Sunday, July 10, 2016

Setting Goals as an Instructional Coach: Part One of the Start-Up Guide Series

Starting your year as an instructional coach can be overwhelming. For me, the beginning of the year looks something like this:

1. Present at two days of district training.
2. Attend nine days of district training.
3. Get my room set up.
4. Meet with the Leadership Team.
5. Distribute materials to teachers.
6. Plan campus professional development.
7. Deliver that campus professional development.
8. Do whatever my principal tells me to do.

 Some of these decisions are obviously out of my control. I don't get to choose what the district decides to focus on, for example, and if my principal has some new thoughts to share during Leadership, we're going to roll with it. But the most essential first step, before I do any of those steps above, is setting goals for myself for the school year.

Here are a few things I've learned about setting goals for the school year.

Connect to what's already in place.
A good goal starts with what's already happening and moves it forward a few steps. Instead of throwing something completely foreign at teachers at the beginning of the year, it can help to take stock in what your teachers already do well. 
Maybe they have some strong writing practices in place. You can grow this by working on writing in the content areas. Maybe the shared reading practices are consistent, but need some work. There you go! Work on adding engagement and strategies to shared reading! No matter how amazing the campus is, there is always something that can be done to push it forward.

Usually, the goals I create for myself are based on teacher feedback (a survey we made on SurveyMonkey) from the end of the year, conversations with teachers, and classroom visits. However, you might sometimes find that certain practices need to be completely replaced because they are actually detrimental to student learning. In that case, make sure that you are prepared to address the issues with the current practice through research.  

Consider the impact on student learning. 
A goal is only important if it will have an impact on student learning. Ideally, you want to work towards goals that will support student learning for years to come. We're playing a long game here, folks. No band-aids for us! We want sustainable growth for all of the students who attend our campus and those who are served by our teachers in the future. 

Growing the instructional practices on a campus is your number one responsibility (unless your district or campus admin tells you otherwise!). Choose some essential pieces that will make a real difference in how well students are prepared to embark on their future academic and professional careers! 

In order to ensure that the goals will reach students, you have to have some sort of plan to roll them out. Will teachers plan one lesson a week using the strategies? Will the materials be provided for teachers and discussed during PLC? Will you look for the goals during your classroom visits, or will the principal look for them during her walk-throughs? That's how a goal becomes reality for students. 

As you consider your goals, make them specific enough so that you will know when you've achieved them. It's also important because a broad goal results in floundering! Believe me, I know. Instead of stating that you want to improve reading practices on your campus, choose a specific spot to focus on. Is it shared reading? Read aloud? Guided reading? Independent reading? Reading stations? Homework? That's a big category! Focus on the mode of instruction and the exact strategies you'd like to explore, such as rigor, engagement, etc.

As far as how many specific goals you'd like to focus on, I would say somewhere around 4-5 goals are reasonable, especially if you are differentiating goals for different grade levels. Too many goals means you'll be crazy and unable to focus your support to teachers. Teachers will be crazy, too. Learning takes time and repetition, and if you're all over the place, no one will understand the big picture or the point of what you're trying to accomplish.

When possible, team up!
Great goals include other members of support staff. Consider your colleagues. Can you work with the librarian to create some awesome reading programs in the library? Will the technology coordinator support your goals to integrate technology lessons? Can you work with the math and science coach to facilitate teacher-leader capacity through planning a teacher conference (like we're doing this fall)? You're all support team members: support each other and the teachers effectively by making it a team effort!

Try to add a human goal, too.
Teachers are people, and coaches are, too. Think about a challenge you have in working with a specific colleague or grade level. Do you have trouble relating to a certain person? Do you find yourself anxious at the thought of working with a specific grade level? There's your goal! What can you do to change this situation and become more effective in that area?

These are my goals for 2016-2017.
1. Support teachers' use of mentor texts in narrative and expository writing through planning with an aligned set of materials for each teacher. This happens during PLC. 

2.  Integrate technology seamlessly into our reading and writing planning, rather than planning technology extensions or projects.
3. For grades 2-5, provide training and follow-up to teachers in supporting students in quality responses to reading.

4. For grades K-2, focus training and follow-up support on refining our explicit teaching and modeling practices of reading strategies in read aloud and guided reading.  

5. Focus on building capacity in our teachers. Provide opportunities for them to share strategies, model lessons, visit other classrooms, and lead meetings and professional development.

Obviously, this isn't everything I intend to do next year. There are a hundred smaller initiatives and trainings, meetings and plans that must be done. But these are the big ideas that I will try to achieve through ongoing training and support throughout the year.

Check out the complete set of posts in the Starting the Year as an Instructional Coach Series!

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

But wait - there's more! There's a giveaway! A BIG GIVEAWAY!

One lucky duck will win my Instructional Coaching Start-Up Kit, an over $140 value!

Included in this kit: 
  • Storage box (So pretty)
  • My favorite notebook (Bendable)
  • My favorite calendar (Week-at-a-glance)
  • The best erasable pens out there
  • A mug (Necessary for coaching)
  • A fruit infuser water bottle (Stay hydrated)
  • A welcome banner (It's important to be approachable)
  • Post-it notes, binder clips, and paperclips (Fancy)
  • The Instructional Coaching MegaPack (sent via email)
  • The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching (sent via email)

In addition to this, every week, you'll have the chance to enter a Rafflecopter Giveaway to be one of five people to win a digital giveaway: my new ebook, The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching, and my Instructional Coaching MegaPack Binder! Over $35.00 worth of products!

To enter this contest, follow the rafflecopter directions below: you can tweet, follow me on twitter, follow me on Pinterest, and share on Facebook. In addition to this, you can add one new entry with each blog post that comes out in the Instructional Coaching Start-Up Series, starting with this post today! Every week, on Sunday, you can read my new post and add another entry by commenting on the post (please, just one comment per new post). You can also share each new post on Facebook, every day if you want, and add to your entries!

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  1. I've engaged in goal setting this school year. These pointers are so helpful because they are clear! Thanks!

    1. I'd love to hear about some of your goals for this year!

  2. My first goal this year is to survive! lol

    No really, I want to start my year asking the teachers what they need to focus my trainings.

    1. Great place to start! Surviving is also good :)

  3. I'm going to focus on goal setting and meeting with my teachers on an individual basis this year.


  4. I'm focusing on meeting new people and my new co-coach!

  5. I'm focusing on meeting new people and my new co-coach!

  6. I am nervous about setting these goals as this is my first year as an instructional coach- not only that but this is the first year my school has had an instructional coach. I am transitioning from teacher to coach and I am not sure how it will be received. This tips help me start to wrap my head around it.

    1. Hi! I am a new coach as well. So in my last semester, I took a course on coaching. During that time, I set up a literacy needs survey that I would have used if I was really a coach at the time. But now that I am, I plan on editing it a bit and giving it to the teachers. That I think will help me set my goals based on what the teachers need!

    2. Ashley, the transition is tough, but it can be done! Hope everything goes well for you!

    3. Danalynn, starting with teacher input is a great way to begin!

    4. What type of questions do you generally use for teacher input?

    5. Ashley, I am in the same boat! Good luck to you!

  7. As a seasoned coach, I appreciate the reminders to be specific, set small attainable goals, and collaborate with other coaches. The most powerful approach to coaching I have found is through student-centered coaching-keep the kids at the forefront! Thanks for this post and I look forward to the future ones!

    1. Yup; we support teachers in order to support kids. That's the end game!

  8. Thank you for sharing all of your valuable insight!!! Loving this series of posts!!


  9. Your blog is so helpful! This is my 1st year as an instructional coach and you have given me a lot of guidance. Thank you!!

    1. So glad you find it helpful! Good luck on your first year of coaching!

  10. Love your blog! So many helpful hints!

  11. I love how you set up your room. I wish we had a space like yours for PLC!

  12. I'm focusing on being more focused this year and more driven! I have many goals for myself but I can't wait to talk about goal setting with my kiddos!

  13. Since I am just starting out at a school who hasn't had an instructional coach in a few years, I am focusing on just getting to know the staff and students!

  14. I am looking forward to your posts as I'm starting a new position as an instructional coach this year!

  15. I am looking forward to your posts as I'm starting a new position as an instructional coach this year!

  16. Just found your blog today through Pinterest! Already loving what I am seeing!

  17. Just found your Blog! Thanks for sharing!


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