Coaching and feedback are synonymous. I can recall one afternoon I was watching the coach of my school’s basketball team working with students to perfect their free throws. Quickly, I noticed the coach would give specific feedback to each student and then have them try again. Each time a student took a shot, the coach offered feedback, or he would demonstrate how he wanted the player to take the shot. The rhythm of feedback, demonstration, and practice was seamless.
When I walked back to my office I started reflecting on what I observed and how it could be applied to my job and teaching. As a principal, I often feel mired down by the many forms I need to complete for the formal evaluation process. Often the work load doesn’t allow me to provide staff with immediate feedback. I pushed away the negative thoughts of the coaching model I observed on the court could never work for me. Yes, evaluation forms are part of the job of being a principal, but coaching can also take place to improve performance! Instead of focusing on roadblocks, I needed to explore how more timely coaching could happen.
That day I began a journey to provide more coaching opportunities for myself and to encourage staff to do the same through peer coaching. The rhythm of feedback and practice I observed on the basketball court needed be part of how I worked with staff and how staff worked with each other. Effective teachers always give feedback to students; there should be a similar parallel of administrators providing similar feedback to teachers. A checklist handed to a teacher from an administrator is not effective feedback any more than a paper returned to a student with only a grade on the top is.
It is time to bring back some coaching!
Take ten minutes three times a day to observe teachers and offer them specific feedback. The day can easily slip away even when we have the best intentions! Each day, add a note on your calendar to visit three classrooms for no longer than 10 minutes and try to catch the teacher before the end of the day to share some specific feedback, including a question for the teacher to consider.
There are times when you simply can’t follow up with a teacher the day you do a quick classroom visit. Person-to-person communication is always the best. However, if it cannot happen, send a follow–up email to a teacher whose class you visited that day. Three emails can be sent in 10 minutes if you follow a simple structure. Specifically note two positives you observed, and follow this up with one specific question to reflect on.
Example Follow-Up Email
Ten Minute Collaboration:
Take 10 minutes during a faculty meeting for teachers to work in groups to generate a list of the top five practices they would like feedback on. This allows staff to reflect on and discuss practice, collaborate, and develop ownership of the five identified focus areas. In addition, these areas can be used for peer-to-peer feedback, allowing staff to work together to grow.
There is an old saying in education: what we make time for becomes a priority. Make coaching, providing specific feedback, and staff collaboration part of the continuous growth model in your school!
The Ten-Minute Principal: Free Up Your Time and Focus on Leadership by Evan Robb will be published by Corwin in July, 2019. In this book Evan shares stories, experiences and ideas on how to be a more effective leader. Each chapter of the book offers a Ten-Minute Opportunity, Ten-Minute Tip, and Ten-Minute Collaboration. The chapter structure allows the reader to quickly find ideas on how to be more effective using about ten minutes of time. The structure of this blog post is similar to the book.