Tracking professional development can be a huge headache. It doesn’t have to be. A simple add-in for Google Forms can save hours of work. It is called Certify’em. Other bloggers such as Alice Keeler and Free Technology for Teachers have written about this awesome little […]
Maria Chapman I walked into Mrs. Smith’s second-grade class for our coaching session excited to refine her small group instruction techniques. We met that morning during her prep time, discussed data, and planned a flawless small group lesson for a group of English Learners working […]
Core competencies in business are typically “soft skills.” Core competencies in academics have potential too. This year, I have the opportunity to facilitate curriculum writing through the lens of core competencies. I define core competencies as the 10-15 essential skills a student can expect to […]
Tracking professional development can be a huge headache. It doesn’t have to be. A simple add-in for Google Forms can save hours of work. It is called Certify’em.
Other bloggers such as Alice Keeler and Free Technology for Teachers have written about this awesome little add-on. If you are looking for detailed instructions on how to use Certify’em, I’d recommend you read their posts. It is quite simple, but my purpose isn’t to create a tutorial.
This post is about how I am using Certify’em to track professional development hours for my teachers.
There are two amazing aspects to how I can use this add-on. First, I am able to acquire a database of recorded hours with minimal effort. Second, teachers automatically receive a certificate for the hours they complete.
The first step is to make a Form. I named it “PD tracking form” in my Drive. It has just 8 questions:
- Hours Completed
- How would you rate today’s PD overall?
- What did you learn today?
- What questions or needs do you have at this time?
- What could be improved in the future?
- Who is wearing blue?
I set it to automatically collect email addresses as well. I set it as a Quiz and I select one question (such as location or overall rating for the day) and make it multiple choice. Next, I set the point value to one and designate all the answers as correct. Finally, I turn on Certify’em and make sure the settings are correct.
The last question ensures teachers are in attendance and paying attention. Can they still cheat the system? Of course, they can. But really, who will? Most teachers will just be grateful their exit survey is so short!
At the end of each PD session, I assign this form to teachers through Google Classroom. I change the title to reflect the topic of the session so it will appear appropriately on the certificate. I ask teachers to complete this form.
A certificate is emailed to teachers as soon as they submit their Form. Google, of course, records who has completed the Form in Google Classroom. It also produces a spreadsheet of responses and responses can be viewed in the Form itself. In addition, Certify’em creates a spreadsheet in my Drive that holds only certificate related information.
Voila! I now have a three-fold method of tracking PD hours. And I have provided teachers with a certificate to use as documentation of completed professional development. Even better, I consistently have some simple, usable and descriptive feedback to develop future sessions.
It took a couple of tries to get everything working correctly, so don’t be surprised if you need to experiment a bit.
Now that it is working, it is an incredible time saver. No more time-consuming certificate creating for me. No longer will I have to calculate total PD hours for each teacher.
My teachers appreciate the immediate feedback and I appreciate the minimal effort.
Have you ever worked with a teacher who didn’t want to work with you -at all? I did and I promise it almost broke me mentally and professionally. All of our disagreements came to a head as we set in the office ready to have […]
In March of every year, the whispers start about if available Instructional Coach positions will be available the following school and year and in attempt to be “ready” many aspiring (and current) coaches begin to look for reading that can give them a “leg up” […]
by Shawnta S. Barnes
It takes hard work to build up teachers and improve their practice, but the work is even harder when teachers are displaced. This school year is my third year as an instructional coach and this year has been the most challenging. Due to decreasing enrollment, my school district, Indianapolis Public Schools, decided to eliminate three high school campuses, moving from seven to four. Instead of only teachers at the closing high school campuses being displaced, the school district decided to displace every high school employee, from the principals to the cafeteria workers. The district felt this was best because it would allow teachers to find their best fit school.
As you might have suspected this has caused anxiety, stress, and depression among some teachers. Teachers fear they either won’t have a job or will be assigned to a school where a principal did not choose them. Some teachers have quit mid-year despite being offered a bonus of up to $5,000 to stay until the end of the year. Others have decided quit and stay; they are planning to finish the school year, but they have quit trying to be the best teachers they could be.
In the midst of this all, I have to coach teachers. I have to improve their practice and through them, I also have to improve our students’ academic achievement. Although being displaced is not a situation any educator wants to face (and this is also my second displacement), this is a reality in many school districts across many states.
How do you coach teachers when they are part of a reality they do not like? Below, I have outlined what I am doing to coach teachers who are displaced.
Acknowledge their frustrations and then get to the work.
At first, when I had coaching sessions, I didn’t talk about the situation that was all around us. It was this elephant sitting in the room during each coaching session. Even though I can’t ease their anxiety, I can acknowledge their frustrations about the situation and tell them I appreciate their hard work and commitment to the coaching process.
Focus on what you can control.
When I taught middle school English, the English department chair would say at every meeting, “We are only going to focus on what we can control.” I know that statement would burn people up sometimes especially when they were angry about a decision that was made. Being angry about a decision, such as your district displacing you is a valid feeling, but it is not okay to let your anger consume the entire time you should be working to improve your practice as a teacher. When I’m meeting with a teacher who is derailing our work by focusing on issues he or she can’t control, I’ll say, “Is there anything you can do about this?” If the answer is no, I’ll direct the teacher back to what we were originally discussing.
Remind teachers why they entered the profession.
When teachers are fearful they either won’t have a job next year or get placed in a school they did not choose, they may leave mid-year or put in minimal effort. Although, I respect the decision of teachers who leave mid-year (because I rather them leave and serve other students well rather than stay and just go through the motions), a teacher leaving or a teacher putting in minimal effort hurts students and puts an extra burden on other colleagues. When a teacher says, “Mr. Blacksmith is just sitting at his desk and passing out worksheets,” I’ll respond, “Do you want to be like him and is that good for your students?” Always bring it back to the students. I want my teachers to know it says more about their character when they teach well even in the face of uncertainty.
Encourage teachers to take care of themselves.
The foundation of good instructional coaching is trust. When teachers trust you, they might unload on you as if you are their therapist. If you are concerned about the mental health of the teachers you coach, refer them to someone who can help them. Don’t try to provide answers or try to solve their problems.
Consistently offer support and observations.
I frequently tell teachers, “I want you to end this school year knowing you have improved because of your investment in this process.” Teachers can only invest when you are also invested. When teachers are quitting, it is easy to get caught up in putting out fires and making sure those classes are okay instead of focusing on the teachers that are still there putting in the work. If I want teachers I coach to bring 100%, I also have to do the same. That means showing up consistently to observe their classrooms and providing the support they need.
Lift up the good.
Last and certainly not least, remind teachers of their progress. Highlight the improvements they are making. I was speaking to a teacher who was frustrated after I came to observe. She wanted her lesson to be better. I said, “No one was walking around the classroom, cursing at you, or throwing stuff. Your transitions were smooth and students could articulate what they were learning. Remember August?” After my feedback, a big smile appeared on her face. She was so caught up in what she perceived she did wrong that she didn’t she was she was doing right.
At this time, I have no clue what I’m doing next year. I have not secured a job placement yet, but right now I’m trying to be the best coach I can be so my teachers can serve our students well this year and be prepared to serve students well next year in their new roles.
You clear your throat. “Today we’re going to learn how to monitor data in our classrooms..” You look around the room and 20 pairs of eyes are looking at you waiting for you to finish your sentence. “..and how to increase student achievement at our […]
By Michael A. Zook Relaxing after the Holiday breaks often feel necessary. Don’t we all need to recover from that extra pie and food? These dishes seem to infiltrate every meal afterward until we can’t stand it anymore! Then, as you finally start to feel […]
Instructional coaching is consistently variable. That makes time management tricky. It also makes effective time management absolutely essential.
Here are a few important reminders:
- Relationship building is NEVER a waste of time. Sometimes I get to the end of a day and feel like I got nothing accomplished. I spent the day talking with teachers. If those conversations build trust, enhance respect, validate feelings, or otherwise make coaching easier later, that is a valuable use of time.
- No two days are ever the same. Every day is different and trying to plan around a ‘normal’ day probably won’t work. I find it easier to think a week or two at a time. Flexibility can more easily be built into your schedule that way.
- No one expects you to be perfect (or know everything). It is okay to make mistakes. It is okay to need time to learn. It is okay to want to research or be proven wrong. Model a growth mindset for yourself and your teachers, just as we want to do for our students. Apologize, own your errors, and learn from them.
Specific Time Management Strategies
- Protect your classroom time. As an instructional coach, we spend at least half our time doing all kinds of things that are not coaching. It is easy for all those other tasks to overwhelm our time and leave us unable to visit classrooms often enough. One strategy to avoid this is to set two half days per week aside for classroom visits. Typically, I would select one morning and one afternoon. As I plan my schedule in one to two week chunks, I blackout my schedule for those half days. I might not get to visit classrooms the same days every week. Occasionally, I will still need to reschedule. Once I established this habit for myself and with my school team, I was able to visit classrooms much more consistently.
- Multi-task. I know there is a lot of research about the myth of multi-tasking and I am not here to challenge that idea. I don’t mean try and do several things at one time. I mean visibility matters. Being visible in classrooms matters. Spending casual time in classrooms improves my understanding of the classroom culture and each teacher’s style. To accomplish this, I avoid my desk using a strategy I learned from a brilliant administrator I worked with years ago. My laptop and I relocate regularly. I sit down in a random classroom and answer five emails. It might take 5 minutes…or 50. Once I have answered 5 emails, I move to another room. This strategy works well with any segmented task that doesn’t involve sensitive student or teacher information. For example, I can review a stack of texts by carrying a stack and looking at one in each room.
- Establish expectations and boundaries. The best way to avoid being re-purposed is to establish expectations and boundaries with your administrators and teachers. It helps to sit down with an administrator and review the expectations and tasks they have for me before the school year. I present boundaries that are important to me, like protecting time to visit classrooms and not sharing coaching conversations with administration. I try to brainstorm the non-coaching tasks expected of me and make sure the expectations are manageable without compromising my work with teachers. The same is true for teachers. While I always want to be helpful, it is also important to clarify what that means. It might mean that I will watch your class for an emergency bathroom break. It does not mean I will cover your class so you can leave early or attend a non-essential meeting. I’ll happily make emergency copies that one time. I am not making your class set of 30 page booklets for your next unit. Strong time management means I can’t do everything for everyone.
- Create streamlined systems and structures. I maximize my time by streamlining routine tasks as much as possible. My format for collecting notes while visiting classrooms is a Google Form. I use an add-on that auto-generates a PDF of my notes I can forward to the teacher with a request for a coaching conversation. To track PD hours, I have teachers complete a Google Form. Another add-on auto-generates a completion certificate and sends it to teachers for their records. Spreadsheets and forms that can be used and reused are worth the time to create. When I discover a system doesn’t work because I don’t use it, I tweak or abandon it and try something new. I tried a binder system to track teacher Professional Development Plans. It was as empty at the end of the year as it had been at the start. Updating it was on my to-do list for 6 months. Next year, I am going to shift to an electronic format because those systems seem to work better for me. The more time you spend overseeing strong structures, the better your time management can be.
- Keep a task flow sheet. As an instructional coach, there are a million little things I do intermittently. Keeping track of them is a major challenge and forgetting something can cause a lot of headaches. To prevent losing anything off the back of my plate, I keep a task flow spreadsheet. There are columns for the name of the task, its details, its tools, when it needs to be done (the end of each quarter), and any notes that will help me later. It took me almost a year to build the first time and I am constantly tweaking it. At least once every two weeks, I open it and review it to make sure I am not missing anything. I can’t have strong time management if I can’t keep up with all the tasks that take my time.
- Ask for help. You are not alone. Sometimes, it can feel like you are the only one who can or has to do all kinds of tasks. This is false. When you need assistance, ask for it. Get to know teacher strengths and use that knowledge to facilitate sharing the load when it becomes too heavy. Got an Excel guru on staff? Ask her to build spreadsheets to calculate and present assessment data. Any aspiring school leaders? Those folks will do almost anything they can use as a resume builder. Want to strengthen the position or relationship of a misunderstood staff member? Give them a social task, like planning the school holiday assembly and teacher happy hour (for later). Being efficient and effective doesn’t mean going it alone. You will build rapport, trust, and support from your staff if you judiciously use their strengths to benefit the larger school community.
- Learn the 5 Languages of Love for your staff. This one might sound odd, but it really helps. Technically, I think the work version calls them the 5 language of appreciation. They are the same either way: acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, gifts, and quality time. The value of knowing the love language of each staff member is twofold. It helps me make sure I am demonstrating appreciation efficiently for each individual in a way they can accept. It improves communication immensely. If I know teacher A needs gifts, I can drop off a Starbucks coffee in 30 seconds instead of spending 10 minutes trying to make a connection. I can then spend that 10 minutes chatting with teacher B who needs quality time to feel valued. Nothing has helped me build relationships and communicate effectively more than this.
Remember that coaching is hard work. It is intellectually and emotionally exhausting. Focusing on the things you can control can help make the job more enjoyable. Finding time management strategies that work for you can make it more sustainable.
The situation Last year, our leadership team struggled to have positive data meetings. We presented attendance data, passing rates, and student feedback. We asked for teacher input. We restructured and rethought and tried multiple formats. The principal, the counselor, the department heads, and I (the […]
Before I started coaching full-time, I used to wonder what the value of coaching light could be. For those who aren’t familiar with the terms coaching light or heavy, I suggest you check out Coaching: Approaches and Perspectives and other works by Jim Knight or […]
Things are beginning to slow down in the last month of school in the coaching world. Teachers and the school are part of standardized testing, they are gearing up for awards ceremonies, and they are trying to keep their students calm. It is the end of the year and everyone is feeling it. Including you. The drive to continue supporting teachers keeps fueling your Instructional Coaching soul! What should you do with that drive? Here are some ideas that helps you continue the support of the teachers in your building:
The drive to continue supporting teachers keeps fueling your Instructional Coaching soul!
Offer to Do Lessons
Teachers right now are as stressed and as tired as they were at the beginning of the school year. Now is the time to put your money where your mouth is and offer that support they need this time in the school year. You can either have a sign-up sheet in the Teacher’s Lounge or send out a Google Doc/spreadsheet for teachers to sign up for thirty-forty minute lessons. During this time, this is not time to model lessons for teachers, this is the time to give them a much needed break. Allow the teachers to use this time however they see fit, but they must stay on campus.
Take this time to go do some teacher check-ins. This time is just to make sure the teachers are handling the end of the year stress well and to offer your help if needed. There may be students that need to be assessed, questions that teachers have, or they may even need a listening ear. Be that for them. They need it. Be there. Be present.
Let go of Professional Development (GASP!)
At the end of the year, teachers are not going to be listening to anything you have to say. They are drained. Honestly, you are drained too. Do not try to sit teachers down and have any organized professional development meet ups at this time. They will love you for this. However, if you do plan on or “have to” meet, allow it to focus on the tip below.
If you have to meet, allow it to be a time of teacher or team reflection. One of the best end of the year meetings I have been a part of and also held was a vertical team meeting just focused on reflection and discussion. It allowed for the teams to talk, discuss gaps between grade levels, areas to focus on the next year and just reflect. It was a very powerful and helpful meeting. Try it, you will not be disappointed in the impact it has.
This is the time for you to reflect as well. Give teachers a survey and ask them to fill it out honestly about the work you have done with them this year. These surveys help with your own reflection as their Instructional Coach and it helps you to grow and learn.
Yes, it’s the end of the year. Yes, it’s busy around the school. Use these tips and your time to continue to support teachers in a different, yet effective and impactful way.
Contempt of the teacher isn’t exactly a real thing. But it should be. It is the teacher equivalent of ‘contempt of cop.’ Wikipedia provides the following definition: “Contempt of cop” is law enforcement jargon in the United States for behavior by people towards law enforcement […]
Today, I had a teacher tell me she “always feels so supported” when she gets feedback from my visits. That is an incredible compliment. It made me wonder why instructional coaches don’t receive feedback like that more often. I don’t have all the answers, but her comment made me want to share my current strategy for meaningful feedback.
There are tons of genuinely meaningful texts on instructional coaching. I’ve probably read a couple dozen of them, and I aim to read a couple dozen more. Some of the consistent ideas I have come across include keeping it simple, being direct and transparent, focusing on the positive, and asking powerful questions.
Based on those principles, I created a simple Google Form for myself. I chose this format for two reasons. One reason is that I can use the add-on “Simply Send” to auto-generate a PDF of my responses in an email to myself. This makes it really simple to double-check my work and send teachers written feedback almost immediately. I can also complete the form from any device including my phone. Finally, it creates a spreadsheet I can view to look for trends or identify common needs.
The form I use only has a few sections. Of course, I record the basics: time, date, teacher, and course. Actually, because I have shared this with my administrators, I start with a question to identify who has completed the form. After the basics, I have five long answer paragraph sections. They are Environment, Planning, Teacher Actions, Student Actions, and Food for Thought.
I strongly believe that observational data is the most effective tool in an instructional coach’s arsenal. I do not script lessons unless a teacher has requested I do so for a particular reason. Instead, I take detailed notes of what both teachers and students are doing, what the classroom is like, and what evidence of intentional planning is evident.
Usually, environment section is relatively short. I like to give teachers my impression of the physical space. Can everyone see the board? Are needed materials placed in an easy to access location? Is the lighting, temperature, and even smell, appropriate to the class?
I tend to go back and forth between the teacher action and student action sections throughout my visit as I describe what I see. I try to give specifics without getting too lost in trivial details. My skill in this area continues to improve with more practice.
To be honest, I don’t totally love the planning section. My notes in that section are often sparse and inferential rather than substantive. I can’t quite figure out if that is my note-taking or related to the idea. My teachers seem to appreciate the inclusion of this area, if for no other reason than that it acknowledges how much time and effort they put into planning.
The final section is called food for thought. In it, I record positive impressions as well as questions and wonderings. My goal is to point out what worked well and help teachers think about opportunities for growth. I try to frame my questions so they are open-ended but based on very specific observable actions. In this section, depending on the personality and needs of the teacher, I might provide some suggestions for tools or instructional strategies to try.
My coaching conversations are based almost exclusively on this feedback. One advantage of this system for me is that when I visit a classroom I can provide meaningful feedback even if a coaching conversation isn’t possible until later in the week. Sometimes, the delay is actually beneficial. Teachers have the opportunity to reflect before we engage. Often I get emails in response with initial thoughts and reminding me of our upcoming meeting.
I believe this system is working. It seems to be having a positive effect on teacher attitude, reflection, and general openness. Teachers are happy to see me in their classrooms–even the tough nuts. Over time, I believe this type of meaningful feedback will lead to genuine instructional innovation.
Originally published for Olivet Nazarene University Guest Writers: Kathi Lippert, Ed.D. Cassie Bailey, M.A. November, 2018 Part I Change is not always welcome in the education field. Sometimes, it is even viewed with distrust and disdain as teachers are not always a part of the […]