Simplify Your Coaching with “The S.I.M.P.L.E. Blueprint for Instructional Coaching™”
By Nicole S. Turner
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“I’m an instructional coach now, but where do I even begin?” I can’t tell you how often I get asked this question. In the last post, we talked about the three pillars of the Simply Coaching Framework and the very first one is to simplify the coaching process, to give coaches answers to that big burning question.
The S.I.M.P.L.E. Blueprint for Instructional Coaching™ makes coaching easy, breaking it down into six easy-to-follow components. Both brand-new coaches who are just starting as well as tenured coaches who feel that their daily coaching efforts are disjointed and lack cohesion can benefit from the information in this blueprint.
The S.I.M.P.L.E. Blueprint (for short) is a model that I have been implementing for years. It’s not bogged down in just theory but it is something that I actually implemented while working in a fast-paced Title I School.
Most of my work was coaching and guiding new, uncertified, or struggling teachers. As much as I would have loved to spend days and weeks building relationships, the situation caused for me to help these teachers get classes under control so that instruction could happen IMMEDIATELY! If we (the teacher and I) were going to make an impact on instruction we had to get to work!
Finally, in 2021, I introduced the S.I.M.P.L.E. Blueprint for Instructional Coaching™ to over a thousand instructional coaches during a two-week-long Simply Coaching Camp. Since I had been doing this model for YEARS in my building, I finally felt like it was time I shared it with everyone.
So Let’s Go!
The acronym S.I.M.P.L.E. represents the six components that are broken into the Foundation and the Framework.
The Foundation consists of the S.I.M. and the Framework is the P.L.E.
The Foundation components should be completed before coaching. You must get these foundation components before you begin coaching. The Framework is your “How and What to Coach”. As you begin coaching and working with teachers you will follow these components to understand exactly WHAT to do!
Let’s break down the the S.I.M.P.L.E. acronym!
S – Start with a Vision
Starting with a vision means seeking clarity for your role. There are three important aspects to defining your vision.
- Determine your core values.
- Write your coaching purpose.
- Have a conversation with your administrator.
You should determine your vision before the school year even begins. This will allow you to hit the ground running. You may even want to write a purpose statement to guide you every day.
When I work with instructional coaches in the Simply Coaching Camp Workshops I use this sentence stem:
“My purpose as an instructional coach is to build teacher capacity to improve student achievement. I will achieve this by becoming a __________, __________, __________, __________, and __________ coach to the teachers I serve.”
Without purpose, we will be misguided and lost in our journey as instructional coaches. Our vision provides us with the fundamental beliefs that will help us understand the difference between right and wrong, determine if we are on the right path, and make decisions. Essentially, it keeps us on track when things get busy and stressful and ensures that we meet our goals.
I – Introduction
Describing your role to teachers is a key component in your success as a coach. Articulating your role is so important because you don’t want teachers coming up to you asking you to sub their classes or help them with grading. After all, they think that’s part of your job. Even if you aren’t trying to recruit teachers, make sure to explain the expectations that your administrator has for you and the boundaries that you plan to keep.
It involves being able to:
- Articulate your role.
- Clearly explain your role to your community.
- Design a plan for sharing your role.
- Design a plan for recruiting teachers.
Plan to introduce yourself before the school year starts and start reaching out to teachers the week before they come back into the building.
M – Make a plan for Organization
One thing I learned early on is that organization wasn’t just about keeping a neat coaching area; it’s about establishing a solid foundation for instructional coaching. When we look at organization the first step involves setting up an organized, welcoming coaching environment, both physically and digitally.
Another key component is the task of scheduling, which acts as the compass, navigating you through your daily coaching tasks seamlessly. Creating a schedule is all about creating a balance of working within the collaborative teams, completing the “other duties as assigned” tasks, and then one-on-one coaching. I have found that I first need to add in the “other duties as assigned” tasks like arrival, dismissal, and lunch duty, any testing or projects (i.e. Literacy Night) I am organizing, and then add in the times I will work with collaborative teams and individually with teachers.
Tracking your coaching is equally important, and choosing a method that reflects your style—whether digital tools or traditional record-keeping—is essential. A well-maintained planner is your silent partner in this endeavor, helping you manage tasks and deadlines effectively.
In the realm of instructional coaching, organization is not just a preference; it’s the backbone of success.
P – Provide Strategic Support
I truly believe that EVERY teacher needs a coach but not every teacher needs individual coaching. The key to this is “Differentiation is not just for the classroom.”
In a previous blog post about Why Teachers Become Resistant to Coaching, I wrote about the need to use the tiering system of Whole School Coaching. In this model, we meet teachers where they are by utilizing a baseline snapshot (observation) and a tiering system to provide the support that will make an impact on student learning as well as help with managing your support load.
Use Core 4 Snapshots, tiering, and the crafting of support plans to create these personalized plans. All of this will take place during the first 2-4 weeks of the school year.
The key to successful coaching is the personalization of support. Remember, everyone needs and deserves a coach, no matter their level! Just make sure to be the right coach for each of them.
L – Launching Coaching Cycles:
Now that you have identified which teachers you will coach outside of the collaborative teams, placed them into tiers, and developed personalized support plans, it’s time to launch the coaching cycles!
Coaching cycles are just a method of providing individualized professional development. When a teacher needs support on a specific thing outside of what the collaborative team is doing, you get the opportunity to work alongside the teacher to improve his/her effectiveness with students. We call it a cycle because the cyclic aspect emphasizes the need for continuous growth. Each cycle involves gathering data, goal-setting, learning or trying something new, classroom visits, more data, reflection, and finally a new goal. You personalize the cycle based on tiering, the teachers’ personal goals, classroom visits, data, and student needs.
Most coaches work in cycles that are 5-6 weeks long. Unfortunately, I could never complete them. When I was working in longer cycles, teachers never got the opportunity to get quick wins and see progress. I call it the “Positive Feedback Loop”. In addition, I always got pulled into other things as a coach and just never could get back to the debrief meeting or to model, etc… Because I had been diagnosed with ADHD, I could never keep up. So I had to do something drastic by creating my own.
When launching coaching cycles, I utilize the “P. A. R. Coaching Cycles” as I call them. The P. A. R. stands for P – Plan (Preplan and Practice) A – Act (Implement and Observe) R- Reflect (Debrief and Analyze). I was able to condense the larger cycles into quick small cycles focusing on one to two small things that will make a BIG impact and have teachers experience success. Of course, these “P. A. R. Coaching Cycles” have the same stages and components as larger or basic cycles of improvement but address shorter-term goals.
Coaching Cycles are ongoing and you’ll continue to conduct them through the year. Your first round of coaching cycles will begin after you’ve completed Core 4 Snapshots and tiered teachers.
The main purpose of the instructional coaching cycle is to improve an action by building a teacher’s capacity in the area in which you are working. Moreover, an instructional coaching cycle instills structure and consistency in your coaching with teachers. It enables you to track improvement and collect data that you can use to reflect on your work.
E – Engage in Professional Learning:
A key component of instructional coaching is the delivery of high-quality professional development. The S.I.M.P.L.E. Blueprint breaks the process down into three simple phases: Before, During, and After. The “Before” phase consists of creating a culture of learning, assessing your school’s needs, and backward planning a professional development series. The “During” phase provides tips and activities that you can use to keep your faculty learning and engaged as you execute your plan. The “After” phase describes how to ensure that the learning extends beyond the session by planning follow-up opportunities, meetings with teachers, and faculty commitments for how to use what they have learned.
There are many other ways to provide professional development:
The process is ongoing. You will map out the year of professional learning experiences for your faculty during the summer or at the start of the school year and then execute throughout the year.
As members of a school community, instructional coaches are trusted by faculty and have a unique understanding of their school’s needs. Our role “in-house” makes us well poised to provide professional development that our teachers can connect with in addition to being delivered at the appropriate and most relevant time. We also have the added benefit of being able to provide consistent and ongoing support to our faculty.
Engaging in professional learning throughout the year ensures that growth is ongoing, that teachers use the things they have learned in their actual practice, and that we don’t simply reach a status quo and stay there.
While this may be a lot, I’m here to support you in each element of the blueprint. In the next post, we’ll begin to dive into the nitty-gritty, discussing how to determine what you need to focus on with each teacher.
If you want to learn about the S.I.M.P.L.E. Blueprint for Instructional Coaching™ Check out the Full Course HERE