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31 Top Planning Tips

I recently asked the MsHouser community of coaches, teachers, and administrators to share their Top Planning Tips for staying on top of things as we head into a new school year. And you guys really came through with some priceless wisdom and tips! Go ahead and take a look for yourself.

When you’re done, I would love to hear a top planning tip for the new school year from you, in the comments!

1. “A place for everything and everything in it’s place! Organization is the key and a huge time waster for me is hunting and gathering.”
Mandy F. 

2. “Only touch papers once. Put them in their place when you get them instead of creating a big pile to file later.”
Julie M.

3. Prioritize to stay organized! Identifying what is most important helps to reduce spending too much time on unimportant tasks that can interfere with those that can yield the most results.”
Melissa T.

4. “Stay focused! Things always pop in your head while planning. Keep a sheet of paper near you for quick notes to reference to later and then get back to the task at hand.”
Naomi D.

5. “Always plan with the end in mind…and realize that the end will always change.”
Lynn N.

6. “Keep track of the teachers you are working with in multiple ways…one way I do this is to have a list of my teachers and I have a code I use to track our work! This is a quick at a glance view that helps me to see the big picture!”
Dana K.

7. “This is going to be my first year as a coach, but I already know MY top tip will be to set realistic expectations of myself! I won’t have all the answers in August but I can’t wait to learn!”
Meredith W.

8. “I keep my action list on a small whiteboard above my desk. This way I see it every time I have down time and my admin can add to it as well as me.”
Kate F.

9. “I am a big believer in writing it down or taking care of it NOW! Simple choices to act on information can keep us from overlooking something important.”
Mandy B.

10. “Do a daily priority list in the first 10 minutes of your working day.”
Trina H.

11. “I email all the teachers my coaching schedule for the week. I make a color coded table differentiating grade level, content, district level work, etc. Always be where you say you will be and do what you say you will do.”
Lisa S.

12. “Stay organized so it doesn’t back up on you and cause you to get overwhelmed!”
Mandi S.

13. “Set up and actually USE a planner!”
Teresa C.

14. Bring your calendar with you to every meeting and schedule the next meeting with that person/group before you leave that room.”
Stephanie C.

15. “Use the color coding feature on Google Calendar to get a quick sense of the shape of your week!”
Alyssa S.

16. “Revise your todo list every afternoon and clear off your work spaces before you leave work.”
Tanja F.

17. “I love the idea of David Allen’s about getting it all down, listing ‘projects’ and then the ‘next’ actions. I found this eases a lot of stress and the way forward becomes clear.”
Belinda B.

18. “My top tip? To pencil in an hour on Fridays or Monday morning to plan the week ahead.”
Judy D.

19. “Have everything planned and ready for the next day. The plan may change but at least you have an idea of how your day will go.”
Kimberly M.

20. “Start as you intend to finish. I tend to have an explosion of ideas during the summer, but deciding on a few goals for the year keeps me focused. Setting up a planner now, will help to organize before the craziness of the new year begins.”
Rebecca R.

21. “Take time each day to reflect. It is a critical part of the learning process that is often the first thing to go in a busy day!”
Rachel L.

22. “Keep everything in one spot!”
Angie K.

23. “I  keep a log of my hours on different projects and iniatives–just a general time, such as 30 min, 45 min, 1 hour–on a weekly calendar sheet.  I note the teacher or coachee and building so I can look at the week to see how I spent my time.”
Bethanne S.

24. “Schedule chucks of uninterrupted time everyday and anticipate possible problems that may prevent you from completing a task.”
Elisha T.

25. “I ALWAYS carry a good journal!”
Ali G.

26. “Priortize the important things that you need to get done. Then the rest is “Lagniappe” as we say in Louisiana… a bonus!”
Dawn P.

27. “Sort your teaching content in binders so that you can readily access it year after year.”
Andrea C.

28. “I scan my handwritten notes every 2 weeks so I don’t have to carry them around in my discbound notebook.
Chandra M.

29. “Have a snack ready! I can think more clearly when I snack on something!
Olga C.

30. “Use Evernote to organize and share planning notes with teachers during a coaching cycle.”
Leanne W.

31. “Never Give Up!”
Tracy B.

So good, right?!

Thank you again to all of you who took a bit of time out of your day to share a planning tip. I’m a big believer in sharing ideas and resources, so I sure do appreciate it. If you haven’t yet shared a tip that might be helpful to others, it’s not too late! Share it in the comments below. It doesn’t have to be a tip either…maybe it’s just a question you want to throw out there. And even if you’re new!…don’t be scared. We have a lot to learn from you too.

Have a great weekend and talk soon!

My First Week Back and the Giveaway Round-Up


Wow oh wow. You guys are seriously amazing. Really though! I received over 200 (!) entries in response to the giveaway for The Simplified Coaching Planner. So many of you offered super smart and insightful Top Planning Tips that couldn’t have come through at a better time for me.

Last week was my first full week back at school, and man was it a busy one. No kids until this week, but we had a full week of PD with teachers, so I felt like a classroom teacher: greeting, planning for, and working with her students their first week back. Phew. Anyhow, I found myself with a bit of free time on Wednesday night, so I plopped down on the coach, opened my laptop, and started reading through all of the submitted planning tips. As I read, I found myself thinking, “That’s right!” or “I should do that!” and “Why am I not doing that?” then finally, “Kristin, you’ve got to get it together girl.” This last thought came from the fact that this past week wouldn’t exactly go down in the record books as being one of my most organized. To give myself some credit, it wasn’t that bad, but I did some pretty scatterbrained things like forgetting to put on my mascara one morning and then forgetting my laptop the next morning. I know. The forgetting my computer morning wasn’t great.

But luckily I had you guys and your Top Planning Tips to help me get back on track! Here’s a synthesis of my reminders/take-aways:

Schedule & Plan

  • Make a weekly ritual with yourself to plan for the week ahead. Then set aside some time at the end of the day to check in on your plan, do a brain dump, then plan for the next day. This is a tip a lot of us know to do, but how many of us consistently do it? Maybe if I had been a bit better about this last week, I wouldn’t have had the “I forgot my computer” morning.
  • Put it on your calendar…immediately. Don’t think you’ll remember to do it later.
  • Color coding can be helpful for your calendar and in lots of other ways!
  • Share your schedule with your coachees.

Organize and Prioritize

This was a big one.

  • Get some organizational systems together sooner than later, then work your systems. Organization and efficient systems prevent the dreaded overwhelm, large paper piles, and other back-up.
  • Keep everything together in one convenient place.
  • You’ve got to prioritize. You’ll have a lot going on at school and at home when the year gets started. Determine what’s most important and reduce the time you spend on what’s not.


I had a hard time with this one this week.

  • Be realistic with yourself and what you can get checked off of your to-do list each day.
  • Write it down. Avoid multi-tasking.
  • Carry your planner or a journal or a piece of paper with you everywhere.

Accept Imperfection

This was probably my most important lesson this week. As much as we might really, really want to be…we’re not superheroes. We’re not always going to be perfect and that’s okay. Sometimes, no matter how much planning we do, things don’t go according to plan. Actually, this happens a lot. Flexibility, reflection, and revision are always key ingredients to successful days and weeks.

So now…

I’m ready for a fresh start this week. And I’ll bet that if we all practice these planning principles throughout the year, we’ve got a pretty darn good shot at a great year.

But wait!

There’s more. You know how I said earlier this was just a synthesis of all the great Top Planning Tips I received? It just wouldn’t be fair of me to keep them all to myself. Which is why I’ll be sharing them with you later this week in another post…hang tight!

READ: 31 Top Planning Tips Post

I hope you all have a great start to the school year and I’m really excited to continue learning and growing with you here on the blog.

If you have a Top Planning Tip that you weren’t able to submit in the giveaway and are dying to share, please share in the comments below.

Thanks for all your support and have a great week!




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My 2014-2015 Instructional Coaching Planner. And a Giveaway!

As you guys know, I’m all about a good planner. Because once you find/put together one that you really jive with, she’ll become your new BFF. You’ll tell her everything, take her with you everywhere, and she’ll get you back on track when life gets crazy. So allow me to introduce you to my new BFF…The Simplified Coaching Planning Kit. I’m going with the word “simplified” because I’m hoping it will help do exactly that…help us plan, organize, record and overall simplify our work as coaches. While looking good in the process!

The Giveaway: Read more about it below! – The Giveaway is Now Closed


I designed it to be flexible in a couple of ways. First, you can print and write, type and print (all the text fields in the planner are editable), or just type and keep the forms on your computer. Or maybe a mix of everything! I also created and included every type of coaching or planning doc I’ve had success with in the past, so you can decide what you need and organize it in a way that makes sense to you.

After considering what worked and what didn’t work in my past planner set-ups, this year I’m combining my planner and coaching notebook. Last year I had my planner separate from my coaching notebook and I found it wasn’t really working for me because I kept going back and forth between two notebooks, which got to be a little annoying.

So my first step was to pick my notebook. I continue to love the discbound system for it’s ease of use and flexibility. I really liked the lighter color of my notebook last year, but it got scuffed up and dirty quickly. So this year I chose good old black. I spiffed it up a bit with some fancy disc rings from Levenger. They’re a little overpriced and totally unnecessary…but I decided to spoil myself and get them anyway. Hehe.

Next step…decide on the sections. You don’t want too many sections because then your planner gets crowded with dividers, but you want enough to keep it tidy. I decided on five main sections:

  • Action
  • Notes/In
  • Projects
  • Lists
  • Reference

My “Action” section includes my Daily Agenda, Peek at the Week, Monthly Goals and my Action Lists. This section is kind of like my compass. It guides me in my planning…my monthly goals guide my weekly goals, which guide my daily goals and to-do’s. I keep my monthly calendar on iCal, though the Planning Kit does include a monthly calendar for the year which you could print and include in this section.

I keep two main action lists: one for home and one for school. Anything that pops in my mind that will require just a single action, goes on my action list. I refer to these lists when planning my daily to-do’s. If I’m having a super productive day and cross off all my daily to-do’s, then I can take a peek at my action list and see if there is anything else I can take care of. If only two lists feels a little muddled, you can break them down even further…email, copies, errands, etc.


My “Notes/In” section has a few copies of my Meeting Notes form and some blank paper for planning and other notes.


In the “Projects” section, I have a separate Project Planner sheet printed for different projects I have going on.  A project is anything that requires more than one action step or to-do. So for example, I had a project sheet for my coaching planner set-up. There is some blank space on the side to help me jot down ideas and notes, then on the right I capture all the different action steps I need to do in order to complete the project. I love planning projects this way. It’s so much more efficient than having to-do’s for different projects scrambled together. When a project is complete, I just slip it out of my planner and smile in victory.


Up next, is my “Lists” section. The Planning Kit includes a few different lists to help you get stuff off your mind and put them in a proper holding spot. You could also keep checklists in this section which are so cool for freeing up mental space. The Checklist Manifesto is an interesting book to read on this topic.


I obviously don’t currently have any coachees, but I set up an example section to show you what forms I plan to include. The first sheet is my Coaching Log which gives an overview of work I’ll have done with the teacher I’m coaching. Then I’ll have my Coaching Work Plan, followed by a few Coaching Observation Forms ready to go, and lastly a few printed Coaching Convo planning sheets {all of these forms are included in the Planning Kit}. In order to avoid my planner getting too full, I’ll also have a file folder for each of my coachees where I’ll archive past notes and planning sheets.



My last section is “Reference.” I bought a few sheet protectors to store forms I’ll be referencing frequently, such as my Coaching Schedule. You could also store your school’s Lunch/Specials schedule in this section, a Coaching Sentence Stems printout, or even your weekly meal plan! After the Reference section, I have a pocket folder/inbox to capture random papers or loose notes.


And that’s it! Keeping it all together and staying on top of your game as a coach can be challenging, so here’s to hoping this planner will act as our glue this year.

Cheers to a new school year and happy planning!

Planner FAQ’s:

  • I print on standard letter size, 8 1/2″ x 11.  98 bright & 32 lb from Staples.
  • Here is my notebook. I just removed the sheets and added my own.
  • The Levenger punch works for the discbound system. This one is a bit less expensive than the one offered at Staples.
  • Here are the dividers I used.
  • This is the label maker I use.
  • I love the Paper Mate Flair pens. These Pilot G2 pens are also great.

The Giveaway is Now Closed

Giveaway description…fill out the form below for a chance to win a free Simplified Coaching Planning Kit!  With over 180 pages {read more about what pages are included here}, the Simplified Coaching Planning Kit will ensure you’ve got all your bases covered for the upcoming school year.  The winner will be announced by August 1st.

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My Top 5 Resources for Instructional Coaches. Plus a Few More Good Ones.


These summer months are prime time for doing some reading, learning, and psyching up for the coming school year.  Since I know many of you are entering into your first year as a coach, I wanted to share a few of my favorite, go-to resources. Ones that I’ve read and used to help me figure out the role of instructional coach. And even if this isn’t your first year, don’t forget about shoshin or “beginner’s mind.” It’s a concept in Zen Buddhism that reminds us:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Pretty good little saying, huh?

OK, let’s get to it…

1. Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction by Jim Knight

I’m a big fan of Jim Knight. He’s like the guru of instructional coaching. This book is packed full of great tools and practical ideas for coaches. One of the ideas/tools he introduces is a framework called “The Big Four” which is made up of four high-leverage instructional practices that I think serve as helpful “buckets” for guiding your observations and feedback to teachers. This was the first book of his I read, and it has some great tools and practical ideas to offer.

2. Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight

After reading Jim’s first book on instructional coaching, I was on the hunt for more! I read this book last summer and really enjoyed it. One of my favorite chapters was on facilitating workshops for adults. I was able to apply much of what I learned from this chapter to the weekly professional development sessions I help facilitate with teachers. If you’re looking for some tips in this area, this would be a great book for you to check out.

3. Leverage Leadership by Paul Bambrick Santoyo

I heard about this one through the Coaching Teachers course I took on Coursera. 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.

4. The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation by Elena Aguilar

I’ve written about Elena’s book before, but it’s just so great I have to gush about it again. What I love most about this book is it makes coaching feel really approachable…like, “Yeah! I can do this!” Sometimes I get overwhelmed just after reading the first page of a book, but not this one. I just read and read and felt better and better about what I could do.

5. Simplified Coaching Planning Kit

Last, but certainly not least, I’m really excited to share with you guys a planner I created just for us coaches. It’s a planning kit actually, made up of all the different tools I’ve used to help me plan, organize, and coach. More info to come on how I plan to organize/use mine, but in case you’d like to take a peek and get a head start, you can find it here!

The Simplified Coaching Planning Kit was designed work alongside the Time & ToDo Planner. These two put together, make a strong team!



And now for a few more good ones. While these resources aren’t specific books or sites about instructional coaching, they have still helped me improve my work in different ways.

6. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

This books has somewhat of a cult following and I’m a member. I learned so much about effective systems and strategies for managing your time and tasks from this book. As a coach, you need to be reliable, dependable, and organized…someone who does what they say they’ll do when they say they’ll do it. This helps you build trust with teachers and can’t be overlooked. Having effective systems and structures in place helps you to be that kind of coach.

7. Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky

As a coach, your head is often swimming with ideas of “what could be”…from a personal level, to a classroom level, to a schoolwide level. The trick is deciding which ideas are worth taking action on and then making those ideas happen. And as a coach and leader, I would even say it’s your responsibility to capture those ideas and work on bringing the worthy ones to life.

8. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

I really liked this book because it helped me take a close look at how I budget my time. When the school year starts, things can get crazy real fast and it’s easy for all of your time to get sucked up by school. Don’t let that happen! Interesting teachers/coaches lead interesting lives…that means they make time for side hobbies or passions, exercising, cooking…whatever it is you’re into outside of school. Right now would be a good time to start thinking about how you’d like to budget your time to make room for all the things that matter to you and see about making it happen!

Did I leave something off the list? Have a favorite book, blog, or other resource that you’d like to add? Share it in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,



How to Wrap-Up a Coaching Cycle

This week I’ll be wrapping up my last round of coaching cycles for the year. Our coaching cycles typically begin with goal setting, then enter into learning, observation and data collection, and finally reflection.


For this final step in the coaching cycle, I turn to the “reflection” section of my Coaching Reflection Tool. This supports me in reflecting on the work done and resulting progress made.

I’ll grab my coaching notebook at this point and flip back through past observation notes, debrief notes, and any assessment data collected. The questions shown in the results section above help guide my reflection as I look back over our work. I’ll write out some thoughts in response to these questions, first in my notebook {paper helps me think} before typing my notes into our Goal Setting Tool.

computerNext, I’ll schedule a final coaching session with the teacher to review our work, assessment data, and reflect on our progress along with any next steps. I’ll add our collective thoughts and insights to our Goal Setting Tool.

Lastly, I’ll email the Goal Setting Tool to the teacher as a record of our work done along with a big “Thank You!” for their willingness to dive into coaching with me.

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 12.55.53 PMYou may have noticed from my example email above that I also send along a coaching synthesis/feedback letter. This is an amazing idea I got from a coaching friend of mine in a neighboring district. Thanks Lexi! You can go into more detail, but here is an example of what one might look like:

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 1.13.29 PM

As with student learning, closure in adult learning is important.

Reflection solidifies learning and helps clarify important next steps and new questions.

I hope this post has provided a handy, dandy visual guide for how to wrap-up your own coaching cycles as this year comes to a close.

Thanks for reading,


You Asked: Principal and Coach Roles

I frequently get asked some pretty smart questions around the role and responsibilities of an instructional coach. And I always do my best to answer them all. As I was getting ready to respond to a recent question from a reader, it dawned on me {duh!} that I really should be opening up these question and answer sessions to all of you guys!

Because hey, we all want to be better and do more as coaches.

Well did you know there’s a great resource available to support us towards this goal?…each other!

We all have so much we can learn from each other’s questions and experiences.

So a big thanks to Cari for sharing her question, which is something that I’ll bet many of us can relate to:

I love your blog, your tips and tools are very helpful. I am a first year coach with a lot of PD and classroom experience. Since my principal hired me as an “extra” this year we have been kind-of winging my schedule and role. As we look forward to next school year we’d like to tighten up my schedule and responsibilities. Can you give me an idea of how you are accountable to your principal without sacrifying trust with the teachers. Do you meet with your principal weekly? Do you “hand in” a form? Are teachers required to work with you?

Ahhh….the delicate balance of building relational trust, accountability, and confidentiality.


Building relational trust is so super important. It also takes effort and time.  An important first step is communication. When we began implementing coaching cycles at our school, we dedicated one of our afternoon PD sessions {agenda and support structures handout} to the topic of student centered coaching as a form of professional learning. This gave us an opportunity to share with all teachers the why, what, and how of coaching at Tollgate. In doing this, we were able to address the question of “Are teachers required to work with you?” and more importantly begin to build a culture of coaching. Once that culture is established, and you’ve worked to show yourself as a partner in learning to teachers rather than an evaluator, things are likely to go much more smoothly.

I currently meet with my principal at the end of every coaching cycle to fill her in on the work done and reassess where to head next with teachers. This schedule has worked well for us. I would say that I’m pretty fortunate in having a principal who fully trusts me and the work that I do. So I’m not required to send her weekly updates or track my time. I’ve also shared in the past how I’ve tried out coaching data trackers and our PD site as a way of keeping my principal informed.

In addition to my experience, I thought it would be helpful to see what the experts had to say on this topic:

Diane Sweeney shares a really helpful chart in her book Student Centered Coaching that defines how both roles can work together to create a culture of learning where coaching is embraced.

Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 3.25.42 PM

Elena Aguilar has a whole section in her book The Art of Coaching dedicated to ten suggestions for building trust with teachers, which includes how to have an initial conversation with coachees that establishes confidentiality. She suggests using a coaching log as a tool that can be used to report to supervisors. 

Jim Knight’s book Unmistakable Impact is another great resource for this question. A few key take-aways include:

  • The greater the lack of trust initially, the more important confidentiality usually is. What is most important is that principals and coaches clearly delineate what they will and will not discuss, communicate that policy across the school, and act consistently with the policy.
  • Eight researchers and I visited five of the best coaches in Florida, drawn from a pool of 2,600. In each case, we discovered that each effective coach worked in close partnership with his or her principal.

Cari {and anyone else grappling with this question}, I hope this collection of thoughts and resources above has been helpful.

If you have a question/topic/challenge that you’re wondering about please send it my way! Remember, we’re often each other’s best resource for support.

Thanks for reading,


How to Create a Coaching Schedule {and handle your busy-ness}

You are pretty dang busy during any given day or week.

Planning sessions, observations, debriefs, resource gathering, PD, … and the list goes on. I hear ya. There’s nothing wrong with being busy though. As long as it’s not the disorganized, no plan in sight, “Ahh, I can’t do this!” kind of busy that leaves you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed at the end of the day. That’s no good.

We want the organized, productive, “Yeah, I’m awesome!” kind of busy that leaves you feeling happy and accomplished.



Which one would you rather be?… I know! Me too! Well the first step to that “I’m awesome” kind of feeling is creating a solid schedule. A weekly plan that gives you a birds eye view of the maze below.

Okay, so let’s talk through making this happen. Start by setting aside a regular time each week to look ahead at the following week. In addition to reviewing your coaching meetings and other time stamped commitments, ask yourself these three questions:



What Do I Need to Get Done?

To answer this question, take into account any planning or review you need to do for your coaching work. Also, make sure you’re clear on your job description. Lot’s of times these can vary depending on your school(s). If you don’t have one that’s thorough and clear, you’ll probably want to make one for yourself. Take a look at this link and this link for coaching job descriptions to get your wheels going. Here are the main buckets my work typically falls into:


How Long Should It Take to Get Done?

Giving a time estimate to each of your different tasks will help you figure out how much you can realistically get done during the day and throughout the week. This is important. If you just start packing things into your schedule with no time estimates attached, you’ll likely find at the end of the day that you didn’t get as much done as you had planned. Then overwhelm sets in and you’ll start looking like the crazy “No Schedule or Plan” chic above.

When am I Going to Get It Done?

To answer this question, map it all out and create your birds eye view of the maze below…your schedule! Remember to plan for lunch {eating is important} and leave a few open blocks of time to give yourself some space to tie up any loose ends.

It might look like this if you use an online calendar:

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 11.27.30 AM


Or like this if you want to use a Word Template:


Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 11.30.08 AM

Click Here for a Blank Template

Or, best yet, just grab the Time & ToDo Planner!

Now that you’ve planned your work, work your plan!

I’d love to hear from you…

What’s the one action you can take this week in creating a solid coaching schedule and handling your busy-ness? Tell me what that action is, then get on it!

Thanks as always for reading,





How Sharp is Your Saw?


What are you doing to support your own growth and professional learning? This was a question our principal recently asked us at a staff meeting. Later that week as I reflected on my Teacher Professional Learning Plan (do you guys have these?), I noted “dedicate more time to sharpen my saw” as a next step.

So what does sharpen the saw mean? Well, it’s a saying that refers to staying fresh, or renewing in all four areas of your life — physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. The saw I’m referring to in this post and the one I’m going to focus on sharpening is my mental saw; learning, reading, writing…continuously improving your skills and knowledge. As an educator, you’ve got to stay on top of your game. Period. So here’s my saw sharpening game plan:

Put It On Your Schedule…(and stick to it)

If you don’t block off time on your calendar or schedule, it’s not going to happen. I like to schedule my saw sharpening time first thing in the morning. Right now I’m planning for at least 30 minutes a day (including weekends), which would come to three and a half hours a week. I know we’re stretched for time, but that’s totally doable and you’ll be 3.5 hours smarter each week!

Be honest with yourself and schedule your saw sharpening at a time when you really will be able to honor that commitment. A time when you know you’ll be able to focus and won’t have to battle distractions. Setting a timer during your study time can also help hold you accountable.

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Track Your Progress

Tracking your progress allows you to see the results of your efforts and seeing results makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Accomplishment feels good, which gives you the motivation to keep it going the next week. I like to track my progress in my notebook, marking off 15 minutes minute intervals in boxes. It looks something like this:


I also added an “Evidence” section to my coaching notebook so I can track the impact of my saw sharpening on my work with teachers and students.

Create a Stimulus Queue

Creating a stimulus queue is an awesome idea I picked up from reading The Accidental Creative. It’s a place to record resources and ideas to follow up on during your saw sharpening time. What learning is really going to help you move forward in solving a problem or doing better work? When you come across an idea or resource, write it down. My stimulus queue is also in my notebook and I use it to help me plan my time.


Alright friends, sooooo…how sharp is your saw? Sharp enough to slice through your work like a hot knife through butter? Or could it stand a little sharpening?

If you have any stimulus queue ideas or resources to contribute, please share in the comments below!

Thanks for reading,


11 Things Coaches Should Look For in Classroom Observations

I received a handout at a workshop I recently attended on different factors coaches can look for in classroom observations. Collecting quality evidence during observations and presenting it in a clear manner to teachers is such an important piece of improving teacher practice and student achievement…so this handout really got me thinking about what I look for during observations and what areas of feedback teachers tend to find most helpful during our follow-up discussions. I went ahead and whipped up an infographic based on my thinking. Take a peek and let me know what you think. Is there anything you would add?


Download the Free Observation Look-Fors Infographic

Thanks for reading,


Updated Coaching Notebook

If you remember, I originally had my planner set-up to also hold my coaching notes. While the system was working out okay, for a lot of reasons, I wasn’t really diggin’ it. So I took some time to rework it. 


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The first thing I needed was more space, since I can be working with up to eight coachees at a time. I also have learned that I prefer to use both my computer and paper when taking notes in an observation, as it allows for more flexibility. So my system needed a good amount of note taking paper, but I didn’t want coaching notes for different teachers all muddled together for me to later sort through. I also don’t totally like having separate notebooks or legal pads for different teachers. After assessing these needs and a few more, my decision was to use an Arc Notebook set-up for coaching notes only. I still have my planner, but it now lives in it’s own notebook.

To avoid the muddling through notes problem, I created a different tab for each teacher.


I inserted a coaching log behind each teacher tab, which I put on the left side of the notebook. I prefer this set-up, as it allows me to easily access notes from a debrief to add to the coaching log without doing too much page flipping. Also, when I go into a debrief, next steps from our last conversation are up front and center for me to see.



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Click Here to Download Coaching Log

I print out my typed up notes before going into a debrief and then handwrite additional notes from there. I used to type notes during a debrief, but wondered if it would help my coaching conversations feel more personal if I did away with the computer screen barrier. So far I think I made a good decision.



Oh, and I put together this planning tool to help me think through my coaching conversations. It’s essentially a lesson plan for coaches.

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Based on thinking from the EL Network

Click Here to Download

I keep a copy of this handy in the reference section of my notebook.



This Coaching Sentence Stems reference sheet (by Elena Aguilar) has been another good addition to this section. You can use it when planning for or even during coaching conversations.


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Note taking systems for coaches are obviously very personal. What works for me might not work for you. When developing/tweaking your own, I think the most important components to consider include:

  • ease of use
  • flexibility
  • keeps you organized
  • tracks progress
  • you like using it!

Check off those pieces and you’re good to go!

Thanks for reading,