Opinion
Education Opinion

How to Plan for Coaching Conversations

By Elena Aguilar — May 22, 2014 3 min read

Some of you may already know that I’m a loud, staunch, passionate advocate for planning--in this case, for coaches to plan their coaching sessions with teachers. I feel just as strongly that teachers must plan their lessons (plan on paper, not just in their heads). However, the majority of coaches rarely plan--and before I knew how or realized how essential it was, I didn’t plan either. When I train coaches, I always bring this up. I remind them that just as we know how much better a lesson is when we’ve planned it, coaching is the same--if you plan for a coaching conversation it’s almost guaranteed to be smoother, go deeper, be more strategic, and result in transformational learning than had you just showed up and jumped in. And each time I say this, every coach head nods in agreement.

What gets in the way?

The number one barrier for many coaches is time. Yes, planning takes time. Some conversations take a long time to plan for and some take less. And coaches are often deployed to take care of so much mundane business that has little to do with the professional development of teachers, but I’ll save this rant for another time. I know about the scarcity of time and the battle over it. And I still think we need to take it on. I’ll save that for another time too.

My suggestion for coaches who feel like they’re pressed on time is to see what happens if they plan for one conversation per week. And spend only 20-30 minutes planning that conversation. If that feels like too much, start with one per month. Or just see what it’s like once to thoughtfully plan for a coaching conversation.

I describe planning for coaching conversations in my book and I offer this tool Coaching Session Planning .doc to use.

An Example of Planning

Recently, I was working with coaches in Stockton, CA, and I mentioned that I often write my notes or tape a typed up sheet onto a page on the left side of my notebook. During my conversation with my client, I take notes on the right hand side of the notebook. This allows me to reference my plan during the conversation including the questions I’d designed and the goals for the conversation. One coach asked to see what my notebook looks like.

Last week I planned carefully for a coaching conversation with a teacher I’ll call Dave. I anticipated that this would be a difficult conversation because the teacher had just received an evaluation from his administrators that was very critical. I know this may be hard to see, so here my notes that are on the left side of the page are right below the image.

My plan and questions:
• Declare my intention for this meeting.
• Acknowledge the emotions--about evaluation
• Ask: What do you want to get from this conversation? (He needs to own the conversation)
• Acknowledge that he hasn’t received the PD he wants--what would he like to work on? Is there an area mentioned in his eval that he’d be invested in working on?
• Ask him to remember when he was a new teacher and the vision he had for himself as a teacher--which goal might lead him closer to that vision?
• Ask him if he’s willing to reconnect with what drew him into teaching, with who he aspired to be 20 years ago. On a 1-10 scale, how willing are you to reconnect with that vision?
• What do you feel you do well? What do you feel good about?
• What would you like to see on your end of year evaluation? Does thinking about that motivate you? If not, what would motivate you?
• Acknowledge the low scores in classroom management. Ask him if he’d like to explore the areas of classroom management. If he’d like to unpack what’s going on there?
• What’s one thing we can commit to working on--I’ll support him in. I’ll model, do it with him, observe him and give feedback. I’ll make sure you’re successful. I can guide you through this learning.
• Lenses to use: Adult learning and change management, and inquiry.

These questions and thoughts emerged from the plan that I wrote. You can read the entire plan Planning Dave 5-16.doc here.

The conversation went very well.

Happy planning! And I know, it’s the end of the year and you might not be doing any planning right now but you can flag this blog and return to it in a few months.

The opinions expressed in The Art of Coaching Teachers are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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