Creating a Coaching Support Plan: Part Five of the Start-Up Guide Series

These five questions help you create an instructional coaching plan that will support all of your classrooms in school-wide goals as well as personalized professional development. Consider your schedule, the kinds of support you're already planning, and how to differentiate learning for your elementary teachers to build a model that works for you and your school! If you’ve been following this series from the beginning, you’re just about all set. You’ve set goals, your space is ready. You’re organized and you‘ve planned some awesome back-to-school training.

Bring it on, school year!

Now you just have one thing to figure out: How will you support teacher growth and student success all year long?

Yup. This one’s the biggie. Your room can be gorgeous, your binders labeled lovingly. Your training can be engaging, challenging, and fun. And then the school year begins, and every single person on your campus can go into their rooms, shut their doors, and you have 40 islands instead of an aligned team. 
Your role as an instructional coach is to provide ongoing support to teachers in order to move your campus towards the campus goals. To do this, you’re going to want to consider the kinds of support you will provide to teachers throughout the year.

Before you consider the questions below, you might want to take a look at my post about Structures for Instructional Coaching. Information about year-long coaching support models can also be found in my new ebook, The Start-Up Guide for Instructional Coaches.

To decide what kinds of support will work best for your goals and your faculty, you’ll want to consider the following questions:
1. What structures does your administration already have in place?
Different types of administrators have different support systems already in place. For example, at some schools, there are 90-minute PLCs every week for every grade levels. Other schools have it every other week. I worked at a school where the PLC was 90 minutes, once a month. 45 minutes were taken up with training and the remaining 45 minutes were left to us for planning. So obviously, our planning was done elsewhere.
At my current school, we have a 90-minute PLC every week. Each grade level meets with either me or the Math/Science coach, and they put together plans for the next two weeks. Last year, our PLC was at the end of the day, so we had a little extra time. We included a short minilesson (article, modeled lesson, activity) that the teachers could use in their teaching at the beginning of each PLC. 
We also have weekly Learning Thursday meetings after school. We provide one hour of training. Sometimes it’s the whole faculty. Sometimes the math/science coach takes half (or some) of the grade levels, and I take the rest. Sometimes we do a book study with small groups. Sometimes we do state- and district-required testing trainings. These systems were in place when I started there, so that’s what we work with. It’s actually a good chunk of time to work with teachers at the whole group level and at the grade level.

2. What time frames are available to you for provide support?
If teachers tutor every day after school, that time is out. So a book study scheduled at 3:00 on Tuesdays probably won’t have a very good turnout! If teachers are overburdened with tons of clerical and administrative stuff to do (so… all teachers everywhere, it seems!), then conference times are going to be precious.
The biggest idea here: Don’t waste teacher time. It’s precious. That being said, part of being a great teacher is learning. Somewhere there has to be a balance of supporting teacher learning while providing them the time they need to do their job. Anything you give them needs to be the best, because it takes up their time. It needs to be important and useful.

 3. What's the best way to support the goals your campus is working on?

Think back to your instructional goals for the year. Are they broad, sweeping, campus-wide initiatives like STEAM, STEM, or Whole Brain? Things that will impact every teacher and require change from every teacher? Then you’ll probably be best off rolling out a campus-wide training with follow-up trainings throughout the year. In addition to this, you’ll want to check in on the classrooms through instructional rounds. Perhaps you’ll involve the teachers, too and have grade levels visit each other to see how the initiative is going and what they can learn from each other.

If the campus goals are differentiated across grade levels, you’ll want to differentiate the support they receive. Providing a training designed for fourth and fifth to the entire campus is a waste of their time, and the #1 goal of providing teachers with support is not wasting their time. This kind of initiative, such as better understanding the reading standards, or incorporating word work practices into read aloud, is probably best done in a small group setting. Model the lessons, read the related articles, have teachers share strategies and explore the materials within their grade levels or a small span of grade levels, such as K-1.
4. Which teachers need individual support?

Individual teachers need support, too. This is not a comment on “weak” or “strong” teachers. Rather, it’s about teachers working through their own learning curve at different places in their teaching careers. Working with whole groups can raise the tide that lifts all boats, but individual teachers need differentiated support depending on their individual needs.

For example, if your entire school is working on Writer’s Workshop, and 90% of the school-wide support is going to be based around this initiative, you won’t be supporting the teachers who are struggling with classroom management or guided reading. This requires 1:1 support, such as coaching conversations, recommending of books, or sharing of resources. Take the teacher on tour to visit other teachers and see how things are working for them! Encourage the collaboration.

5. How will you evaluate the outcome of your support?
After you’ve done some trainings and some modeling, it’s time to take a look and see: How’s it going? Think about how you’ll evaluate how things are going and what adjustments you’ll need to make.

There are two ways to check in:

One way I’ve done this is by making a sweeping walk-through.
These aren’t formal. Obviously, I’m not administration; I’m support staff. So what I do is go into all the affected classrooms and look for the implementation of the initiatives that we are working on. It’s not punitive, and it’s not a “gotcha”. The purpose is to look at the progress towards the initiative and decide if the support you’re providing is actually supporting teachers in moving towards the initiative. The issues with this are: you might not always see what’s really going on. It’s hard to know what really happens on a day-to-day basis.
Another way is to get teacher feedback.
A survey is a handy way to see what people think. The issues with this are: sometimes people aren’t honest (for 100 different reasons), and sometimes you’re just not speaking the same language. That’s something else I address in my new ebook!
Once you’ve checked in to see how it’s going, you can recalculate (my GPS’s favorite thing to say) and make adjustments to your support!
So now you’re ready! You’re all set! You are prepared to get started this school year and to be an incredible instructional coach!
For more information, ideas, and thoughts on instructional coaching, check out my new ebook: The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching. It’s what I learned from my first four years as an instructional coach.

And be sure to check out the rest of the posts in the series:

  Want a free download to get you started? Get into those classrooms and make a difference!

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  1. LOVEEEEEEEEEEEE your blog, and coaching manual. And this past week I bought your megapack! Your blog has been HUGE in me getting setup for this year.

    So we have 50 minute PLCs the first, second, and third Wednesday of the month. Then on the first Thurs 4 & 5 have a 5.5 hour PD, the second Thursday is 2 & 3, and then the third is K & 1. Then on the fourth Wednesday for all months except Dec, April and May, we have a half day where they get three more hours. We are on the list of schools in need, hence the love. So my admin and other coach have decided we will give them WHATEVER they need to be successful.

    So I made a monthly theme as a skeleton. Then I listed every day I have to do a PD. All the Wednesday early releases will be half PD and other half common planning. The Thursdays will be 2.5 hours training, lunch and then two hour common planning. Because though the teams have common plannings, teachers want to grade, make copies, phone calls, etc. This leaves me open Tuesdays, Mondays, and Fridays to support in classrooms. And my admin is fully supportive of that. I am super excited for this new adventure. And I have your blog on my favorites bar to constantly check for updates!

  2. It sounds like you've got a great plan set up! Lots of PD support for teachers and lots of opportunities to follow up on it in classrooms. Awesome! Have fun and I hope this year goes well!

  3. Instructional coach is a new position at my school and this is my first year as a coach so I am looking forward to working with my principal to flesh out exactly what this will look like at our school.

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