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How to Tackle Your Time and Skyrocket Your Productivity: 3 Step System

You know that old Rolling Stones song that goes like this…(imagine me singing) “tiiiiiiime is on my side, yes it is!” If not, it’s a good one. You should listen to it.

Although the song says it should be true, it sure doesn’t always feel like time is on my side.

Sometimes I just wish I had a personal assistant (one at school and one at home), a private chef, and one of those Google self-driving cars. Or maybe I just need a magic wand to help me get it all done.

Ya know what I’m talkin’ about?

Well, since I’ve got some big goals on my list this year, and magic time giving wands don’t really exist, I knew I needed to get some systems and structures in place to help me really make the most of my time this year.

So I sat down, grabbed my notebook, and started working out a plan for myself.

The plan is pretty simple really, just 3 steps – List It, Map It, Block It.

Taking this bit of time to really think things through and get everything laid out on paper, has really helped me see my weeks and days more clearly, and therefore helped me be more productive with my time. And better productivity means more time with my Sommie dog!

Time Management System

Alright, enough chit-chat. Let’s start tackling some time!

STEP 1 – LIST IT

First things first. We’ve got to List It all out. And don’t be shy here.

On a daily and weekly basis, what are all of your need to-dos, want to-dos, or even forgot to-dos? Just list it all out on this handy printable. Everything from getting ready for school, to coaching prep, to food prep, to PD prep.

STEP 2 – MAP IT

OK I know, we’re not stress free yet. Because now you may be staring at this giant, scribbled out list and thinking “Ahh! I seriously have too much to-do!” Don’t freak out, we’ll sort through it. And remember. This should not be a giant task-list. There should also be want to-dos for yourself, and your priorities and goals. Like going for a run before school, reading that professional learning book that’s been on your shelf for months, or going out for a coffee with friends.

OK? OK.

Now look at your list again. Is there anything on there you may be able to cross off? Delegate to someone else? Yes, there are a few. Find em.

Next, look at the items that are left, and highlight those that you really want to make sure you have time for on your schedule.

Got it? OK. Now categorize these most important to-do’s by day, priority, or project. For example, you may frequently have a lot of copies to make, or errands to run, or a big PD coming up. Separate each of these into a different category.

This is your Map It step, and will help you carve a clear time tackling path.

STEP 3 – BLOCK IT

Great job! Let’s keep going. We’re just about there.

Now that you’ve mapped out your to-dos, it’s time to block it! Time blocking is a proven time management strategy that will help guide your decisions and how you manage each day. This is where you officially claim your time and align your actions with your goals and priorities.

Week-spread1

So take a look at the to-do categories you just mapped out, and find the ideal time slots in your week where it would make the most sense to plug them in.

Use this as your “Ideal Week” template. Keep it somewhere as a reference tool. It will help you plan out each week a bit more quickly, and guide you in what to say yes or no to when deciding what to take on.

Weekly Schedule Time Management

And for long range time blocking and goal mapping, you can use this ready to go calendar!

Time Management

I know I said there were only three steps, buuuuttt…there’s actually one more…

STEP 4 – WORK IT!

Now that you’ve put this awesome plan into place, you’ve got to take action!

Do everything you can to follow-through and maintain the commitments you’ve just made to yourself, and your goals and priorities. Work hard to defend it, and remember this isn’t a perfect process, so revise and adjust as needed.

For the ultimate planning tool that follows this exact system, check out the Time & ToDo Planner!

And for a few free printables to get you started….

Sign up for blog updates. And get the FREE Printables!

If you’d like to add the Daily Schedule and Portrait Calendar to your tool-box, you can find them in my shop.

YOUR HOMEWORK

First find 20-30 minutes of time this week, and block it off on your calendar for “time tackling.” Then…

  • List It
  • Map It
  • Block It

And BOOM! You’ll be well on your way to better productivity and less stress.

Let me know how it goes, or what questions come up, in the comments below.

ms-houser

 

 

PS – If you have friends who may need some time tackling tips and tools too, I would greatly appreciate if you shared this post using the buttons below. Thanks!!

Stories from the Field: Interview with Natalie Chustz

One of the requests that came through loud and clear on the MsHouser Annual Reader Survey, was to hear more “stories from the field.” Or an opportunity to learn from the experiences of real coaches doing the real work of coaching, day in and day out.

I’m right there with you, and I want to learn more too!

So I was so, super excited to kick off this new “Interview with a Coach” addition to the MsHouser blog, with an interview with Natalie Chustz.

Interview-with-a-Coach-Natalie

Natalie is a second year instructional coach in a private school setting. Natalie is so easy going, friendly, and a total learner and we had such a fun time chatting. She really spent time to prepare for this interview, in an effort that the info she shared could “help a coach out there somewhere” – Natalie’s words :)

Here are some specific take-aways from our conversation:

  • How Natalie transitioned into instructional coaching
  • How Natalie works with her Director (during a time of transition)
  • Why it’s always important to continue to see yourself as a teacher
  • The importance of building relationships early on and how Natalie does it
  • How Natalie uses social media to connect with other coaches

Have any thoughts in response to this coaching convo? Let us know in the comments below.

And if you have any follow-up questions for Natalie or would like to connect with her further, here’s where you can find her:

Twitter: @natalieschustz
Email: nchustz@aesgators.org

Thanks so much for being a part of this conversation!

Talk to you next week,

ms-houser

PS – If you have a quick sec, I’d really appreciate if you used the buttons below to share this post! Thanks a million.

Looking Ahead into 2016 – What’s Coming Up

Looking-Ahead-Into-20162

Oh man, oh man. A lot has been going on behind the scenes here at MsHouser Headquarters, and I’m so super excited for the plans I’ve been crafting up for 2016. And those plans I’ve been crafting up, are really for you! More on that in just a sec, but let’s first take a quick look back at the accomplishments and celebrations of 2015:

  • The number of MsHouser readers has grown to over 3,900!!! Everyday I get friendly emails and comments from the community, which is just so great.
  • We (Luke and I, but mostly Luke) redesigned the site with a fresh, new color scheme.
  • The Time & ToDo Planner, my first physical product, was launched and successfully funded through Kickstarter. This was one of my biggest and most celebrated accomplishments of the year. And I know many of you are making full use of it, so I’m thankful I chose to invest the time and energy into this project.

Planners

  • I finally got around to updating my Resource Page this summer. This is chock full of many of the helpful resources I use in both my professional and personal life.
  • The first MsHouser Annual Reader Survey was created and shared on the blog. With an overwhelming 763 reader responses collected, I learned so much about what’s working for the MsHouser community, but also what I can do even better…and that’s the exciting part!

After spending A LOT of time sifting through all the data collected, check out what I learned:

Here’s who’s reading the blog…

Here's what you'd like to see more of this year...
Biggest challenge many of you are facing right now…

Lastly, many of you expressed with double exclamation marks…Don’t stop sharing!!

Don’t worry team! I’m going to keep this train going! And I’m going to keep it going strong.

As we look ahead into 2016, here are the highlights of what’s coming up:

INTERVIEW WITH A COACH/TEACHER SERIES

Many of you really enjoyed the post where I shared a “Day in My Life.” There were also several comments in the reader survey asking for more posts such as these. Well…I thought it would be really interesting to highlight other coaches and teachers, and their tricks and tools. What do you think?! I know, I’m excited too.

I’m looking for a few coaches and teachers to highlight in these posts. So, if you’d like to have a little chat with me and be featured on the site, please shoot me an email and let me know!

**I’ll also be opening the blog up to a few Guest Posts this year. If you are interested in providing value to the MsHouser community through your experiences as a coach or teacher, please contact me about being a guest author!

A WALK THROUGH A COACHING CYCLE SERIES – WITH VIDEOS!

When I was tallying up how many of you wanted more videos of coaching in action, there were a lot to mark down!

And sure, why not! I’ll be putting together a series of blog posts with videos, walking you through a full coaching cycle. I haven’t decided on the month I’ll release these yet, but it will likely be for the next Academic Year.

2016-2017 ACADEMIC TIME & TODO PLANNER

It’s coming(!!), and it’s going to be pretty awesome. We learned a lot after the first ever production and launch of the Time & ToDo Planner last year, and have been working hard on making this year’s planner even better.

The expected launch date is mid-April. You can sign up at timeandtodoplanner.com for additional info and updates.

A DIGITAL BOOK

Say what?! Yep, you heard me right. After five years of blogging, there is a ton of info on the site, but it’s not really organized in a way that’s super user friendly. And there are many of you who are new to coaching, and looking for a clear and well organized road-map for getting started and getting better. I think a book (with lots of visuals of course) is going to be a really helpful solution and resource for many of you.

If you have thoughts on info to be included, formatting, or anything else, here’s your chance to let me know! Please share your ideas in the comments below.

I may have a few other ideas up my sleeve, but these are the big ones I wanted to throw out there for now.

So much to look forward to, for sure!

I’m here to help make 2016 a fantastic year for you, and I hope you’re as excited as I am for these plans that will unfold throughout the year.

And remember, don’t forget to let me know:

What ideas/info would you love to see included in the Digital Book coming out this year?

Want to be a featured coach/teacher on the blog?

Thanks again and check you next week!

ms-houser

 

 

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10 Great Gift Giving (and Getting) Ideas for Educators

Happy Holidays! It’s a SNOW DAY(!!) here in Denver, which has really got me in the holiday spirit. I’ve got my eggnog latte in hand, feet kicked up, and a fire blazin’. Ahhh.

As I was checking through my holiday gift list, I got to thinking about the Gift Guide I put together a few years ago and thought, “Hey! I should do another one of those!”

So here it is, 10 gift giving (or getting) ideas for educators…

2016-Gift-Guide-for-Educators

1. Time & ToDo Planner 2016

I’m planning on putting my planner together next week, and am psyched! We weren’t able to print a bound version of the planner for the calendar year, but are excited to have a digital version available AND the colorful academic planner!

We’ll print it for you on thick, smooth paper with a full color-bleed, and ready to bind on your own. No hassling with printing or forking over a bunch of money at a print shop!

If you already have a planner, or won’t be in the market for one until the next school year, we’re looking forward to releasing a bound version of the Time & ToDo Planner with some featured upgrades to the existing design.
Get the Time & ToDo Planner!

2. Tea Infuser Mug

I’m normally all about coffee, coffee, coffee, but am changing it up this year with an option for the tea lovers. I’ve just been venturing into the world of Yerba Mate, and this little guy has been a handy way to brew a yummy mug at school.

3. Frixion Erasable Pens

Oh man. When I first discovered these pens, I had no idea how I had ever gone so long with out them. I mean, you can write in pen, AND erase! So cool. They’re the only pens I can use with my planner, since I’m frequently switching things around in my weekly schedule. You’ve got to try them!

4. Gold Pen/Pencil Pouch

I carry my pencil pouch with me everywhere. It holds all my erasable pens, some wash tape, and whiteout. This would be a great, inexpensive gift for a teacher friend.

5. NeuYear Wall Calendar

I just ordered this calendar, and it’s sweeeeet! I plan to use it to map out my big goals and plans for the year. It’s large and in charge, so I’ve posted on the wall in my home office so it’s always staring me down, and reminding me of where I should be headed. No excuses!

6. Swell Water Bottle

I always have to throw a water bottle in the mix, and this one is my new fave. It comes in a great size and shape to easily fit in your bag, and the color and style options they offer are super cool.

7. Arc Notebook

How about a new Arc Notebook for your Coaching Kit and/or planner? Levenger has come out with some nice new options, and I’ve always loved this quilted one from Staples.

8. Adult Coloring Book

When Luke ordered one of these a month or so ago, I kind of thought, “Huh? You ordered a coloring book??” But then I checked it out further and they’re actually really neat. They’re supposed to be especially helpful for stress, so the next time you’re having a stressful day at school, maybe just whip out your coloring book at lunch to help you bring it down a notch or two.

9. Instacart

There may not be a better gift you can give a friend, or yourself, than the gift of time. That sounds kind of cheesy, but really it’s true! Instacart has saved me a good two hours each weekend on grocery shopping, and I love it! It’s becoming available in a growing number of areas, but if they’re not where you’re at yet, maybe you can think of another way you can do some outsourcing in 2016 and save yourself some time.

10. Audible Subscription

Give the gift of learning! I’ve read/listened to so many great books on Audible, and mostly while on my commute or walking Sombra! Listening to books is a terrific way to sharpen your saw and maximize your time.

Hope this post gave you a few good ideas.

As we wrap up this week and head into a few weeks off from school, I’m wishing you warm snuggles by the fire, golden champagne, and all the joy and happiness this season brings.

Thanks so much for sharing some of your valuable time with me this year, and I’m looking forward to a great new year!

ms-houser

 

A Day in the Life of Ms. Houser

I keep a running list of blog post topics and one that has been on there for awhile is a “Day in the Life” post. I secretly love learning about the rhythms and routines of other people’s everyday schedules. When I’m out walking my dog at night, I’ll even walk a bit more slowly past open windows so I can peek inside. Is that weird?

Anyhow, I got to thinking that most of the posts I’ve written on this little blog of mine, have been more professional and less personal. I haven’t really shared much about the gal behind MsHouser.com. And I know that one of my favorite parts of reading a blog is making a connection with the person writing it. So in an effort to get to know each other a bit better, I’m opening up my window curtains and inviting you to take a peek inside.

day-in-the-life-cover3

My morning and evening routine is pretty standard, although my coaching days are always different. This day though {Wednesday of this week} reflects a pretty typical coaching day. Alrighty, let’s take a peek.

4:30am     WAKEUP

The alarm goes off and my chocolate lab pup jumps on the bed to greet/lick me good morning. I’m a super early bird, so I don’t mind the 4:30am wake-up time. It gives me a few extra minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee, write in my journal, and map out my day. Starting the day this way, helps me get focused and organized for the day ahead.

coffee

5:15am     EXERCISE

Most mornings I’ll head out for a long, brisk walk with the puppy, Sombra {spanish for shadow}. He’s pretty much the cutest thing ever, don’t you think? And he gives me a pretty good workout.

sommie1

6:45am     DRIVE IN

I hop in my car and head off to school, which is about a 25 minute commute. I’ll usually listen to a good podcast or audiobook on the way there.

kris-pic-car

7:20am     SET-UP FOR THE DAY & BREAKFAST

I head into my coaching office, unpack my bag and get set-up for the day. I’ll have my breakfast while I check a few emails and see if there any changes I need to make to my schedule or anyone I need to get back to right away.

Setting-Up

7:45am     COACHING VISIT

I’m working fairly intensively with a kindergarten teacher right now in the mornings. So I’m in there longer than I would normally be in a classroom. We’re digging into rituals and routines. We’re both learning a ton and enjoying it! Kindergartners are pretty funny.

MEs room

10:00am     COACHING PLANNING

I always build some time into my daily schedule to review my coaching observation notes and plan for my debriefs with teachers. I think it’s important to be prepared for when you meet with teachers, just as you would be prepared for teaching a lesson. Teachers are sharing some of their limited planning time with you, in the hopes that you can help them and their students grow, so it should be worth their time!

me-working

11:00am     COACHING COACHES

This isn’t a usual event in my schedule, but it was a fun one to add in! I chatted with a group of coaches about scheduling, the tools I use, lessons learned, goal setting and some Q&A at the end. Some of my lessons learned…be prepared and always be honest with teachers! It’s ok not to have all the answers and it’s ok to honestly talk through sticky situations.

google-hangout

12:00pm    LUNCH {usually}

I always make time to eat lunch, but at what time that happens…it just depends on the day. As much as I love structure and routine, different things may come up during the day and coaching requires you to be flexible. When it is time for lunch, I’ll check in on email or do some reading.

lunch

 

12:45pm     WORK ON DISPLAY

Its’s College Friday in Colorado, and I’ve been working hard all week on creating a “college dreams” wall for our kids. This is the center of the display, and it extends down the hall. Creating different displays or walls such as this throughout our building, is something I enjoy doing, and offer to help out with on occasion.

dreams-for-college

1:15pm     FACILITATE VISITORS

A few times a year, we host groups of visitors from other schools. Today I facilitated a site visit for a group of 7 teachers, with a focus on identifying instructional practices that support the engagement and achievement of students.

visitors

2:45pm     MEET WITH CHELSEA

Chelsea and I are just kicking off our coaching cycle together and are meeting today to review her updated assessment data, so we can set a goal and identify some instructional strategies for the focus group of students we’ll be working with.

me-and-chelsea

3:45pm     DRIVE HOME

Time to head home for the day. Another podcast plugged in, a snack to munch on, and I’m home!

drive-home

4:15PM     PLAY TIME!

This is one of my favorite times of the day. Sombra is crazy excited when I get home and I’m pretty dang excited to see him too. Luke, my fiancé, hears the commotion upstairs and comes up to greet us {he works from home}. Then we all head out back for some bone throwing and chasing time.

PLAY-TIME

5:00pm     PREP FOR NEXT DAY

This time includes unpacking my bags, making breakfast and lunch for tomorrow, cleaning up the house a bit, picking out tomorrow’s outfit, mail…all that kind of stuff.

6:00pm     DINNER AND FAMILY TIME

We try pretty hard to have our meals planned out for the week and enjoy spending some time together in the kitchen cooking healthy meals. Tonight is one of our favorites, chicken burrito bowls.

dinner

7:30pm     BIZ WORK

I’ve been working super hard on my side business, so I’ve been using this time to hustle.  I’m in the process of launching a new, unique weekly planner designed for educators and other busy professionals. It’s been a long time dream in the making and I can’t wait to share it with you! You’ll hear more about it next week, but until then, here’s a little sneak peek of the logo:

TimeandToDoPlanner

9:00pm     GET READY FOR SLEEP

I like taking a hot shower before I go to bed, just to wash the day off and relax. Then I’ll do a little fiction reading to help me get my mind off work stuff. Right now I’m reading The Maze Runner, and really liking it!

9:30pm     LIGHTS OUT!

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to get to know me a little better. I hope this post also gave you a better idea of what an instructional coaching day can look like. I know that’s something I’m always curious about.

Now it’s your turn!

If you’d like to send me a note or introduce yourself in the comments below, I’d love it!

Have a happy weekend and I’ll talk to you soon.

What Would be in Your Perfect Planning Tool? And a Giveaway!

When you close your eyes and dream up a vision of your perfect planner, what do you see?

Would it be professionally bound and ready to go with a stylish cover and a sturdy inside pocket? Nice paper to record your meetings, notes, and to-do’s on would sure be nice too. And how about a ribbon bookmark to neatly mark your place?

It’s fun to think about isn’t it?

Well I’m gearing up to begin designing and building The 2015-2016 Simplified Teaching/Coaching Planner and I want to make sure it’s better than ever. I’m ready to get creative, think big, and design just what you need.

But I need you and your ideas to help make this happen.

Because Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and I want to share some love with you, my fellow coaches and teachers, in exchange for your ideas, I’m offering up a pretty great giveaway.

A 2015 Monthly Calendar, pre-printed in color on high quality paper, punched for your planner AND mailed right to your doorstep!

Just let me know what you would love to have in your ideal planner.

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Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 10.40.21 AM

Valentine’s Giveaway!

Answer the questions below for a chance to win a printed, punched and shipped 2015 Monthly Calendar. The calendar includes a Year at a Glance spread and January 2015-December 2015 Monthly Planning spreads. The days within each month are lined to provide more clarity and organization for the listing of your important meetings and monthly deadlines. Use the shaded spaces for recurring events or extra important monthly reminders!


(select all that apply)












Winners will be announced by February, 16th.

Congratulations!

Congratulations to the winner to the giveaway above, which has now officially ended:

Jennifer Malarcher

Thank you to everyone else who took time to provide your input on what you’d love to have in a planner – I’ve got a plan! And please, feel free to email me with any additional recommendations you may have.

A Peek Inside a Coaching Kick Off Meeting. And the Tools I Used to Do It

A few weeks back, I was asked to record a video of myself conducting a coaching Kick-Off Meeting.

First thought…eh. I was complimented by the ask, but I get a little squeamish about being recorded on video. Not just because I feel like my voice sounds weird and I’ll usually catch myself saying or doing something that I want to go back and erase, but also because showing your work to others can be scary.

There’s this feeling that you have to be perfect and if it’s not you’ll be judged. Whenever that fearful feeling comes up for me though, I’ll acknowledge it, but then kick it to the curb quick.

Stepping outside of your comfort zone and showing your work to others whether it’s modeling a lesson, interviewing for that coaching position, blogging about your work, or sharing a video of your coaching, is one of the best ways to grow and get better.

So I responded “Yes! I can help” and off I went to grab the video camera and tripod.

Thanks a million to my coachee Tyler for his willingness to take part in this video. He’s a super star teacher, always looking to learn, and an all around real cool guy.

So as an initial coaching meeting goes, this was the very first time I met with Tyler to kick off our coaching cycle. The primary purpose of this meeting is to identify a focus for your coaching work together, familiarize your coachee with the logistics of the cycle and give them the opportunity to ask questions. It’s also your chance to hash out any potential concerns, challenges or anxious feelings the teacher may have about going into coaching.

The kick-off meeting is a key piece in setting up a successful coaching cycle.

You’ll see this video is made up of two different meetings, as we had a few next steps to follow up on before we were able to narrow down a focus. I also did quite a bit of editing as I didn’t want to make you sit through a 45 minute video. Although that’s about the average time for an initial coaching meeting.

So here it goes:

And for the tools I used:

We got into defining our goal a bit, so this tool was partially used, but we completed it further at a later session.

I also brought along a few resources I thought would be helpful for us in narrowing down a focus, such as a list of the Common Core Standards for Kindergarten and the 2nd Quarter report card.

Beyond that, the conversation could go in any direction, and you’ll just have to use your coaching prowess to support the teacher in landing on a meaningful and high leverage focus area and goal. There will be some on the spot thinking to do to get there, but don’t worry, you can totally do that.

If you have any questions or thoughts, definitely let me know in the comments below.

Cheers to kicking off successful coaching cycles!

New Year New Gear

It’s that time of year for spicing up your teacher gear!  I couldn’t be more excited for the start of a new year. It’s the perfect time to reflect, set goals, and celebrate a fresh start!

cover2

Over the break I did some New Years Resoluting, and I’ve got some pretty good new goals worked up for myself this year. Maybe you do too? Well, one tip I’ve found to be especially helpful in goal setting and maintaining, is to make it a treat! And who says the treat part has to come at the end? I’m all for treating at the beginning, as I really think a little something special tied to new goals or habits you want to build into your lifestyle, can really help with getting and keeping the ball rolling. So here’s a peek into a few of my treats.

pics

one / two / three / four / five / six

one
I’ve always loved a good workout in the morning. Whether it’s running, cycling, yoga, or lifting weights, starting your day off with some movement and a good sweat is a great way to prep yourself for a successful and happy school day. But somehow last year, I let my mornings get away from me and my workouts became less and less. And then like none at all. Well not this year! I’m getting married in July {yeah!}, so I’m bound and determined, committed to building this habit back into my schedule. Because I prefer working out in the morning and school starts pretty early for us (7:20), I needed a plan for being super efficient with my AM time. And this plan includes gear. Enter the most organized toiletry bag ever. I found it at the Container Store, and it helps me get in and out of the shower at the gym in 20 minutes. No time to dig around for shampoo or make-up on a teacher’s schedule! So far I’ve been to the gym three mornings this week. Sweet!

two
Something else you need if you’re going to be working it out at the gym and then later at school, is plenty of properly chilled water ready to guzzle down. I’m a water-bottle-aholic, and maybe I didn’t need this one, but I really love it. It holds plenty of water for a full day, and keeps it super chilled all the way until the end of the day and into the next, if you need it to. There’s different tops available if you don’t like the wide mouth variety, and plenty of colors to choose from.

three
OK. So, I thought long and hard about this one. And then I decided to just pull the trigger already. Stitchfix is going to be my new personal shopper to help me out with stylizing and professionalizing my wardrobe for 2015, and I’m psyched about it! I have too many random t-shirts, boring colors, and outdated pieces in my closet. What you wear can send a message, especially when you’re in a leadership role, and I’d like to spiff my message up a bit. Stitchfix is a site I’d heard about from several friends, and after getting my first “fix” this past week, I’m totally hooked. They do the shopping for you, and send you five different pieces to try out. Keep what you like, send back what you don’t! Love.

four
When I was teaching, something I always dreamed about was a big window in my classroom that would let in lots of bright sunshine and refresh my room with a nice breeze. So when I moved into my coaching office, you wouldn’t believe how excited I was to see…a window! I walked over to my window, thankful that my dream had come true, and then discovered…that my window didn’t open. Sad. Yes, I had some sunshine, but no fresh air. Well I decided to spruce up my office space a bit this month, and part of that sprucing up will be to add a little breeze to the room. Even if it’s not fresh. This little fan is super quiet, and helps circulate the air, which is real nice, especially in the afternoons. I’ve heard a fan in your office supports your health and may even make you more productive. We’ll see!

five
I love coffee. The way it smells, the way it tastes, the way it gives me a little pick-up when I need it. Given that pumping up my fitness and health is going to be a goal of mine this year, I thought maybe I’d give up coffee. Think, think…nah! Although, I am going to switch up my afternoon coffee routine a bit to include my new favorite drink, a dirty chai. Just mix up a little coffee or nespresso with some chai tea in your new Vessel sippy-cup, and boom! You’ve got yourself a stylin’ afternoon drink.

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The start of a New Year is a great time to freshen up your planner and planning system. I think about what’s working well, what isn’t, and from there what improvements I may be able to make. For me, I’m pretty good with day-day and week-week planning, but when it comes to long-term, big picture planning, I’ve just never taken the time to do it well. And that big picture piece is so important for making your weeks and days come together with greater purpose and intention, so this was an improvement I wanted to make. Because I’m a very visual planner, I created a Year Planner for myself and a new monthly calendar template. First I mapped out everything I wanted to accomplish on my Year Planner, then I’ll use my monthly calendar to outline when I’ll get everything done.

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You can grab a free copy of the Year Planner here! For the monthly calendar, you can check out my shop here.

So how about you? What are you thinking about for 2015? Whatever it is, I know we’ll make this year awesome.

I hope your holiday was great and your New Year is off to an amazing start!

Coaching Teachers-Promoting Changes That Stick: What I Learned

I recently finished my first MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) offered on Coursera and man oh man, am I glad I signed up! Talk about a saw sharpening experience. I had never even heard of Coursera or knew that MOOC’s existed, before a friendly reader {thanks, Deb!} notified me of the course Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes that Stick. First of all, it’s FREE, which is pretty sweet. The teacher, Orin, is super engaging and fun to learn from. It’s packed with great videos, visuals, readings, and sample coaching sessions to observe. This recent session just wrapped up, but you can add the course to your “Add to Watchlist” so you’ll be notified of upcoming sessions. If you’re a new or experienced coach looking to improve your practice, I would highly recommend this course.

Because I really thought the learning was valuable, I wanted to share some of my big takeaways with you so you can get in on some of the learning action until the course becomes available again. And since I love a good visual and haven’t done an infographic in awhile, I thought this was a good opportunity to put one together. Take a look!

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So you see, lots of learning to get excited about. I definitely did a lot of reflecting on the question: “Am I a good coach or am I an effective coach?” and I’m pumped to improve and refine aspects of my own coaching practice to be more consistently on the effective side.

One area I’m going to work on is the quality of my feedback. I realize that I have a tendency to talk too fast {I just get excited!} and can rattle off too many focus areas in a debrief, rather than really zooming in on one bite size, high leverage area/skill at a time.

What about you? What area do you struggle with or would like to improve in your own coaching practice? Let me know in the comments below, and please share this infographic if you like!

Getting Started with Instructional Coaching

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I’m always super excited to hear from readers who are just getting started with their journey into instructional coaching. I send some email cheers (You rock! Go get em! You’re going to be awesome!) and good vibes, really wishing them all the best in their transition. It’s definitely an exciting time. But it can also be a little nerve-racking and overwhelming. Lots of us move from our classrooms, straight into coaching positions with little formal “training” or guidance to prepare us for our new roles. When I first moved into coaching, I can remember feeling very driven to be successful as a coach, but also wondering, “Where do I even start?!!”… “What can I do to ensure that I am successful?” Such are the feelings of one reader who recently wrote me:

Good afternoon,
I will be beginning my first year as an instructional coach at our alternative school. I have 16 years teaching experience in SPED. I am beginning to look around for instructional materials for myself, as the school year is nearing the beginning. I came across your blog near the top of my search and was wondering what you would suggest as the top things I should concentrate on, outside of establishing relationships with my fellow teachers. The great thing is that I have been in the same district for 16 years and many of my students have eventually attended our alternative school so I know quite a few of the teachers. Thank you for any guidance you can give me.
Tammy

So, let’s chat.

Here are a few beginning of the year pieces for you to consider, based on what I’ve learned these past few years.

Clarify Your Role

Instructional coaching can look very different district to district, or school to school. You may have been hired with a broad overview of what you’ll be doing, or maybe none at all. Either way, I think it would definitely be worth your time to write out a clear job description for yourself, really clarifying your roles and responsibilities. One idea is to get online and search “Instructional Coaching Jobs.” This will give you a list of different coaching job descriptions which may help you get some traction.

I wrote up a summary of my role this past week to be shared with staff, since we have several new teachers this year. Here it is in case you need another resource:

As our Instructional Guide, my role involves serving as a facilitator and coach, working and communicating on an ongoing basis with our school designer, the leadership team, and of course teachers! On any given day you might find me doing any of the following:

  • Collaborating with teams to develop long term and short term instructional plans and quality assessments
  • Observing teachers and providing feedback based on our school work plan and individual teacher goals
  • Modeling lessons
  • Digging for or reading through resources current with best practice research
  • Facilitating groups visiting from other schools
  • Planning and facilitating professional development meetings
  • Or even designing and decorating the school hallways

This year I’m super excited to add another role to my work, which will be teaching literacy in (another teacher’s) room. I’m looking forward to applying what I’ve learned from visiting so many great classrooms, and continuing to improve my own craft as a teacher.

Share Your Role with Teachers

Some teachers have had great experiences with a coach, others not so much. While others have never been coached at all. If coaching is new to your school, it will be important for you to plan a beginning of the year PD to communicate your role, the purpose of instructional coaching at your school, and how coaching can act as a support structure for the important work teachers do every day. Here’s the agenda we used as an example:

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Then, you can send a coaching interest survey to teachers asking if they’d be up for participating in a coaching cycle. It may be helpful to provide some areas of focus for them to consider in case they’re unfamiliar with how coaching can be a support structure.

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Set Goals for Yourself

Continuing to learn and sharpening your saw will make you better at everything you do. So as we kick off the year, ask yourself what one or two areas you can really commit to working on and improving in your practice as an instructional coach. Here are some areas for goal setting to consider:

  • strategic questioning
  • listening
  • facilitating small or large groups
  • planning purposeful and action oriented meetings
  • goal setting for coaching cycles
  • use of student evidence as data in coaching cycles
  • labeling high leverage instruction and assessment practices

Set-Up a Coaching System

Figure out how you’ll collect and file your observation notes. Also how you’ll share and record notes during debriefs. On your computer? Paper? Will you email teachers the notes? You’ll likely be working with several teachers and taking lots of notes, so staying organized and prepared is important.

I use my planner, file folders (on my computer and by my desk), and Google Docs to help me with all of the above.

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Visit Classrooms

Plan to visit classrooms the first few weeks back for about 20 minutes x classroom. You can let teachers know you’re coming, or just pop-in. But don’t cling to your clipboard! The last thing you want is to build a reputation of being “the clipboard coach.” You know the coach who sits in the back the whole time, clinging to their clipboard with a serious look on their face, furiously scribbling notes. Help teachers see you as a teaching partner right from the start. So sit down with kids if they’re in a whole group lesson, work alongside them if they’re working independently, smile and show kids and the teacher that you’re a learner too.

Build Relationships

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again. Building relationships with teachers is really critical to your success. There will be no successful coaching cycles happening if teachers don’t trust you and have no interest in working with you. If you’ve already established trusting relationships with teachers, that’s awesome. But don’t let this area be something you lose focus of. Building and maintaining relationships should always be one of your primary objectives, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

Instructional coaching can be challenging.

But it’s also so great in so many ways. You’ll be pushed outside of your comfort zone, but you’re going to learn so much. Everyday you’ll have the opportunity to positively impact a teacher by what you say, do, and model. And that’s pretty cool.

I believe in you, and you’re going to be great.

Keep me in the loop, and let me know how things are going. I’d love to hear.