This post was updated and revised in December 2019 – please go here to read: https://dianesweeney.com/coaching-cycles-getting-to-60-percent/
Getting to 60% (PART III OF III)
In this blog series, we have addressed the importance of coaching cycles as a method to increase our impact on student and teacher learning. We also surfaced common barriers to getting traction with coaching cycles. In this post, we will focus on scheduling coaching cycles.
Coaching cycles are effective when they are engaging and meaningful for teachers. We avoid assigning teachers to participate based on their level of performance, tenure, or ability. Assigning coaching cycles is harmful because the coach may be viewed as a tool for remediation, rather than as a partner.
We’d rather build from a more positive and asset-based perspective. To do so, we provide teachers with choice and ownership in how they engage in coaching. As Daniel Pink suggests in his book Drive, “Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” We need to put teachers in the driver’s seat if our goal is to create coaching cycles that move learning forward.
Step 1: Divide the School Year into Four Rounds
Each round is a window of time in which coaching cycles are offered to teachers. Typically, coaches refer to their curriculum and assessment calendar to determine when their rounds will begin and end. Many coaches wait to begin their first round until teachers have settled in to the school year. Others are sure to include some space between rounds so that they can reflect, recruit a new group of teachers, and manage other necessary duties.
Step 2: Determine How Many Coaching Cycles You Can Handle in Each Round
The amount of cycles will vary based upon the duties that have been assigned to the coach. The upper limit for many coaches is four cycles during a round. If the coach is in two schools, than this would be two coaching cycles in each school. It is also possible that the coach will include more than one teacher in a cycle. In this case, the number of cycles a coach can handle may decrease. The following sample schedule includes four coaching cycles, a few that are individual, one that is a group, and one that is a pair of teachers.
Sample Schedule for Coaching Cycles
Step 3: Invite Teachers to Participate
A few weeks before a new round begins, an invitation goes out to teachers to encourage them to join in. Here’s an invitation that was created using S’more, an online newsletter. If a coach notices that certain teachers aren’t participating, a gentle nudge of encouragement may be delivered by the principal. It is also a good idea to ask teachers to provide testimonials about their own experiences. This may be just what a hesitant teacher needs to become involved.
Step 4: Dive into the Coaching Cycles
We recommend for coaches to create a brand-new schedule at the beginning of each round. This allows adjustments to be made as the school year progresses. Making the schedule public creates more definition around the role of the coach. If the coach’s schedule is vague, changes all the time, or consists of drive-by-coaching, than teachers will not know how (or why) they should engage.
You have probably heard the management principle introduced by Steven Covey where he compares our priorities to ‘big rocks’ and suggests that we organize our time with the big rocks in mind. He writes, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” For a coach, this means we have to determine which actions will have the most potential to make the desired impact and fill our calendar with those big rocks before we allow ourselves to be made busy with trivial matters.
I hope this blog series has inspired you to design your coaching work in a way that points squarely at increased student and teacher learning. Please share your comments so we can continue the conversation.
© Diane Sweeney, All Rights Reserved.