Participation in Coaching Cycles

I recently received the following comment:

Thank you! I visited your blog and have started following you as I found your coaching entries interesting! We are trying to figure out what our coaching model will look like and after listening to Jim Knight last week, your post makes a lot of sense. How does your district, or department, decide who will be in your coaching cycle? We are attempting to solidify our own priority pool and would love to hear how others are making it work! Thank you!

The short answer is coaching cycles are voluntary and offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Here is a longer answer:

Early in the year at a staff meeting, I always re-introduce the concept of coaching.  I briefly discuss the purpose of a coach and how coaching typically looks in the classroom.  Our school has had a literacy coach in the building for at least eight years, so coaching is not a new concept to most of our staff.  After a brief review, I offer each literacy teacher a sign-up slip.  They must complete the slip right there at the staff meeting, either volunteering for a coaching cycle or respectfully declining at this time.  I ask them to make their choice and hand me the sheet on their way out the door.  This adds a small amount of pressure and insures 100% completion.  This year, the slip looked like this:

Coaching Cycle Sign-Up Slip

Coaching Cycle Sign-Up Slip

This usually provides me with at least enough participants to begin a first round of coaching cycles.  Since coaching is offered first come, first serve, I save the “yes” slips which don’t get chosen.  These will eventually become my second (or third) round participants.

In the past, I have left flyers in staff mailboxes when I know I’m coming up to another round of cycles:

Top Ten


I also keep an ongoing list on my Google Drive of every coaching opportunity that arises during the year.  At a staff meeting, during a study group, or even in the copy room…if a teacher approaches me with a question or a comment about anything literacy related, I add it to my list.  If I am ever looking for coaching opportunities, I will use this list as a conversation-starter and to get my foot in the door.

Although I am always encouraging participation, sign-up itself is completely voluntary.



Starting ANew (And Some Secrets)

I just started my second round of coaching cycles.  This first week is about getting to know the kids and getting comfortable in each classroom.  To start on solid ground, I want to make sure I have the following established with each teacher:

  • our focus for the cycle
  • data to pre-assess
  • understanding of how we will interact together

Cycle #1: 2nd grade (veteran teacher)

Focus: A Writing Fiction Unit
Pre-Assessment: We will use their first attempt at a fictional book along with the rubric attached to the writing unit.
Working Together: We will decide each week during our weekly planning time.  Right now, I am teaching.

A secret: This teacher is hard for me to read.  She does not show disappointment or excitement about our work.  This is making me anxious in her room.

Cycle #2: 4th grade (veteran teacher)

Focus: To hone her conferring skills
Pre-Assessment: Her own observations and self-reflection.  She “already feels better” after 3 lessons.
Working Together: We are conferring side-by-side.  So far, she has been starting the conference, and I’ve been coaching her through.  We are sort of co-conferring.

A secret: This teacher is a DREAM to work with.  She is so dedicated to her job, so smart, and so self-reflective.  If I could coach in her room all day, every day, I would.

Cycle #3: Primary Special Ed Self-Contained (veteran teacher but new to our district)

Focus: To move her beginning writers forward
Pre-Assessment: We are using this handy chart to identify where each writer is and what the next steps might be for each child.
Working Together: Co-teaching

A secret: These kids worry me.  Their behaviors interfere with the teaching of writing, and I am not really sure how to handle them.  I worry that I do not have the knowledge necessary to coach this teacher.

Cycle #4: Kindergarten (veteran teacher)

Focus: A True Stories Writing Unit
Pre-Assessment: A prior writing sample and the rubric attached to the writing unit.
Working Together: I am teaching.

A secret: A secondary goal (unbeknownst to the teacher) is to convince her to release some control and give the kids some freedom during writing workshop.

We are just ending our first week together.  I will need to spend some time this weekend reflecting and planning for next week in each of these classrooms.  Although it sure is getting hard to concentrate with NCTE 2014 approaching!

EdCamp Tidbits

I attended the EdCamp Chicago “unconference” this past weekend.  It was my first time going to an EdCamp, and I am so glad I went.  The last session I participated in was for instructional coaches, and I wanted to share two quick and easy tidbits for coaches.

First, we discussed the importance of coaches being visible in their schools.  One of the participants noted that even when coaches are out of the office and working in classrooms, they are technically still not visible.  Very often, the only person who sees the coach during those times is the classroom teacher.  I’ve always posted my weekly schedule outside my office door:


Click image to enlarge.

However, one of the coaches at EdCamp suggested hanging a white board on the office door with a message stating your whereabouts.   This is one way to increase your “visibility” as a coach:


The second tidbit straight from EdCamp (and this is really exciting!) is that we created a new Twitter hashtag for coaches to use.  It is#IlEdCoach.  Add this hashtag to your TweetDeck to stay up to date on coaching conversations!


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