been using this one a lot myself lately! It’s helps me with what to think about in becoming a better facilitator, and it’s also great to give someone else to provide you with feedback
  • Cover Page

**prints standard letter size, 8.5 x 11″

How to Use

Here a few fun tips/ideas for working with your PD Planning Kit:

  • Download your planner and save to your computer where you can easily access it
  • When printing, set your printer to fit the entire page
  • Use a color printer if you can!
  • Print on standard, letter size paper, 8.5 x 11″ (I like 98 bright, 32 lb)
  • To keep you planner organized, use a three ring binder or discbound notebook (there is plenty of margin space for punching!)

Delivery

Once your payment has been processed, you will receive an email with a link to download the planner. If you don’t see the email, check to make sure your junk mail didn’t grab it.

Terms of Use

I’m a hard working educator. This planner is for personal use only. You can print as many copies as you need, whenever you’d like. Please do not redistribute or sell.