How to Set Yourself up for a Successful Year: 11 Coaches Share their Top Tips

I’m so excited.

Because today I have a fun little surprise gift to share with you!

This past summer I reached out to some of my favorite coaches, and asked them the following question:

What is your #1 tip for preparing for a successful year as an instructional coach?

And here are all of their thoughtful answers, full of wisdom and experience. Enjoy! This is going to be good.

Elena Aguilar

Sought after presenter, transformational leadership coach, and consultant
ElenaAguilar.com | edutopia.org/users/elena-aguilar

Get clear on your personal and professional hopes, dreams, and goals for the year: What do you really hope to be able to say about the year next June, when you’re heading out for summer? What would be an indicator that you’d had a great year? How do you want your colleagues, coachees, and supervisors to experience you–what would you like them to say about you? And then map this goal on to what the children you serve need you to be and need you to do. Let their needs inform your dreams, hopes and goals for the year.


Michelle Te Grootenhuis

K-8 Literacy Instructional Coach
Twitter: @MrsTG | Blog: mrstg.edublogs.org

My #1 tip for preparing for a successful year as an instructional coach is to seek out or form a group of coaches, a “cohort”, OUTSIDE of your school and/or district.  Such a group will provide you with a safe environment to share joys and insecurities, a place to learn (your own PLC group of sorts) and get ideas from neighboring schools, and a chance for some quality “drive time”.

First of all, especially if you are a first-year coach, you really need a support group. You have walked away from the comfort of your classroom and chances are you really don’t fully understand your new role.  A coaching cohort will provide you with a safe place to share those insecurities, but also a place to be reassured as others share their joys as well.  If you are lucky enough to have a group with mixed levels of experience, your colleagues will be able to reassure you. Trust me, they felt the same apprehension during their first few days and weeks until they got into a groove. I was certainly blessed with wisdom from coaches that had been in the role for three years within my group.

Secondly, this coaching cohort will become your own professional learning community (PLC) of sorts. While you might not dive into data like a traditional PLC group would, you will certainly share what is working in your schools.  Sharing roles and duties as coaches, curriculum resources, and instructional methods are all part of being in the cohort.  This is a great way for new coaches to contribute to the group as EVERYONE has something positive to share from their schools/districts.

And chances are you will be TRAVELING to meet with your group. Believe it or not, that drive time is absolutely one of the biggest benefits! My first year my two fellow new coaches and I drove 45 minutes one way to attend cohort meetings set up by our local state education agency.  That time together was probably the BEST part of those meetings as we were able to use that time to talk about joys, insecurities, and then on the way home, ideas gleaned from the meetings.  My second year, I traveled just 10 minutes down the road to a local group that would meet during a “working lunch” 90-minute block of time.  That 10 minute drive time was good for me to think through what I had accomplished so far, what I needed to get done yet that day/week, and then ponder ideas gleaned from the meeting.  Drive time is like built-in reflection time, something we don’t get enough of as educators.

So, if you have access to such a group, make sure to JOIN it.  If not, do what a few local coaches did my second year, take that bull by the horn, reach out to neighboring schools or districts and form your own “Coaching Cohort”.  It will be one of the best things you can do to take care of your own professional learning and personal well-being as a new instructional coach!


Gretchen Schultek

Educator and Consultant
AlwaysaLesson.com

My number one tip for preparing for a successful school year as an instructional coach is to organize all of your resources into a binder. By having all of your important documents in one place, it makes it easy to reference when needed as well as light enough to grab on the go! A coaching binder will grow as the year progresses, but there are a few documents you can include in it from the beginning. For example, curricular standards, teacher roster, school building map with classroom locations, master schedule, etc. As you meet with teachers throughout the year, you will want to add sections for observations or meeting notes, feedback slips, debrief discussion prompts, data collection tools, rubrics, lesson plan formats, guides, visuals, etc. This binder will become your “bible” as you learn the ropes as an instructional coach. Don’t be afraid to make it yours and revamp and reorganize as often as necessary. Best of luck on a successful year as an instructional coach!


Stacie Giesecke

3rd Year Instructional Coach, Pleasant Valley High School, Bettendorf, Iowa

Online Instructor: isea.org and aeapdonline.org | Advancing Educators (Classes offered for re-certification and salary advancement)

It’s so hard for me to come up with just ONE tip to start the year! As I start year 3 as an instructional coach (I’m in my 3rd year – previous experience of 20 years in Special Education), I think that it’s important to have a positive attitude and open mind. Teachers are super overwhelmed at the start of a new year. So many things to get ready and set up, they have little time to think about themselves and what they truly want to work on as a professional. I like to make sure I have read up on all the books I have stacked up (still have a lot to do in this area!!!), gather my resources from any conferences/trainings I attended over the summer (went to an amazing conference and am so excited to continue networking), and remember the little things (coffee, candy, and positive notes)!

Teachers like that we remember them, appreciate them and all they do for kids, and are truly there for them to help them develop as a professional AND help increase student achievement.

I always keep it real. I am learning with the teachers and love doing it. Hope this helps you all kick off a great school year!


David Voves

Instructional Coach, Charles City, Iowa

My #1 tip for preparing for a successful school year is being organized.  Organization is such a simple thought, but one that can consume so much time throughout the year.  The Time & To-Do Planner truly helps me accomplish my organizational goal.  Key elements of organization include planning for professional learning, collaboration and coaching cycle planning, and my individual career development plan.

Professional learning not only includes summer opportunities, but also researching and registering for professional learning throughout the upcoming year.  Finding the best possible-learning opportunities to make me a more efficient and comprehensive coach takes time and planning.  In addition, I use the summer months to invite teachers to attend these opportunities with me to spark greater collaboration throughout the year.  By pre-selecting these opportunities earlier than later, early-bird fees often apply and it helps ensure that sub requests can be granted for teachers early.  From a coaching standpoint, it also allows me to prepare for days in which I will be unavailable to support in-district teachers.

Planning and preparing for future upcoming coaching cycles also helps ensure organization.  By gathering preliminary collaboration requests for this upcoming year this past May, I have been able to have conversations with teachers about their goals for our upcoming learning.  Goals have allowed me to research associated instructional strategies and find additional curriculum and technology resources.  I’ve also been able to create a preliminary calendar for this year, which organizes cycles, and allows me to communicate my availability for additional collaboration.

Good luck!


Deborah Meister

Instructional Coach at Lighthouse Community Charter School, Oakland, California
DeborahMeisterCoaching.com

Take time to ask the right questions — deeper questions, when setting or revisiting goals with a client. As I completed my end-of-year reports and reflection with my coaching team in June, it became clear to me the difference in how coaching had impacted folks based, at least in part, in how intentionally I had held the goal-setting process. In “The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever”, Michael Bungay Stanier talks about what he calls the focus question, which I have found particularly helpful: “What’s the REAL challenge here for you?” Whether I ask that precise question or simply work from the intent behind it, it nudges my coachee and I to pause, look beyond what comes up first, and dig deeper as we consider the focus of our work together towards meaningful outcomes. It keeps us from rushing into committing to the wrong goals, and it leads to a work plan that the teacher is more likely to be invested in co-creating, implementing, and refining. Slowing down at the beginning goes contrary to everything in my nature for the beginning of a school year, which is to want to jump right in and implement systems! But it’s so worth it for me, the teachers I support, and their students to take the time to uncover what’s really core.


Amanda Meachem

Secondary Instructional Math Coach, Pickerington Local School District, Pickerington, Ohio
Twitter: @pickmathcoach

So, my #1 tip (ok, maybe my top 3 tips) on how to prepare for a successful year as an instructional coach is to organize, prioritize, communicate!

Being organized will be a life saver when you’re in high demand.  Whether it’s on a Google Doc or in a binder, I suggest organizing each teacher’s schedule and room number, contact logs to document conversations and coaching, and materials specific to each teacher’s needs. Keeping a tidy work/office space will make it easy and is welcoming for teachers to come talk and spread out materials.

Prioritizing your work for the start of the year is essential.  Although this can change as the year unfolds, having a plan of attack and a general timeline will give structure to your role. Being aware of your building and district goals is crucial and will help focus your work. Some teachers will be excited to work with you, so make them a priority by tapping into their excitement.

Communicate, communicate, communicate! It’s easy to get caught up in emails and meetings especially when you serve a lot of teachers in multiple buildings, but get out there! Chat with teachers in the hall between class change, eat lunch in the teachers’  lounge, attend social gatherings, etc.Ask teachers where they need support so your efforts and feedback are targeted, and I recommend asking teachers what they want as well.  This can go a long way in helping you connect with a teacher…never a bad thing when building relationships! Talk with your administrators, department chairperson, and special education coordinator so the messages you communicate are consistent.  Be accessible and share your daily schedule with those depending on you.  I’d also suggest creating a “Pineapple (Welcome) Board” for teachers to invite others to observe the awesome things they’re trying; it’s a great way to get teachers talking about teaching and learning!


Kimberly Wakefield

Instructional Coach
Twitter: @kim_wakefield  | KimberlyWakefield.com

As an instructional coach for a K-5 elementary school, the number one tip I have about gearing up for a new school year is to ensure that I am building trusting relationships with our staff, and the number one way to do that is to communicate and stay organized!  In order to communicate, I must have all of my responsibilities coordinated. This consists of lots of planning (using my Time & ToDoPlanner really helps with this!) I sit down with different colored pens and iron out the calendar for the year. First looking at benchmark dates so I can mark off weeks in my calendar the few times each year when I will not be accessible to classrooms because I am responsible for facilitating our team to complete all of our benchmark assessments.  Next, I look at how long it will take me to get all of our instructional groups up and running in accordance with completion of benchmark assessments and data team meetings. Once I have the date down for when I can start coaching cycles, I mark in my planner when letters need to go out to the staff, how long I can run each cycle and organize the request survey to send to staff. Typically, I can run four, 6 to 8 week cycles per year. After I have all of that recorded and grouping in my planner, I can then sit down and draft out an email to the staff of all specifics going on for the year, which really helps with those relationships. I share when my cycles will start, when to expect our team for benchmark assessments and how I can learn along side them with our professional development focus for our school.

Once the communication piece is in place, organizing our instructional support room comes next! I house a lot of materials that teachers need and use throughout the school year, from professional books and teaching resources to assessments and supplies! In order to be ready for teacher requests, I must have everything organized and ready before school starts.  This means many hours of unboxing and labeling (which makes my heart happy!) Also, the instructional support room is utilized for many learning groups, so I need to ensure it is ready for kids’ use too!

In conclusion, in order to start the year off right, meeting with our principal to ensure we are on the same page in regards to professional development in the building is critical. This allows me to communicate the best I can to the staff in order to keep those relationships so I can ensure the best possible coaching support in our school.


Lauren Fong

Instructional Coach
thechartchicks.blogspot.com

My #1 tip to prepare for a successful year is to create an organization system that works for you. Then take the time daily, weekly, or monthly to revise your system and stay organized. Keeping track of your schedule, notes from coaching cycles, and other projects can get overwhelming if you are not organized.


Chrissy Beltran

Buzzing with Ms. B Blog

My tip for a successful year of coaching is to start with some goals for campus growth. Think about what areas your teachers would like support in, and how you can help them grow in those areas. Isolate it down to about 4-5 actionable items; things you can actually do to support your teachers. Then, write it down and post it! Throughout the year, when you feel like you’re being pulled in 8 million directions, take a look at your goals and reflect. Is your work reflecting your goals? Do you need to change them? And do you need to adjust the way you’re spending your time in order to accomplish those important items?


Kristin Houser

You know me :)

My #1 tip is this — Listen to these guys! There is a ton of gold offered in these thoughts. Let this be the blog post that you revisit more than a few times, take notes on, and really reflect on how to put any or all of these suggestions into practice this year.

If you set yourself up for success, anything is possible.

And you’re sure to make that happen by taking action on the advice shared here.

A BIG, HUGE thank you to all of the coaches who participated in this post!

Talk to you soon,

Your First 90 Days as a Coach. Let’s Break It Down.

Ready or not…Back to School we go!

I’m not sure about you, but this time of year I always have a million thoughts swirling through my head.

So I decided to put together a list. A list to help guide me (and you!) through the start of a new school year.

All too often with the hecticness that is the beginning of a new year, we can find ourselves doing more scrambling forward rather than steady, purposeful stepping forward.

Don’t get overwhelmed, just take it one steady step at a time, and you’ll find yourself solidly on the path towards accomplishment and success in your work this year as a coach.

This list is by no means all-encompassing, but provides a good foundation for all of us, new and veteran alike, to build on.

Hope this helps set you off on the right foot!

And here are a few additional resources to help you along the way:

The First Few Weeks of School – What Do I Do?!

Getting Started with Instructional Coaching

4 Steps for Creating a Coaching Cycle Schedule

Walk Through a Coaching Cycle Workshop

How to Create a Coaching Schedule (and handle your busy-ness)

3 Keys to Finding the Time for Quality Coaching

The Time & ToDo Planner

Happy Back to School!

Summer Reading List: 6 Books to Get You Movin’ and Groovin’

Hey there! Long time no see.

Sorry I haven’t dropped by with a post in a bit. Busy end of school year filling in for a teacher, lots of work on this year’s planner, and just some down time needed. But, I’ve got a few weeks of summer under my belt and I’m ready to get back to movin’ and groovin’!

Let’s kick things off with a summer reading list shall we?

 

One of my favorite things to do over the summer to keep my saw sharp, is to grab a good book and learn something new.

Focus on Teaching: Using Video for High Impact Instruction

So I’ve been coaching for six years now, and I still haven’t tried out video coaching. I know! Have you?? I’m aware of how much there is to learn from watching yourself on video from all the work I did with my Coaching Workshop, but I haven’t given it a good go in working with teachers. And I think it’ll just be great!

I’ve got “Focus on Teaching” out on the patio with me and I’ve just started digging in. There’s a lot to learn, but who better to guide me than Jim Knight?!

Lead Like a Pirate: Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff

I heard Dave Burgess talk about his book “Teach Like a Pirate” on a Podcast and was immediately hooked by his energy and enthusiasm for teaching. So I grabbed the book, and had a lot of fun reading it. Then I heard about the “Lead Like a Pirate” book coming out in following Beth Houf and knew I wanted to check it out.

I just walked down to the library yesterday with Sombra dog to pick it up, and I’m excited to learn from Beth and Shelly’s approachable writing style. You know how some leadership books are just so dang serious?? This one is totally the opposite of that which I appreciate.

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

I forget where I heard about this one from, but it’s been on my “to read” list for awhile. Just got it a few days ago from Amazon, and I’m so glad I ordered it. It’s all about one of the most important things we do as coaches…asking good questions!! And according to this book, saying less and asking more is what it’s all about. The chapters are broken down by the 7 types of questions to focus on: the Kickstart Question, the AWE Question, the Focus Question, the Foundation Question, the Lazy Question, the Strategic Question, and the Learning Question. Can’t wait!

Taking the Lead: New Roles for Teachers and School-Based Coaches

You know the lesson Don’t Judge a Book by it’s Cover? This book proves this lesson true. Upon first glance, you might perceive this book to be an oldie and not so much of a goodie. But not so!! This book is so good! Tons of real, actionable advice and tips. I started reading it just before school got out, and can’t wait to keep going this summer. I think this is one of those books I’ll read page-by-page, cover-to-cover. That’s when you know you’ve got a worthy book on your hands.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

I’m a big Cal Newport fan. He’s a teacher (professor actually), loves to talk about productivity (yes!), and he has a super popular blog/biz on the side (I’m working on it!). Anyhow, Cal writes some really good books. His first, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” is one of my all time favorites, and his second, “Deep Work” lays the smack down on the how and why of treating your time with some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

I listened to “Deep Work” on audio and loved it so much I bought the book so I could dig back in a little deeper. Building in more time for Deep Work in our schedules is a must if we want to create and contribute great ideas and work to share with others.

Big Little Lies

Because, we can’t forget about the fun stuff!! And this book is so fun. I’ve been staying up late into the night, with this page turner. It’s a murder mystery, but it’s also funny. My sister totally disagrees, but whatever, we can have different opinions. And in MY opinion this is a great summer read to check out! After I finish, I’ll probably binge-watch the first season on Netflix.

So whoop, there it is! Hope you enjoyed this little book list, and have a thought for a book you might grab, and start reading. If there’s one you think should definitely be added to the list, share in the comments below!

Talk to you soon! – promise :)

 

 

Psst – For more reading inspiration, check out these posts. And don’t forget about the Resources Page!

6 Books on My Summer Reading List. And How I Chose Them.

5 New Books to Add to Your Reading List

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