Collaborating, learning, and supporting the coaching process in underserved districts.

Recent Posts

Harvard’s Project Implicit as a Coaching Tool

Harvard’s Project Implicit as a Coaching Tool

Harvard’s Project Implicit is an on-going research project collecting data on implicit bias through a series of online quizzes. Anyone can anonymously attempt as many quizzes, on as many topics, as many times as desired. Demographic data is optional and results are provided with explanations […]

Manage Coaching Tasks with Google Tools

Manage Coaching Tasks with Google Tools

It is vitally important to have systems to manage coaching tasks effectively. Every coach needs systems to give teachers feedback. Without systems in place, coaches can easily become overwhelmed by other tasks and lose track of observations, feedback, and coaching conversations. Coaches also need tools […]

Tracking Professional Development Hours with Certify’em

Tracking Professional Development Hours with Certify’em

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:

  1. Name
  2. Location
  3. Hours Completed
  4. How would you rate today’s PD overall?
  5. What did you learn today?
  6. What questions or needs do you have at this time?
  7. What could be improved in the future?
  8. 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.

Collective Commitments: A Meaningful Team Building Activity

Collective Commitments: A Meaningful Team Building Activity

Finding meaningful team building activities can be a challenge. Recently, I crafted an introductory team activity I want to share. When I planned this activity, I was hopeful it would work well. It surpassed my expectations. I call this activity “Creating Collective Commitments.” I did […]

The Dirty Secret of Implementing Independent Reading for Literacy Coaches

The Dirty Secret of Implementing Independent Reading for Literacy Coaches

“Students need to read like writers and they need to write like readers.” ― Kelly Gallagher The current craze in education is around giving students choice in what they read in an attempt to get them excited about reading again. This idea as basic as it has […]

The Unspoken Truths of Being an Instructional Coach

The Unspoken Truths of Being an Instructional Coach

Imagine you’re running a marathon and you’ve made it to mile 24. You’re cramping up and your mouth is dry, but you know the end is near- so you keep going. At mile 25, you’ve resorted to walking because you’re legs are on fire. You know you have roughly a mile and a half left, but mentally you’re over it. Just as you’re about to quit, there’s a water station and after guzzling down two cups, you think you can make it. Forty-five minutes later you’re literally crawling to the finish line, but you’re finished. You collapse and just lay on the pavement. You made it- you’re now a marathoner. 

The act of finishing a marathon is a grueling task that few accomplish and it perfectly describes how many Instructional Coaches feel at the end of any given school year. For the past 180 days, coaches have functioned between a pseudo teacher, confidante, and colleague and as the school year dwindles down to the final countdown, the meltdowns from teachers (and even you) are more frequent and the days are longer. For outsiders looking in on the job of an Instructional Coach, being “out” of the classroom is the best position ever, but what many don’t know is that there’s an unspoken truth of our job.

Being an Instructional Coach is a lonely job. Click To Tweet

Lonely in the sense you’re no longer (technically) a teacher. You can’t go into the teacher’s lounge and laugh about the silly jokes about the principal, you’re no longer invited to those long lunches during planning days and you sure are not included in those complaining sessions that frequently happen in the hallway between classes. To make things even murkier, you’re definitely not invited to the Administrative Meetings, you aren’t in attendance in conferences with teachers to discuss their areas of growth and your opinion on what instructional decisions need to occur are often ignored.

So where does this leave the Coach? In a space that leaves them alone with the difficult work of trying to change the instructional practices of teachers. Many times this loneliness shows up during times that are trying to coaches such as having courageous conversations with a teacher or when they just feel defeated, but whenever the loneliness shows up it has the ability to hinder the most ambitious coach to a crying shell of a professional.

During these moments, there are several truths that become clearer:

  • Instructional Coaches need professional learning communities that are space spaces for them to cry, scream, or ask for desperately needed help.
  • As an Instructional Coach, you don’t have to “like” all of your teachers.
  • There’s a strong likelihood that your administrative team has not one iota of instructional savviness in their bones.
  • There are days where you wonder if going back in the classroom is where you can interact with reasonable people-students.
  • There’s a likelihood that the people in your building believe your job is being a glorified assistant- to everyone.
  • Leaving the classroom to become an instructional coach does not mean you couldn’t “handle” students.
  • You’re no longer a teacher. Yes, you’re still a certified teacher, but you don’t have a dedicated classroom, and other teachers know that.
  • You can know all of the coaching “strategies” you want, but if teachers don’t respect you no work will get done.
  • Your administrator will ask you to do tasks that are technically their job- you either do it, or you could (possibly) get a bad evaluation.

As each day to summer becomes nearer, these truths become harder to swallow and can leave a coach crawling to the finish line of the end of school, unwilling to confront the truths you know to be evident about your job. So instead of leaving a trail of tears, enter the theratp

[Instructional Coach Chronicles] Working With a Teacher You Don’t Like

[Instructional Coach Chronicles] Working With a Teacher You Don’t Like

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 […]

Adventures in Coaching..Giving Effective Teacher Feedback

Adventures in Coaching..Giving Effective Teacher Feedback

This year I did what many teachers fear the most,  I went over to the dark side of school administration in the form of being an Instructional Coach. As  I transitioned into this role, I thought surely that this would give me more time to […]

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Instructional Coaching: Finding Your Purpose

Instructional Coaching: Finding Your Purpose

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 school.” As you turn around to grab your handouts you can feel the collective sigh from your co-workers.

They HATE to discuss data.

As you turn around to pass out your handouts, the first question comes up.

Teacher A: “Didn’t we just look at data at our last meeting?”

Teacher B: “I couldn’t give my diagnostic exam because the computer lab was being worked on.”

Teacher C: “Can we make this short? I have papers to grade!”

As you struggle through the professional development you literally feel yourself failing as a coach. After training you just sit in your office and replay the events in your head. How in the hell did you even get to this point?

That right there ladies and gentlemen is the typical day in the life of an Instructional Coach. I experienced it and many times these types of experiences literally put you through the Instructional Coach ring of fire. By the time you are finished with your presentation, you have sweated out all your deodorant and your throat is dry and scratchy and you are counting the hours until you can go home and crawl in a fetal position on your couch.

The Instructional Coach Ring of Fire is an experience (or set of collective experiences) that every coach goes through despite your years and experience in education and as a result, makes you question your role and/or effectiveness of being a coach. These experiences are usually had at either the beginning of the year or as a result of a professional learning gone rogue. During this experience, many Instructional Coaches just want to go home and not come back for several days. When (and if) they do get over this initiation and make it to the other side, almost nothing else can harm them.

However, the result of this proverbial “ring of fire” is to make coaches question their position within a school. For many first-year coaches, they continue to question their purpose at the school level well into the school year. Are you there to check lesson plans and give feedback? Are you there to work with new teachers and support them? Or has your principal pulled you for more menial tasks to complete around the school? Quite simply the purpose and role of an Instructional Coach is to support teachers. Sometimes that support involves modeling classroom lessons while other times it may mean working with a struggling teacher one on one.

Finding your purpose as an Instructional Coach is a process that’s both complex and (at times) political. There may be teachers in your building who are resentful of one of them giving them feedback and seeing them at their most vulnerable moments.  However, there are some things Instructional Coaches can do that establish their presence in the building as help not more eyes for administration such as:

  • Conducting a professional learning survey for all teachers in the school. Tools such as Survey Monkey and Google Drive make it easy for you to create a simple 10 question survey about what areas teachers feel they are experts in and what are their areas of growth. Any survey given out should be specific enough so that you can gain insightful data, but it shouldn’t take the teachers 30 minutes to complete. A good “rule of thumb” is to make the survey less than ten minutes.
  • Have a discussion with your administration team of their expectations for your job. Being an Instructional Coach is not the same as an Assistant Principal or Principal, instead your role is all about support of teachers. At the beginning of the year, sit down and ask of the expectations the administrative team will have for you. When I was an Instructional Coach I was required to observe one teacher a day and offer feedback to that teacher. In addition, I was expected to deliver professional learning once a week in collaborative planning. However, after speaking to other Instructional Coaches their duties differed greatly. Some were being used as Assistant Principals while others covered classes all day. In order to see improvement in struggling teachers, it’s critical for the administrative team realize that you are there for support.
  • Meeting with teachers 1:1 about the results of their survey. Once you have data from the survey, make a face to face to all teachers you support and just let them know your role in the school. This is a great time to reinforce the data you have already had and a great way to meet each teacher and determine the teachers who may be most resistant to your role.
  • Offer genuine help to struggling teachers. During these 1:1 meetings with teachers, it will become clear who needs help and who doesn’t. Sometimes the teachers who are struggling will come to you, but many times you will find them during your routine visits. Listen to them when they tell you the areas they are struggling in and give them real help. So many times, principals suggest for teachers to read and article and expect for the teachers to become better just by reading. In reality, these teachers may need some modeling and some explicit help in overcoming their areas of growth.
  • Stay out of all administrative decisions- you are not an assistant principal. I remember when one of my principals asked me to sit in a meeting he was having with a struggling as he was about to put them on a professional development plan. I politely declined. Instead, I suggested for him to send the teacher to me afterward so I could console her and give her a plan to get off of the plan. Instructional Coaches should not take place in anything punitive (or viewed as punitive from teachers) directed toward their teachers. Instructional Coaches should be impartial and should focus on what the best for instruction at their school sites.
  • Make professional development timely and job-embedded. No one likes professional development that is a “sit and get”.  If you don’t believe go to any session at an education conference where a  PowerPoint is the center of learning. Instead, we love learning that’s relevant, timely and job-embedded.  So during every professional learning, I created an activity that allowed teachers to learn through the activity.

Coaching is one of the hardest jobs in the building, but with careful planning, you can help teachers tremendously and find your purpose in your building. Now tell us how you defined your role as an Instructional Coach in the building!

Instructional Coaching 101: You’ve Just Been Hired, Now What?

Instructional Coaching 101: You’ve Just Been Hired, Now What?

As I sat at my desk and fumed all I could say to myself was, “I did not sign up for this. This is not how you treat others!” The longer I repeated those words the angrier I became and before long I was hurriedly typing away […]