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

Tag: Instructional Coach

Beat the Testing Season Blues as an Instructional Coach

Beat the Testing Season Blues as an Instructional Coach

This is the time to pull out your flexibility hat and own it.

Slowing Down During the Holidays

Slowing Down During the Holidays

It seems like things are slowing down a bit during this time of year. It never fails. Teachers are finishing up last minute to-dos before finals, crafts are being created, and the school has turned into a sea of red and green. All the while, […]

My First Step to Self-Care: A Balanced Schedule

My First Step to Self-Care: A Balanced Schedule

In the life of an Instructional Coach, we are there to support teachers. We love seeing teachers continue to grow. We want to be there for them, provide feedback and do all we can to help facilitate their development. However, we often put our all into the growth of others so much so that we often find ourselves depleted and neglecting our own self-care in the process. As a coach, I have been known to do this on more than one occasion. Although I have known better, I know that I cannot pour from an empty cup and that I must take care of myself first. But when you are a new coach and still learning how to best serve in your new capacity, you often fill your plate to the brim. You are so happy to be utilized for the purpose of growth that you want to support everyone at all times. In my first year of coaching, I learned fairly quickly how burnt out you can get if you do not do certain key things to keep your cup full. One of the key things is balancing your schedule to relieve stress.

 

I know that I cannot pour from an empty cup and that I must take care of myself first. But when you are a new coach and still learning how to best serve in your new capacity, you often fill your plate to the brim. Click To Tweet

Pouring from an Empty Cup

As an Instructional Coach, your schedule should have balance. This was difficult for me at first because I scheduled every 1:1 meeting, every teacher modeling, every observation during any and all of the open slots of my schedule. I got tired fast. I was taking tons of work home that I could have done throughout my day. The truth of the matter was—I was the master of my schedule (thanks to a very open and supportive principal) and the master was trying to burn myself out and fast. I knew that coaches should be in attendance to collaborative team meetings, modeling for teachers, sending valuable resources, be available for teacher/coach meetings, observing teachers, etc. There was a lot that had to be done, but I was allowing my schedule to control me rather than me control my schedule. Creating a top-heavy schedule with a focus on only one or two aspects of coaching, I felt ineffective and did not know why. I was being pulled in many different directions and stress began to spear its ugly head. Realizing it, I knew had to make a change. I was doing this to myself and I was the only one who could change it.

Realizing the Need for Change
I remember the day perfectly. It was a Monday and I was reviewing my schedule. I looked it over to prepare for the week and my heart began to race. I began to have sweaty palms and I was breathing hard and fast. I believe I was beginning to have an anxiety attack. It was all too much and I finally told myself this is ridiculous. This cannot be healthy. I wanted to be everything to everyone at all times, but I was only one person. It was too much. I knew the first step to releasing this stress was that I needed to find balance in my schedule. I needed to release without guilt. I realized then that just because my plate was filled to capacity did not mean I was being effective. In fact, it was highly ineffective. I was doing a lot of things, but I was not doing them well. I had to slim down my schedule to breed effectiveness. I knew I had to do it and I had to do it without the presence of guilt.
Solutions for Scheduling
After realizing my need, I altered my schedule more times than I could count. It looked very different from one week to the next. But slowly but surely I was releasing stress. This doesn’t mean that I was not doing work. I was doing some of the best work that I have ever done because I was focused and intentional. I was not just filling up my schedule, I was effective because I began giving the necessary time for the work I needed to do. Some ways I did this was focusing certain days for different aspects of coaching. For instance, Mondays are teacher observation, individual teacher meetings, and during breaks planning for school-wide professional development. Tuesdays are for attending team meetings to see where I can help support teachers effectively (within this day I also model lessons for teachers). Wednesdays are usually School-wide Professional Development which I plan on Mondays and Tuesdays (occasionally I have to take it home to complete). Thursdays are Professional Learning Community Days with teams that can focus on a variety of aspects of teaching, data talks, make-and-takes and/or team building. Fridays are usually catch up days, follow-up meetings with teachers, modeling and teacher observations. Does this schedule work this way all of the time, every day, perfectly? No. But it definitely provides consistency for me and my level of stress has decreased tremendously.
My Path to Self-Care
There are other aspects of the coaching life in which self-care is essential. For me, my first step was maintaining a balanced schedule for myself and the teachers. They now know, for the most part, what is happening on what day as it relates to their interactions with me. My motto now is, “A balanced schedule is key to a balanced day.” Instructional Coaches need to practice the act of self-care in order to effectively support teachers. My first step in doing that was creating a balanced schedule to maintain overall balance.

Steps to Becoming an Instructional Coach

Steps to Becoming an Instructional Coach

A typical response when I tell other educators that I am an Instructional Coach is, “Wow! That sounds awesome. How do you become a coach?” The response that I give them is usually the abbreviated version of steps I had taken to become a coach, […]

Creating Partnerships in Uncomfortable Situations as an Instructional Coach

Creating Partnerships in Uncomfortable Situations as an Instructional Coach

As a coach, there comes a time when you are asked to work with a teacher who has not been one of the ones banging down your office door. This situation can cause feelings of discomfort for you and the teacher. Sometimes it is not […]

12 Reasons to use a Web-Based Assessment Platform

12 Reasons to use a Web-Based Assessment Platform

Moving to a web-based assessment platform can be daunting. The hype is real. Here are twelve reasons it is totally worth it (and a couple of reasons to be cautious).

  1. Collaboration- It is possible to collaborate with teachers from all over the world with a web-based assessment platform. A common platform among teammates makes collaborating to create assessments easy, fast, and painless. These systems are typically designed with collaboration features and allow teachers to determine the privacy level of the assessments they create. Often, a teacher can copy and use existing assessments at the click of a button.
  2. Creating questions- Writing questions is an enormous undertaking. Finding questions can be equally difficult. A web-based assessment platform provides a bank of ready-to-use items from which to choose. Many platforms also provide tools for miscue analysis so the teacher can determine why students are struggling by examining the distractor answer choices. Technology-enhanced and performance-based question options are often available. If a teacher finds that existing questions do not meet their exact needs, platforms typically include options for adding questions.
  3. Formatting- Test formatting can be a huge hassle. It is frustrating when an assessment looks sloppy. It is important to get the order and placement of questions correct. Web-based platforms guarantee a consistent format free of errors. In addition, a couple of quick clicks allows the teacher to customize the order and type of questions.
  4. Aligning to standards- Whether we like it or not, state standards exist and have to be met. Ensuring assessments are aligned can be difficult and time-consuming. Web-based assessment platforms are often searchable by the standard. Existing questions are often already tagged with the corresponding standard and additional tags can sometimes be added. Finally, these platforms provide an easy mechanism to track how each standard is assessed and how students perform.
  5. Ensuring adequate rigor- Reaching higher levels of rigor with a higher DOK in selected response questions can be especially difficult. Some web-based assessment platforms provide a DOK for each question. In addition, the length and type of questions within each assessment can be tracked over time.
  6. Managing paper- A web-based assessment platform can remove the need to constantly make and keep track of mountains of paper. Though not every school or classroom has constant access to computers, most have at least some planned access that can be used intermittently. In addition, the master of the test is electronic and easy to store.
  7. Differentiating- Students come to us at different levels. It is our job to ensure we provide them with appropriate support for them to be successful. Web-based assessment platforms make differentiation simple. Often, there are features available to the teacher can select readability features such as print size, language translation, dictionary definitions, oral reading of questions and passages etc. Some systems allow a teacher to create unique settings for individuals or small groups. We have so many options that require significant work to develop independently.
  8. Grading- Most web-based assessment platforms auto-grade assessments. The tests are graded immediately upon completion. The teacher has options to set for what to accept as correct answers. Some systems provide opportunities to provide hints or explanations for students. In addition, web-based assessment platforms have easy-to-use technology-enhanced and performance-based question options. These questions often have to be graded by the teacher, but this can be done easily and scores are automatically added to the student’s total score.
  9. Data Analysis- Typically, web-based assessment platforms provide both real-time and post-assessment analytics. Analytics include an overview of how groups of students performed on an assessment as well as how individual students performed. Many platforms can also track performance by standard and performance over time. Some programs offer additional features such as how long students spend on a question or miscue analysis for distractors.
  10. Student Feedback- Web-based assessment platforms generally have a student view where students can look at their performance. But students aren’t known for their proactive desire to investigate their grades. Teachers can connect web-based assessment platforms to LMS systems and sites such as Google Classroom. In addition, teachers can write specific feedback to individual students that is immediately emailed to the student. Some platforms allow a rubric to be added to the assessment that students can see as they work. Some allow teachers to create a bank of comments they can reuse regularly. Almost all allow for comments and point adjustments on specific questions for individual students.
  11. Communication- Communication with other stakeholders is also important for classroom teachers. Web-based assessment platforms often include a mechanism for sharing results with parents/guardians. In addition, other teachers, administrators, instructional coaches etc. can be given immediate access to results and thus feel fully informed about how students are progressing.
  12. Assessment Validity- There are several ways that web-based assessment platforms improve the ability to validate assessments as reliable indicators of student mastery. First, teachers across a broad range of classrooms and schools can use the same assessment and compare results. Second, the analytics of such platforms provide information about performance in a number of ways that make it easy to identify problematic questions. Third, the same assessment can be used over multiple terms, using features to randomly sort test questions or answers to prevent cheating, and therefore provide longitudinal evidence that assessments are valid measures of achievement. Finally, many web-based platforms certify high-quality questions and question sets as valid and reliable measures.

Despite these many advantages, there are some caveats to moving to a web-based assessment platform worth considering and planning for if a platform is adopted.

  • Technology is complicated. Web-based assessment platforms, even those designed to be user-friendly, require training and comfort with computers. It is also important to note that internet and computer access is unreliable in some school districts. A district without a strong technology support system and infrastructure.
  • Cheating is a real potential problem that will need to be addressed. Some platforms have measures built into them to handle potential cheating, but many do not.
  • Teachers are often intensely resistant to making their work and their students’ performance public as they fear the consequences of both success and failure. Too often, teachers are made to feel inadequate because of differences in relative student performance. Creating a culture that addresses teacher concerns and establishes a positive culture of continuous improvement.
  • Cost can also be a worthwhile consideration. Many web-based assessment platforms are expensive. Others are low cost, freemium, or quite costly. It is important to conduct in-depth research to ensure a platform meets the needs of the school or district and will play well with other district products.

Moving a school or district to a web-based assessment platform is a big decision. I believe the pros outweigh the cons.

[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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The Hidden Secret to Success With Instructional Coaching

The Hidden Secret to Success With Instructional Coaching

Originally posted on The Educator’s Room

By Terri Froiland

In my six years as an instructional coach, I have been fortunate to have been given a great deal of professional development in a variety of coaching models, from invitational coaching to transformational coaching.  As I have been trained in various models, I have worked hard to adapt and learn the new lingo.  However, regardless of the model, one secret to coaching success never changes: It all starts with building relationships.  In order for educators to truly benefit from working with an instructional coach, they need to trust that they are actually there to support them.

It all starts with building relationship Click To Tweet

Here are some ways to build those relationships:

Find an entry point to help. Once I was coaching in a school that was adding a bilingual program.  Sadly, I am not bilingual but still felt like I had something to offer to those teachers.  I was shocked when I went room to room introducing myself the first day and a teacher told me I was not welcome in her room since I do not speak Spanish.  Rather than arguing with her, I bided my time.  Two weeks later, some new classroom furniture arrived for her and I offered to unpack and assemble it for her.  That investment in her, though far from my coaching job description, got my foot in the door and helped us to develop a great connection.

Be trustworthy. A teacher’s time is so precious.  If you schedule a coaching session with an educator, show up.  If there are extenuating circumstances and you just can’t make it, notify them as soon as possible and offer to make it up to them in some way…reschedule at their preferred time, bring them chocolate, whatever it takes!

Listen all the time. Everyone appreciates feeling listened to, so ask lots of reflective questions and listen carefully to their responses.  Not only will you build rapport, but you will learn so much about how to best support each educator in this manner.

Praise whenever possible. Every conversation you have with a teacher should include some praise.  It’s comparable to teachers conferring with students; starting by sharing something positive you noticed gets everyone off on the right foot and feeling more open to some constructive advice.

Cycle your support. Be aware of the school-year cycle for new teachers, which is also pretty applicable for veteran teachers in my experience.  In addition to listening to your teachers and being responsive, this cycle can help you be proactive with your support when they need it most.California New Teacher Project, published by the California Department of Education (CDE), 1990.

Bring food to all meetings. Treats are the way to every teacher’s heart.  I accidentally forgot to show up for a meeting earlier this year.  I felt so badly about it and knew that the inconvenience it caused required more than a mere apology, so, when I rescheduled, I offered to buy sub sandwiches for our next lunch meeting.  The teachers truly appreciate it and there were no hard feelings because of my gesture.  That was a fairly grand treat…don’t forget the power of a little bit of chocolate!

Have you ever worked with an Instructional Coach? If so, did it help your practice?

Just Because You’ve Left the Classroom Doesn’t Mean You’re An Instructional Coach

Just Because You’ve Left the Classroom Doesn’t Mean You’re An Instructional Coach

We’ve all heard it before. “I left the classroom in May and in the Fall, I’ll be operating as a Behavior Specialist/Instructional Coach.” Or “Hey, I’m actually an Assistant Principal, but I function as an Instructional Coach”.  Or the real “doozy”- My principal took away […]