“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The following post is cross-posted to our CoachApproach4Schools Website. A few adaptions have been made here to include a wide range of coaching in schools for administrators, instructional coaches and teachers.
Did you set any New Year’s Resolutions in January? Are you still on track? Many resolutions can be lofty ideas, sometimes unattainable. In fact, according to this Huffington Post article, only 8% of Americans keep New Year’s Resolutions because goals are set too high or developed with an all or nothing mindset.
Developing a Coach Approach mindset (for principals, coaches and teachers alike) is something that happens over time – not all or nothing. It is a mindset of curiosity and humility. It is about repositioning ourselves and our interactions with staff and students to empower and inspire continued growth.
If the concept of coaching in your role is new to you, or even if you you’ve applied coaching techniques to your day-to-day work, there is always room for transformations. But, we don’t need to set lofty goals. Instead, we just need to see the first step. Each step after that is part of the cycle of learning or learning pit as described by James Nottingham in his book The Learning Challenge. Let’s take a look at a coach approach action plan, one that can be used over and over in your journey.
In the instructional coaching world, coaches help teachers determine their current reality. This can come in the form of observing for areas the teachers wants specific data on. It can take the path of looking at current student work in order to determine strengths and challenge area. It can also come in the form of videotaping a lesson so that the teacher can reflect on his/her craft and determine next steps.
We outlined a few data collection tools in The Coach Approach to School Leadership: Leading Teachers to Higher Levels of Effectiveness. (See chapter 3 – Building Successful Coaching Relationships). These tools provide possible ways for you to collect some current reality data on yourself – such as information on your leadership styles, your interactions with teachers and perception data including how you see yourself and others perceive you. These can be used in any role. You can adapt to fit your needs.
Other current reality data could be, but not limited to: How often are you getting into classrooms? (for an instructional coach this may mean how often are you partnering with teachers in coaching cycle components). What type of feedback and reflective dialogue is happening between you and the teachers? How are teachers progressing towards their own goals as a result of your coaching? Is the staff as a whole developing a coaching mindset, one in which peers can coach peers? How is using a coach approach shifting your entire school culture?
We are all in different places in our coach approach journeys. Determine an area you want to collect data on. Go about your regular day, but find a simple way to collect the data so that you can look back in a week or so to analyze for trends.
Collecting current reality data is a bit like stepping on the scale. Sometimes we aren’t going to like what we see. Other times we are going to be thrilled at the changes. Whatever the case, it is an important step in the process.
Set a Goal
Once you have a week or so worth of data find some time to reflect on the data. Whenever I analyze data I use 4 questions I learned several years ago from Dr. Emily Calhoun. I reworded them a little to fit this type of analysis. These can be used when analyzing self-assessment data or student data.
- What do you notice when you look at these data? (just the facts)
- What additional questions do these data generate?
- What do these data indicate you need to work on?
- What do the results and their implications mean for your school/district action plans?
Once you have analyzed your data, pick a small goal – one with quick wins! Remember, if your goal is too lofty, you run the risk of dropping it – just like a grand New Year’s resolution only to be broken in a few weeks.
If you want to increase your coaching interactions with teachers – start small. Think about having a few quality reflective dialogues opposed to conversations with all staff members. If you want to be in classrooms more – set aside a doable time in your calendar, one that you know you can stick with. The key to any goal is quality over quantity. The quantity will come as you become more comfortable with the goal(s) that you have.
Decide on a time frame and a way to measure your progress (see The Action Stage for a few ideas.)
The Action Stage
The action stage is the heart of any cycle of improvement. A goal without a plan is just a wish or dream! Once you have determined your goal, you will need to find ways to put it in action! Remember A.C.T.
A = Actions
C = Change
T = Things
Decide on ways that you will track your progress and remind yourself of your goals. When I am starting a new action, I like to set visual reminders. Here are are few ideas:
- Find motivational quotes that remind you of your goal and put them in plain sight.
- Decide on a visual tracker for your goals such as adding marbles to a jar. (Some have used M&Ms, but I’d end up eating them.)
- Develop some form of moving objects when daily goals are complete such as putting a number of items associated with your goal in your left pocket (like 3 coins or paper clips for 3 coaching conversations) and then move each to your right pocket when complete. (I’ve used 3 simple bracelets on one wrist and moved them during the day. I’ve heard of others using rubber bands.)
- Develop a simple tracker. Note cards or post-it notes work well to record data during the day. These could become your own “data wall” to aid in the analysis. If notes are dated, perhaps you will notice trends on certain days.
- Create a digital tracker. Excel and Google Sheets so you could set formulas to create charts. (I love playing with excel!)
- You could video tape yourself. The program I use is called SIBME (which stands for Seeing is Believing).
It is also important in this stage to set aside some time to reflect along the way – perhaps at the end of each week. You could use the same A.C.T. acronym:
A = What ACTIONS have I completed towards my goals?
C = What CHANGES have I noticed?
T = What THINGS do I need to do next week to get me closer to my desired results?
Reflect & Monitor Progress
Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral, authors of Creating a Culture of Reflective Practice: Capacity-Building for Schoolwide Success, remind us that the more reflective we are, the more effective we are.
Of course, you have been reflecting along the way, but after you’ve had some time to implement your goals take time to look back at where you started (your former current reality data). Has your reality shifted? What changes have been made? What are the effects of those changes for yourself and others? Is this current goal engrained enough into your habits to add a new habit to the mix? Or is it best to continue with the current actions so that you become more comfortable with it and see more effects?
You can use some of the same questions mentioned above such as the 4 question introduced in the current reality section or the A.C.T. questions in the action stage. Feel free to use other reflection questions you’ve used in the past, like ones used in school improvement planning. The key is thinking about the progress you’ve made and the evidence of that progress.
Go Back to Step 1
I wish I could grant you $200.00 as you pass go and start the process again. But, you can reward your own accomplishments or let others know of them with the hashtag #coachapproach or #educoach. We all love to celebrate each other’s wins along the journey.
Now you have a new current reality. What is your next small win? Do you need to step back and collect additional data in order to make that decision? Will you use the data from your previous cycle to set new goals? Forming new habits takes time. Enjoy the process. Take risks and step outside your comfort zone, as that is where the magical transformations take place The coach approach can lead teachers to higher levels of effectiveness.
The H.A.T. acronym at the end of chapter 3 with is a good reminder for your coach approach journey!
H = Humility. Remember: You don’t need to have all the answers. The answers are found within your school. Use data on yourself and around you to inform actions. Include others in the process.
A = Action. Are you walking the talk? Are you modeling stepping out of your own comfort zone? Can you work through the action plan above (or your own format) with a colleague. One way to understand the coaching process, is to be coached (see next section).
T = Trust. Trust the process. Accept where you are right NOW in the journey and understand the power of YET as Carol Dweck reminds us here.
There May be an EVEN Faster Way to YOUR Goals
I set many goals for myself. Over the years I’ve found that when I work with a coach, I reach my goals faster. There is something about having an accountability partner that pushes me beyond the limits I can do myself. I don’t want to let myself down, but I also don’t want to let my accountability partner down. So I push through the challenges.
Finding a coach for yourself can come in many forms. It can be a trusted colleague or friend. Or it can be an outside third party. Enter Virtual Coaching for Instructional Coaches and School Leaders. You can read more about my offerings here. Reach out if this seems of interest. We can set up a free call to determine if virtual coaching is the right fit for you. You can read testimonials from current and past clients on my homepage.
My goal is for you to SHINE!
Here are a few of my favorite books on the topic of school transformation and developing habits.
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What are your favorite school transformation and habit development resources?
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