How to Prep for the Next School Year [5 Actionable Strategies for Instructional Coaches]
Educators nationwide are holding their breath waiting for information about what school will look like in the fall. Some districts are offering both face-to-face and remote learning options, other districts are hopeful that school will be able to resume as normal, and even more are planning for complete distance learning. Regardless of what the physical educational environment looks like in the coming days, here are some tips for educational coaches to prepare for a new school year that apply in both face-to-face and remote learning environments.
Strategy #1: Develop Your Goals and Vision
Each year, school administrators typically develop a shared goal and vision for the campus to adhere to that year. As an instructional coach, it is important to develop your own goals and vision for working with the teachers you serve. It is important that coaches support campus initiatives and have a clear direction as to how they want to best support staff. Perhaps this year you will focus on integrating one tech tool into each classroom. Maybe you want to get the entire English department using Google Classroom. Your goal may even be to serve a certain percentage of teachers or to coach at least one teacher in every department.
Whatever your goal may be, it is important that you be clear and precise and develop actionable steps for reaching that goal. Maybe you need to plan out your cycles ahead of time to ensure you can serve everyone. Maybe you need to prepare some learning materials or handouts for teachers to keep on hand as they facilitate lessons. Maybe you need to develop instructional videos for your campus so teachers can refer back to them after PD. Whatever this goal may be, this is a great time to look ahead and plan so you’re ready for whatever the fall may bring. Coaches can also use this time to conduct their own research or study topics that interested them from the past year, that they never got around to looking into. Now is a great time to play with different digital tools, read about different instructional strategies and really fill up that toolkit. With your toolkit full, you’ll be ready to tackle any issue regardless of the physical learning environment.
Strategy #2: Target Your Teachers
The start of the school year is a great time for coaches to begin recruiting teachers for instructional coaching. Unfortunately, many teachers are often resistant to participate in coaching at the start of the year because they are trying to get their classrooms up and running themselves and just see coaching as a burden or hindrance to that. Try connecting with some of those new teachers and offer to partner with them at the beginning of the year in order to make their transition to the school year more seamless. To get these teachers on board, it is important that you have developed your hook – or reason to encourage teachers to be coached. You might consider contacting these teachers even before the year starts and sharing with them the services you offer and the benefits you can provide them through a partnership. Many new teachers may feel less overwhelmed at the start of the year if they know there is someone there to help them with whatever challenges they may face.
Strategy #3: Develop Universal Resources
Because no one knows what school may look like in the fall, it is important to develop tools and resources that can work in both face-to-face and remote settings. Preparing handouts, one-pagers, screencasts and other professional development resources that are asynchronous are always a good idea. If you have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with teachers on campus, you will already have these resources ready to go, but if you are working in a remote setting, it is easy for you to share your research for teachers to go through on their own.
This is also a good time to explore different tools that may help you achieve your coaching goals, whether that’s using video conferencing tools, collective documents or some other means of communication.
Strategy #4: Determine Teacher’s Needs
As this pandemic swept the globe, teachers were asked to make a lot of adjustments very quickly and with little resources. As an instructional coach, you have the opportunity to support teachers through these difficult times. At the beginning of the school year, it might be beneficial to conduct a needs assessment for your teachers to determine how to best serve them in the coming year. If you don’t want to wait, reach out to your teachers or your PLN and ask them what they anticipate their needs to be in the fall. That way, you can be prepared before students begin learning again and are ready to help with whatever is necessary.
Strategy #5: Be Flexible and Take Care of Yourself
Though last school year didn’t have a clean end like the years usually do, it is important that as you begin to think about next year, you take time to have a break. Yes, there continues to be anxiety over what decisions lawmakers will make about the return to school, but you need to take time away from the worry. Make time to unplug for the summer and not think about school. Take a vacation or stay-cation to unwind and relax. Clear your mind with your activity of choice and set yourself up to come back to the school year refreshed. There is no doubt the fall will require flexibility and it is easier to be flexible when your mind and body have been nourished.
As I have often told my technology reluctant teachers during coaching – good teaching is good teaching, regardless of the tools. Instructional coaching is no different. Good coaching is good coaching, regardless of the educational situation. Whether schools decide to resume face-to-face instruction or continue with remote learning, your position as a coach remains the same – to provide guidance and support to teachers.