The dreaded “D” word. Data. How do you use your data? And we don’t mean the data you’re thinking about…
We collect data on students all the time: assessment item analyses, student observation, running records, summative assessments, etc. You get the point. We analyze the data, we group students, we use the data targeted to target instruction and close achievement gaps.
What about doing the same for the adults we coach?
Consider the goals of coaching for a minute:
- Making sure teachers use best practices
- Making sure teachers create engaging lessons that reach all learners
- Consider where a teacher is on September 1 and prioritizing needs to get them a few steps closer to becoming a superstar teacher
- Ultimately, as coaches our goal is to CREATE MASTER TEACHERS
Coaching is about building capacity. You are one person, in closing gaps in teaching practice, you are building capacity and creating master teachers that can share the best practices with each other. The better you do your job, the less hands-on you will have to be. That is, the more you go from “guru” to facilitator. It’s about giving a man a fish and feeding him for a day or teaching him how to fish and feeding him for a lifetime. Sustaining change.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could shift from doing all the demos in classrooms, for example, to setting up labs sites, creating mentoring partnerships, and having teachers take ownership and “train” one another? Think about the community you’d be building in the process!
How do you get there? Data! Here are a few ideas for your toolbox:
- Create a folder or binder for every teacher. (We’re fans of color coding: blue for best practices, yellow for reading, you get the idea…)
- Make it a point to visit classes every day. Even if it’s just stopping in to check out the student work on the walls. Be visible, be available to the teachers. (And take notes on your observations.*)
- Speaking of visiting classes…stop in and sit with a group of students for a few minutes or hang out in the back of the room during a mini-lesson. You really can see a lot in a 10 minute visit! (And take notes on your observations.*)
- Ask teachers how you can help them. Do they want to try Socratic Seminars? Are they frustrated because their class is having trouble with a certain math concept? (And take notes.*)
- Check out this handy Data Collection Sheet
*When we say “observations” we don’t mean as an administrator. We just mean take notes about what you saw, heard, or had a conversation about. These notes are just for your reference. When you go back to your office, review your notes and consider how you will support the teacher based on that data and then provide the support. Remember to notate your support and follow-up, too!
The reason for this kind of data collection is three-fold:
- While you have your agenda about what teachers need to work on, teachers may perceive different needs and professional goals. By talking to them about those goals and supporting them, you are not only helping them to become the best teachers they can be, you are also building a relationship with them. Successful coaching is most built on positive relationships.
- You can reflect on these notes and identify what works, what doesn’t, and what else you can try. It’s a paper trail of your coaching. Strategies you’ve used and conversations you’ve had with teachers can help in working with other teachers and cohorts in the future.
- In addition, you are building your own toolbox of coaching strategies. For example, if two teachers present with same problem, you may try a strategy that works with Teacher #1, but not Teacher #2. A different strategy works with Teacher #2. Tuck both strategies away. Next year, when Teacher #3 presents with the same issue, you have two strategies from your toolbox from which to draw.
Remember it’s about sustaining change. It’s not all going to happen at once or even in a semester or necessarily in a school year. Give yourself the grace to realize that it’s about incremental shifts in the right direction. Every step forward is a reason to celebrate.