Setting Up a Coaching Program for Success
Provide Additional Support to Coaches Working in Multiple Schools
Assigning a coach to work across multiple campuses in a district can foster district-wide culture change. For example, when a coach has a solid understanding of the context of a particular group of teachers across the district (e.g., kindergarten teachers, math teachers), focusing coaching on that group can be an effective way to scale coaching across multiple campuses and build a culture of collaboration across the district. Coaching across multiple schools in a district can also provide a bird’s eye view of classroom practices, which can support vertical alignment and district-wide implementation of curricula, strategies, and tools.
However, when coaches are not embedded at a single school site, managing and coordinating schedules becomes challenging, and it is harder to develop and maintain strong, trusting relationships with teachers and school-level administrators. Additionally, the amount of time the coach can spend one-on-one with teachers can become limited, which can reduce the reach and impact of coaching. In situations where it is necessary for a coach to split their time across multiple schools, districts should be strategic in mitigating these challenges.
Tips for success:
- Help coaches find the best strategies and schedule to support teachers across multiple schools by following a coaching model and sticking to a schedule. That said, there is not one ideal schedule for all coaches. When school campuses are close together, coaches might find that a flexible scheduling approach works best and coordinate their meetings based on teacher availability regardless of campus location. However, when campuses are spread out, to avoid losing valuable time in transit, coaches might find it more effective to designate specific days, or even months, that are spent on individual campuses. To build in the ability for teachers to pop by with spontaneous questions or for informal conversations, coaches might also consider structuring time for office hours on individual campuses. Finally, regardless of their location on a specific day, coaches can make themselves available for meetings or brief check-ins over the phone or through videoconference.
- Ensure that teachers across multiple schools understand the role of the coach. When the coach is not embedded on a single campus, it limits frequent conversations with teachers, which can make their role confusing for teachers, especially when the coach has multiple roles in the district. Additionally, it can present an additional hurdle for building trusting relationships with teachers and reassuring them of the non-evaluative aspect of coaching. District administration, school administration, and coaches should collaborate to onboard teachers fully about the scope of the coach’s responsibilities and the role of the teacher in the coaching partnership. Hosting dedicated events that are specific to each campus and consistent in frequency can help a coach establish their presence across multiple buildings.
- Support the collaboration of the coach with each school administrator. Maintenance of strong coach-school administrator relationships is especially necessary when coaches are assigned to multiple buildings. One Dynamic Learning Project (DLP) coach who worked in each of the four schools in his small district found success holding formalized meetings with each school administrator to kick off the start of each coaching period, and then informally following up with each building administrator whenever he stopped by the campus to work with teachers. In that way, he was able to build relationships and keep administrators updated on bright spots and challenges without overwhelming their schedules. The coach adapted his approach to these drop-in visits with each individual administrator based on that administrator’s style and the culture of their building.
Dynamic Learning Project coaches used a variety of approaches to remain visible to teachers and build relationships while coaching across multiple campuses. One successful DLP coach hosted regular technology breakfasts at campuses to build rapport and expose teachers to the types of support she could provide. Another coach coordinated with administrators at each building to deliver school-level professional development in monthly faculty meetings at each of the four buildings where she coached. A third coach made an effort to present useful tips to a department of teachers each time she visited a campus, and to offer small types of support that build rapport, such as freeing up a teacher from their lunch duty.
Technology also facilitated connections for coaches with teachers who are spread across multiple school sites. For instance, one coach shared access to a Google Classroom with teachers across her three campuses, inviting them to join to receive tips and ask questions on strategies and tools. Although signing up was completely optional, she found that 65 percent of teachers chose to join. “That showed me there was a lot of curiosity and a lot of people interested in what was happening,” she said. This allowed the coach to build a critical mass of teachers who were open to hearing new ideas and served as an entryway to recruit them to work one-on-one in coaching cycles.