In the post, Good Coaching Got Me Up a Mountain, I shared the story of how good coaching helped me conquer obstacles on my mountain bike. It was a great reminder of the power coaching.
When I wrote that post, the trails were soft and I was in peak riding shape. Since then, the leaves have turned and we’ve even had a little snow in the high country. Time on my bike has tapered off, so when I recently got a chance to ride, I realized that I was off my game. Fall had brought lots of mud, rutted trails, and downed trees. I was out of shape and faced a whole new set of challenges. I was in need of a new boost of coaching.
This got me thinking. When we are in coaching cycles, the conditions are just right and we learn a lot. But what about a month or two later? The truth is we could all use a check in after a little time has passed. Maybe as coaches, we should plan for that.
As I ponder this, I keep coming back to the word ‘integration’. What I needed was for a coach to help me integrate (or incorporate) the skills I had learned previously with the conditions I was facing now. In much the same way, the conditions teachers face are constantly changing. It might be a new unit, or a different group of kids. Nothing stays the same for long, and integrating new skills is an important way for coaches to provide ongoing support.
At the end of a coaching cycle, it would be easy to pull out our calendars and schedule a time to regroup and check in on how things are going for teachers. In this way we would provide the support that will be needed as conditions change.
Here’s what I would do during a check in of this kind:
- Ask the teacher for an update about how things are going since the coaching cycle ended. Refer to the Results-Based Coaching Tool to add more specificity to the conversation.
- Look at the ‘data’ or student evidence. For example, if the teacher indicates that the students are still struggling with summarizing then look at a few summaries so that you can quickly assess how student learning is taking shape.
- Review the instructional practices that were emphasized during the coaching cycle. Ask the teacher if they have faced any unexpected challenges.
- Provide options for future support. This may include inviting the teacher to join a future coaching cycle, doing some informal planning, or participating in some other form of professional learning.
- Follow through with the support that the teacher needs. Being responsive sends the message that you are still there to help teachers reach their goals.
It’s important that we don’t view these conversations as being about holding teachers accountable. If we take this approach, then teachers will feel like we are judging or evaluating them. What they really need (and deserve) is someone to ask them how it’s going, think with them, and provide options for additional support. This will keep the partnership (and the learning) moving forward.
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