Each summer teachers are encouraged to register for a variety of staff development opportunities that may include:
- Curricular content, instructional design, content mapping, and content delivery
- How to support student learning through classroom organization and management
- How to engage students with appropriate modifications by responding to individual student needs
- How to create effective assessments of students
- How to navigate the school and district policies, procedures, and support services for students
- How to participate in ongoing professional development that can increase teaching and learning skills
Although intensive training seminars and workshops can be impactful, best practices research indicates that teachers benefit more from ongoing instructional coaching to improve their teaching skills and content delivery (i.e. see Improving Achievement in Low-Performing Schools by Randolph Ward and edited by Mary Ann Burke). Some schools assign instructional coaches as part of their follow-up from a training, or as part of a new teacher induction plan. Others facilitate classroom walkthroughs with feedback and coaching throughout the year. Some districts have teachers shadow other teachers and offer feedback to each other through reflective discussions when using observational charts.
Several of my colleagues were overwhelmed when they were assigned five different instructional coaches in their first years of teaching. For example, the school site assigned a mentor teacher, the school district assigned an instructional coach for new teachers, and the teacher education institution provided another coach. Additionally, math teachers had two to three other instructional coaches visiting them with new types of intervention software programs and the newly adopted math curriculum. The teachers were frustrated with too much instructional coaching as they had homework assignments from each coach in addition to trying to complete their lesson plans and provide students with individualized instruction. A couple of the teachers were able to negotiate with the various program leaders to adjust assignments for timely and efficient completion.
To avoid being overwhelmed by the feedback from instructional coaches coming into your classroom, consider the following:
- What does your classroom look like when you have a visitor?
- Do you have representative student work posted in the classroom?
- Do you have relevant instructional aids posted for added support?
- Is your lesson plan clearly listed on the board for the day with a schedule for students and others to view?
- How organized are you in storing materials, creating engaging student worksheets, and engaging students through your classroom layout?
- Do students have access to textbooks, classroom libraries, online resources, instructional games, manipulatives, art materials, and learning centers?
- When working with students, is your curriculum delivery appropriate for the lesson being delivered?
- Do students have clear behavior management expectations?
- Have you adapted curriculum to meet the individualized needs of students?
- Is the instructional time focused on student learning?
- Do you use assessment data to manage the individualized needs of your students?
- How do you use assessment data to integrate research with your students on specific projects?
- How do you share assessment data to encourage students to improve their performance?
- How do you manage the required documentation for the school and district’s leadership?
- How can you collaborate with others to organize and streamline your required documents and data?
- Finally, how do you care for yourself while answering to the many demands of being a teacher?
- How can you collaborate with your colleagues to simplify your job and secure added support for training and skill development?
As you review and answer these questions, consider how much you can streamline your teaching and classroom management strategies to allow more time for creativity and student engagement. Well organized and experienced teachers literally dance through their lesson plans with an incredible sense of humor and purposeful classroom delivery that inspires students. Typically, when I walk into these high functioning classrooms, I am greeted with an abundance of student voice, enthusiasm, and engaged learning (i.e. see How Do We Know They’re Getting Better by John Barell). The classroom is organized and I can easily view the lesson plan for the day. I can observe how the students are academically performing as a group through their displayed work samples and the classroom’s layout. Engaged students are happy and successful students!