Tag Archives: instructional coaching

Creating a Coaching Invitation

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

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

OR

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

Ahhh, dreamy.

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

And that’s ok.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

The sky’s the limit!

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

Hmmm…

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

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

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

 

 

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

Here are a few that came up for me:

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

You sent it! Great job!

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

 

 

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

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

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

My Instructional Coaching Kit Set-Up

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

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

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

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

Let’s take a look!

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

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

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

Customized Covers - Cover

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

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

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

Here are the current sections I have:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk soon, and thanks for reading!

What An Educator Can Learn From A Cyclist

This weekend I went for a bike ride with my friend Anne.  As we were cruising through the back roads of Boulder, Colorado I couldn’t help but think how similar cycling is to teaching.  Allow me to elaborate…

Cyclists live in one of two seasons: the on-season or the off-season.  During the off-season they take time to rest and recover, reflect on accomplishments made during the on-season, and set their sights on larger goals for the season ahead.  As educators, we experience our off-season during our summer breaks.  We walk out of school on the last day and allow ourselves to deeply exhale.  We reflect on the progress made with our students or with other teachers we’ve worked with (for us instructional coaches).  Hopefully we are honest with ourselves during this time of reflection and can clearly see what worked and what might need some shaping up next season.

After each off-season for us educators, we have the great opportunity to return to school and start fresh.  As we head into this school year, here are a few things we can learn from the sport of cycling that when applied to our teaching lives may serve to strengthen our own on-season.  Let’s ride!

Hills Make You Stronger

As Anne and I were cruising along one of the flat, straightaway sections of our ride, life felt good.  I was in my comfort zone, my body felt strong, and my mind felt focused.  After rounding a bend though, the road started to change.  It started to go up.  Before I knew it I was climbing one heck of a steep hill.  My legs started to slow down, my bike wobbled underneath me, and my mind felt anything but focused.

These moments not only exist on the road, they are also very real occurrences during our days in the classroom.  A student who you feel like you’ve finally gotten a pretty good handle on all of a sudden explodes because of an argument over a pencil and the calm in your classroom turns to chaos.  The copier breaks just when you need it most or a lesson you spent a good deal of time planning totally bombs.  Sometimes these “hills” string together and you feel like you’ll never make it to the top.

Whatever you do…don’t stop pedaling.  Dig deep and keep cranking.  Once you’re off the bike it is significantly harder to get started again.   Just when you think you can’t go anymore, guess what…YOU CAN.  When you do arrive at the top you’ll be stronger and wiser as a result.

Ride With Others

Going on a ride with others is just more fun.   Team rides can motivate you and improve your skills.  You can also be sure there will be someone there to help you out in the case of a flat tire or a forgotten granola bar.

Teachers have an enormously complex job with a crazy number of responsibilities.  Working together as a team (grade-level, administration, specialists, school wide) matters.  Our fellow educators can inspire us, support us, laugh with us, or just grab a coffee with us.  Research shows that relational trust among teachers and school leaders improves student achievement.

So this year remember to smile and say “hello” to other teachers in the hall, assume positive intent, and stop to help when you see another teacher with a flat.  Little things like that make a difference.

Set Goals, Train Hard

If you were to ask just about any cyclist who has completed a century ride how they were able to accomplish such a feat, I would be willing to bet they would say it involved goal setting and some serious training.

Setting goals for yourself and your students using all current data (formal and informal) that you have ensures that you have a clear target to aim for.  Without that do you really know where you’re headed in your day-day work or why you’re headed there?  Concrete goals inspire us and tracking our training or our progress motivates us.  If you can involve students in tracking their OWN progress towards clear learning targets, even better!

Our instruction in the classroom must be strategic, precise, and engaging to make “century ride” results a reality.

Coaching Counts

Competitive cyclists care about results.  They realize that few can sustain their best performance on their own.  This is where coaching comes in.

I recently read a great article that spoke to this truth about coaching.  In it the author discusses the importance of coaching in becoming your “personal best.”  The following excerpt from this article aptly describes the important role a coach plays in doing so:

Élite performers, researchers say, must engage in “deliberate practice”—sustained, mindful efforts to develop the full range of abilities that success requires. You have to work at what you’re not good at. In theory, people can do this themselves. But most people do not know where to start or how to proceed. Expertise, as the formula goes, requires going from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence and finally to unconscious competence. The coach provides the outside eyes and ears, and makes you aware of where you’re falling short.

Through a variety of approaches (co-planning, demonstration, descriptive feedback) instructional coaches can help push your thinking and your practice.  Letting someone into your classroom to observe you can feel like an intimidating risk.  Taking important risks like this however can pay off greatly for you and your students.  So this year open your doors, invite in your instructional coach and see how far you and your students can climb.

Rest and Recover

Rest and recovery are essential for high-level performance.  This is true for both cycling and teaching.  One of the best things you can do for yourself after a long ride is to eat a good meal, kick up your feet and take it easy.  This is great training advice for us educators as well.

Cyclists know that when they don’t build in enough days for rest and recovery, they’re at risk of suffering from overtraining syndrome – a difficult condition to recover from.  Likewise with teaching, if we’re not careful about creating some balance in our lives, we are at risk of teacher burnout.  This condition isn’t fun for you or your students and is also very difficult to recover from.

Remember to take care of yourself this year.  Pack a healthy lunch, pause during your hectic day just to breathe, and maybe even enjoy a nice glass of red wine at the end of your day.  I’d say you deserve it.

Taking a Risk

Our school year has come to a close and I thought I would take some time to reflect on my first year as an instructional coach.  Last April when I considered stepping into this role, I felt very nervous and uncertain.  I loved being a classroom teacher.  My classroom was a safe and comfortable space for my students and me.  As somewhat of a quiet type, I don’t typically embrace risk-taking or being in the spotlight so the idea of doing a job that involved conducting whole staff professional development and coaching teachers was…intimidating.  If it hadn’t been for the friendly nudging of my friends and family, I may have passed this opportunity up.  And I definitely would have kicked myself for it later (thanks guys!).

This year has been just, well, great.  I have grown so much as a professional and educator.  I have had the opportunity to build great relationships with teachers throughout the building.  Maybe most importantly, I have learned how to flex my “risk-taking muscle” and step outside of my comfort zone.  My risk-taking muscle isn’t exactly huge now, but I know it’s there and I plan on flexing it more often. It’s not always easy, but it’s good for you.  It allows you to better serve yourself and those around you.

A piece of my reflection this year included creating a trailer and digital story using iMovie to summarize our work at Tollgate.  Check it out!  If you’re an instructional coach doing something similar will produce a product to help you reflect on and share the work involved in your role with others.  If you’re a teacher, you can use something like this as an end of year gift for students.  The following year you could use it as part of your back to school night to give parents an idea of what their children will experience in your classroom.  If you’re not really comfortable with “techie” projects like this, who cares!  I wasn’t either.  Take a risk.

As educators, it’s important to keep taking risks in order to grow as professionals.  What risks have you taken lately or are considering taking?