Are you a principal looking for a New Year’s resolution that will improve teaching and learning in your school? Make 2015 the year of real-time coaching! Read about the benefits of providing immediate feedback to teachers here, and use the tips below to get started!
1. Prepare Teachers: Real-time coaching is not a familiar experience for most teachers. Even new teachers — who should expect (and crave!) guidance — may be uncomfortable with a principal or coach interrupting their lessons. It is important to prepare teachers for real-time coaching before they experience it. I prepare teachers by reviewing the common types of real-time coaching they will experience in their classroom (see chart below). Sometimes, I lead teachbacks (practice lessons) during staff or individual meetings. During teachbacks, teachers deliver a five-minute segment of their lesson. As they practice, I coach them in the moment – not only to give them feedback, but also to familiarize them with the process and “feel” of real-time coaching. That way, there are no surprises once the scholars arrive!
2. Focus on Execution: Real-time coaching should focus on execution skills, such as clarity, questioning, pacing, and giving directions. Coaching in the moment cannot fix problems rooted in lesson planning; these problems should be addressed in planning meetings. Leaders need to sort their observations accordingly. If leaders try to real-time coach around planning skills, teachers will find the process frustrating, because improvement will not be authentic or lasting. Conversely, if leaders successfully align real-time coaching to execution skills, teachers will see fast improvement in their practice and value the process.
3. Minimize Leader Voice: Real-time coaching can be a ton of fun for leaders — especially those who miss their days in the classroom. This enthusiasm is great, but it can cause leaders to talk too much. Leaders should always look to maximize teacher practice time (the same way that teachers look to maximize scholar work time!). Leaders should not model, and co-lead lessons throughout the day. Modeling and co-teaching should only occur for teachers who need high levels of support. Leaders should rely mostly on strategic and targeted whisper-ins, which accelerate teacher growth by maximizing teacher practice — rather than leader airtime.