Our work as coaches involves multiple components – all of which should be chronicled:
Inquiry & Collaboration
First and foremost, our work requires each coach and teacher to engage, face-to-face, in initial discussions about what it is the teacher seeks, and what role the coach will play in assisting the teacher in attaining his or her goals. During these meetings, candid dialogue is of course paramount, and involves patient listening to the teacher’s take on his or her strengthens and weaknesses. It helps to take notes during this period for two reasons: First, note-taking conveys the unspoken message to the teacher that what he or she is saying is valued and important. Second and more importantly, it documents the discussion. Questions during this phase can and should be probing, and consciously focused on behaviors affecting student engagement and academic achievement. The writing need not be elaborate or lengthy – often it can simply include a summary of the issues discussed and some initial bullets on next steps. The important thing is to write it down while you meet. Sharing the writing with the teacher is appropriate in most circumstances.
It should also be noted that, tied in with the initial inquiry phase is collaboration; coaching is far more than directing or dictating, and requires the parties to establish a common understanding of what the coach’s role is, and the goals of the relationship. Again, putting into writing – even in summary form – the basic understanding of roles at the onset can be extremely effective in keeping things on track.
A key component of any teacher-coaching is observation of the teacher’s work. What gets observed simply needs to get recorded – for subsequent discussion, and to ensure accuracy. The recording generally should identify behaviors observed, and nothing more. Again, it need not be elaborate or highly detailed; it simply need to spell out with clarity the behavior observed. Ultimately, it will be relied upon during one-on-one meetings to refresh recollections, and to serve as a basis of strategy discussions.
Taking time to enable a teacher to reflect upon what you as a coach observed – and to consider possible courses of action – is a major part of the work, and cannot be hurried. It frequently involves time for the teacher to spend moments alone, coupled with subsequent discussions and analysis of practices that work and do not work. It is those discussions following reflection that should be recorded.
Planning & Creating
Probably the most enjoyable part of coaching is the actual teacher/coach thought-partnering on strategies for goal attainment. It often requires extensive discussions, analysis of occasionally complex data, and development of action plans. Documenting the action plans is going to be essential – it enables the tracking of progress, and can provide mutual (teacher and coach) clarity of purpose.
Once an action plan has been created, part of coaching requires (i) mutually developing and agreeing upon the criteria that will be used to ascertain the plan’s ultimate effectiveness, and (ii) the actual implementation of measuring (using that criteria). Logically, both components need to be documented in writing to avoid uncertainty or misunderstanding.
Perhaps the effort to chronicle your work and your experiences in mentoring, coaching, and leading can best serve these personal benefits and help avoid personal hazards we all experience when we give so much and do not derive commensurate satisfaction and sense of contribution.
Chronicling the work of coaching can sometimes feel a little cumbersome – but it remains essential. Part of it is simply a matter of building trust – the trust we as coaches establish by transparency (of our purpose and of our work). By documenting at each step, we ensure fidelity to a mutual course of action, and clarity both in our goals and the means we are adopting to attain them. Documentation allows both teacher and coach opportunity to review, lean, modify and adjust – and ultimately, to make a difference.