Archive | Instructional Coaching RSS feed for this section

The Time & ToDo Planner – 5 Years In the Making!

cover-image-with-logo

One Sunday night back in 2010, I picked up my notebook and started to draw. The new school year had just started, and I found myself suffering from that feeling of “too much to do and not enough time.” So I started sketching out a planning template that would allow me to organize everything that was in my head into my notebook. With everything on two facing pages, I could see my weekly schedule, priorities, and to-dos at the same time. I wanted everything together, not spread out between screens, sticky notes, or different pieces of paper.

OriginalPlannerImages

It was around this time that my journey into design and creation began. I wanted to learn the design skills I needed to bring my planner sketches to life.  So I signed up for a few classes on how to use Adobe Illustrator, then Photoshop, then InDesign and worked away on creating different planning tools after school and on weekends.

typing

In March of 2013, I decided I would share one of the weekly planners I had created on my blog thinking other teachers trying to juggle everything, may like to use it too. Turns out, lots of teachers found it helpful! Three years later The Peek at the Week post was still one of my most popular, and the weekly planner was downloaded by 1,000’s of educators.

I took this as a little sign that maybe I wasn’t the only one trying to figure out the “too much to do, not enough time” feeling. Maybe I could make an upgraded version of the Peek at the Week planner, designed especially for teachers and other busy, creative professionals to help them manage their hectic weeks.

It was here that the Time & ToDo Planner really started to come to life. For the past nine months, I’ve been designing, tweaking, and testing….little by little, week by week.

Drafts-Image

After lots of drafts, I finally found a design to run with. A weekly layout that has helped me manage my time with my to-dos, providing a balance of flexibility with structure, and some style.

So now, 5 years later, I am super, super excited to share the culmination of this work: The Time & ToDo Planner.

logo-image

A planner designed for the busiest of busy professionals…you!

Kickstarter Video!

Shop Planners

Description-Image-1

Offer-Image

what-does-it-look-like-image

two-page-blank-spread

ttp-week-spread-angle

 

close up blank week view

 

Take a flip through!

Shop Planners

How-Do-I-Use-It-Image

Here, let me show you!

How-I-use-it-image2

Map out your TIME on one side…

And your TO-DOs on the other side!

two-page-spread

Want one?!

In an effort to bring this project to life, I launched a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign. Now, you can order your planner at TimeAndToDoPlanner.com

stick-and-planner-image

If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s super cool and super easy to show your support.  Just click on the amount you’d like to “pledge” towards the project.

Pledge-visual

When my funding goal is reached, production will begin and planners will be shipped!

timeline1

My goal is to have your planner in your hands by early July, so you’ll be ready to plan and prepare for the new school year.

The foundation of being at the top of your game as a coach and/or teacher, is being planned, prepared, and organized. And I’m confident this planner will help get you there!

Whether it’s with a pledge or a share, your support at any level would mean so much.

Shop Planners

Thank you!

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 instructional coaching 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 okay not to have all the answers and it’s okay 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 in the coming weeks.

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.

How to Structure a Close Read Lesson

Have you been digging into Common Core and Close Reading lately? Us too. I’m actually in a coaching cycle right now, with a goal focused on supporting student independence with informational complex text. And man, this can sure be tricky to do well.

We’ve used a few resources that have been super helpful. The first is a book I’ve mentioned before, Transformational Literacy.  This book helped us learn more about using close reading as an instructional sequence that helps all students access complex texts. We also referred to this video to help us get a visual of putting it all together.

Dina {my coachee} learned a ton in the process and so did I. This visual is a reflection of our learning.

info

 

 

And speaking of learning, I just saw a lesson in Dina’s room this week, where it all fell into place. All the bite sized next steps we worked to implement throughout the coaching cycle, came together and were reflected in her lesson. Kids were engaged and sharing their thinking while grappling through a complex, worthy text. Text based questions were used to guide student understanding and support critical thinking. And students synthesized their understandings at the end of the lesson using evidence from the text. Way to go Dina and Dina’s students!! Thanks for allowing me to learn with you.

Thank you cards from Dina and her class!  What a great way to end a coaching cycle.

letters2

5 New Books to Add to Your Reading List

I’m always on the hunt for new books to help sharpen my saw and I’ve recently found a few worth sharing.

Here is a list of 5 books I’ve found myself digging back into on a regular basis to help me answer questions, guide my coaching, and just work smarter.

book-cover-photo

Leverage Leadership, by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo

A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools

leverage leadershipI heard about this one through the Coaching Teachers course I took on Coursera. As soon as I saw Orin {course facilitator} had recommended it, I jumped right on Amazon to purchase it! The chapter of the book that I’ve gravitated the most towards, is on Observation and Feedback. Reading through this chapter, in conjunction with the Coaching Teachers course, gave me a new way to frame my debrief conversations: probing questions to ask, examples of bite sized and high leverage action steps and building in time for practice/implementation.

It’s been super motivating for me to continue to push myself in the area of effective feedback. With each coaching conversation, I feel like I’m getting a little better, and this book has been helpful with that. Oh, and it comes with videos of coaching conversations which I’ve watched and rewatched.

Leverage Leadership by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo

 

Transformational Literacy

Making the Common Core Shift with Work that Matters

transI’ve been trying to get my hands on as much information as I can related to the Common Core and close reading of complex texts. And this book nails both areas on the head! The information it’s provided on the instructional sequence of close reading {in text and on video} has been super helpful for a current coaching cycle I have going with a 4th grade teacher. We started by watching the video provided, doing some reading, and then thought about what parts would make sense to apply in the context of our work.

If you’re studying Common Core instruction at your school the book includes a professional development guide you can use. It’s more aligned to upper grades, so if you’re looking for primary Common Core, this one probably won’t be the most helpful.

Transformational Literacy by Ron Berger, Libby Woodfin

 

Great Habits Great Readers

A Practical Guide for K-4 Reading in the Light of the Common Core

great habitsSpeaking of Common Core in primary, this book has been a great resource for me in this area. It’s the first, and so far only book I’ve found that speaks specifically to reading instruction as it relates to the CC standards.

The section on guided reading is especially good and I’ve been referring to it frequently through my coaching with teachers. What I think I’ve especially appreciated in the book is the emphasis it places on identifying next steps and choosing texts for students based on Lexile levels or bands. We’ve relied on the traditional Fountas & Pinnell leveling system for so long, it’s a push to think about text selection differently, but a good push I think. And I’ve got a lot more to learn in this area.

Great Habits Great Readers by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, Aja Settles, Juliana Worrell

 

Leaders of their Own Learning

Transforming Schools Through Student Engaged Assessment

leadersIf you’re interested in learning more about student engaged assessment, this is your book. Using data consistently and effectively with students is huge! Yet, this is an approach to assessment that many of us aren’t taking advantage of. I did some work with this book at the beginning of the year when I was teaching half-day, and I wished I’d had more time to put my learning into practice, as I had only just started to dip my toes into what could be done.

If you’re coaching and working with a more advanced teacher, this book would serve as a good push in learning, maybe for you both!

Leaders of their Own Learning by Ron Berger, Leah Rugen, Libby Woodfin

 

The Miracle Morning

The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8am)

morningI love routines {yep, sure do} and I’m a total early bird, so this book was right up my alley. Although I’ve always had some kind of morning routine going on, this book presented a new framework for taking full advantage of your AM time. Since reading it, I’ve done some shaking up of my own morning ritual and am working on being more consistent with it. Each morning I try to include time to work on my blog, exercise, journal, and have even started doing some visualizing of my goals.

I kind of want to write a book called “The Miracle Morning for Teachers” because I really believe it’s such an important daily ritual that supports your success and happiness in lots of different ways.

As teachers and coaches we’re giving so much of ourselves to others during the day, my vote is we give a little time to ourselves as well.

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

Do you have a book you would add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!

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.

six
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.

calendar-image

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!

Coaching-Teachers-Infographic_Revised2

 

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!

Planning for Guided Reading

I’ve been teaching literacy in a 4th grade class this first quarter and having a blast! For an hour and a half each morning, I hop over to Susie’s room while she supports another teacher in math. After fall break, I’ll be going back to full day coaching, but I’m so glad I was able to dip my toes back into the teaching waters. It helped me reconnect to the work I’m coaching teachers on and rebuild my street cred.

Anyhow, part of that 90 minutes involved supporting a few groups of kids with differentiated literacy instruction using the structure of guided reading. Because you may be thinking about adjusting or freshening up your guided reading system {or supporting coachees with this} for the second quarter, I thought I’d share a few tips and resources for how I plan for guided reading.

guided-reading-visual2

1. Organize Your Data

You’ll be grouping students primarily by their reading level and you’ll want a way to track their growth throughout the year and adjust your instruction accordingly. Beth Newingham is one of my hero teachers who I’ve been following and learning from for a long time. This is a tool she offers teachers on her website that I’ve always used and love.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 11.49.02 AM

Click Here to Download

2. Form Your Groups and Schedule

I’ve found I’m most successful and efficient with my instructional time when I have up to five reading groups, although six is doable. Above that though is really pushing it. I like to use a planning template such as the one below to help me plan when and how often I’ll meet with each group.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 12.11.58 PM

Click Here to Download

3. Create a Planning Template {or use mine!}

Planning templates are a bit like good checklists in that they help you attend to all the important components of a lesson without having to drain any mental energy remembering what they are. Which in turn improves your planning efficiency! This is the one I most commonly use, although here is a link to another one made specifically for working with Transitional readers if you’d like to check it out too.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 12.33.49 PM

Click Here to Download

4.  Grab a Binder

Now that you have your progress tracking sheet, weekly schedule sheet, and planning template it’s time to pop it all into a handy binder. With a nice cover of course, which I’ve included as a free download for you here.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 1.15.35 PM

Dividers with pockets work well for keeping everything organized. You can label your dividers by group or by student.

IMG_2048

5. Select Your Books

I like to have all of my guided reading texts for the week selected the week before and placed in a bin so they’re ready to go.

book-bin

{image via Scholastic}

And finally…

Let’s get to teaching!

 

 

Coaching on Classroom Management

These first weeks of school, my coaching work has been focused on supporting our new teachers in creating a positive classroom culture. This was an intentional decision made on the part of our leadership team since, as you likely know, classroom management and creating a learner friendly environment is so super important in the overall success of a teacher, her kids, and their growth and learning. So we really wanted to help teachers hit the ground running.

classroom-management-sign3

Now, I know how to manage a classroom. It was always one of those things I could just kind of do. However, coaching teachers on classroom management is a different story. I’m not totally sure why…maybe it’s because there are some aspects of classroom management that aren’t really tangible or measurable. Like your overall presence or ability to build rapport with kids. Then there are some things that can be kind of sticky to talk about with teachers. Like, “Hey, your room is a bit out of order which is probably contributing to your kids acting a bit out of order.” Whatever it is, coaching on classroom management can be tricky.

Luckily, I was able to do some team planning with two of my coaching colleagues this summer for how we were going to tackle supporting our new teachers in this area. I think we made some smart decisions, and we’ve seen pretty good progress and success with the teachers we worked with as a result.

Here are five planning and implementing steps we took.

1. Start with Clear Targets

We decided we would coach new teachers only during the first 6 weeks of school, then narrowed down what we wanted them to know and be able to do at the end of those 6 weeks. Two of our goals were strategically tied to the Colorado Teacher Quality Standards so that our work was aligned with the criteria teachers would be evaluated on.

targets-image

2. Plan for PD

Now that we had our targets, it was time to plan for the learning we would do with teachers to support their progress towards the targets. We knew we wanted to go into some depth, so we planned for a full day PD. If you currently don’t have a full day PD option, you could break the learning up into four or five one hour sessions over the course of a month or so.

The anchor text we chose for our work was The First Six Weeks of School. A copy was purchased for each teacher and it served as a foundation for our learning.

The First Six Weeks of School

3. Provide Areas of Focus and Examples

One of the best things we did was define clear “criteria for success” tied to each of our targets. Classroom management is a broad area, but we made the effort to maintain a narrowed focus on what we felt were the most critical components for the start of the year.  We used a Classroom Environment Criteria list that our school designer shared with us to communicate these criteria to teachers. We then asked three veteran teachers to serve as model classrooms for new teachers to visit, in support of setting up their classroom space. They took along their Criteria List and recorded evidence they observed on their visits, tied to each one. I think this was helpful for teachers to really see what they were reading about on paper.

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 3.28.40 PM

Created by Expeditionary Learning

 

4. Collect Data and Give Targeted Feedback

One of the hardest things for me is collecting data or clear evidence on classroom management. I’m just starting to try out a new coaching tool a fellow coach shared with me at a conference. I modified it a bit, but it’s based on the book Coaching Classroom Management which looks awesome and I totally need to read. Anyhow, I’m going to give it a go this week and see how I can use it.

observation-tool

Our leadership team also did a round of walkthroughs to collect data on how the learning we worked on with teachers was being implemented. We used this walkthrough tool to help us collect data and calibrate our looks-fors and feedback.

walkthrough-tool

5. Model!

The majority of teachers will quickly take you up on your offer to model a lesson and thank you many times over. It can often be so much for impactful when a teacher has the opportunity to see the practices/strategies you’re describing in action in their classroom with their kids.

And lastly,

“Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”

This is a quote from one of the greatest coaches of all time, John Wooden
. And it’s really true, especially with classroom environment/management. Coaching teachers in this area takes time, patience, and lots of encouragement along the way.

I know it’s nearly October, but it’s definitely not too late to begin implementing any of these steps. Lots of teachers need support in creating and maintaining a beautiful classroom space that supports learning and engagement throughout the year.

If you’re an expert in or have some experience with coaching on classroom management, you for sure have to let me know. I need all the ideas I can get!

Getting Started with Instructional Coaching

cover-blue

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:

tips-for-new-coaches2

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.

coaching-survey2

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.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 5.20.53 AM

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.