Stuck on WHAT to coach? Try the Simple Core 4
By Nicole S. Turner
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As instructional coaches, our goal is to make a lasting impact on teaching and learning and it’s also our second pillar of the Simple Framework. Every teacher, regardless of their experience level, needs a coach to help them refine and enhance their teaching skills. I am a firm believer that one of our goals is to build teacher efficacy, ensuring that teachers are equipped to create positive classroom environments and improve student learning outcomes. Identifying individual strengths and areas for growth is the first step in this journey. To make this process simple, I’ve designed the “Simple Core 4” Pillars, a practical and focused approach for categorizing a teacher’s various roles and emphasizing the skills needed to effectively impact student learning.
Pillar 1: Organization
Effective organization in the classroom is more than just keeping things tidy; it’s about creating a structure (systems and routines) that allows teachers and students to thrive and it is the foundation of every successful classroom. This includes creating efficient traffic patterns in the classroom, developing a quick and effective grading system, and establishing clear, consistent communication channels with parents. These organizational strategies are vital for teachers to create a strong foundation to build on.
When I coach a teacher, especially new, uncertified, or struggling teachers, the first thing I look for when visiting the classroom or having a conversation is evidence that these foundational things have been put in place.
In my experience coaching teachers, I’ve noticed that the teachers who struggle with maintaining organization, often require additional support, which is where our role as coaches becomes pivotal. These teachers benefit significantly from one-on-one coaching, where personalized strategies and tools can be provided to enhance their organizational skills.
Management and Culture
The next element of the Core 4 is Management and Culture. Once the space and routines are organized, teachers need to ensure that the classroom environment is conducive to learning. Most importantly, every student must feel safe. They need to trust their teacher, feel comfortable with their classmates, know that they will be protected if another student treats them disrespectfully, feel comfortable asking their teacher and peers for help, and be introduced to engaging, relevant, tasks that make them want to participate.
A teacher who is effective at Management and Culture will have behavior management systems in place, engaged and on-task students, and a positive classroom environment that supports student success.
Teachers struggling with Management and Culture will definitely need one-on-one support from a coach. They might even need some immediate relief, delivered in the form of behavior management-focused PAR cycles. Once the classroom is under control, you can begin to focus on other elements of Core 4.
Content learning cannot happen without a positive learning environment, but once teachers have that established, the heart of their job description is to help students master academic content. The next aspect of the Core 4 focuses on what teachers need to be able to do to become experts with the content themselves, break the content down for students, organize the content, and adapt teaching strategies to help students master it.
Teachers who have a strong content background will be able to break down “I can” statements into student-friendly language, effectively utilize curriculum maps and pacing guides, and align lessons and materials to the standards. Teachers can always improve in this area.
Group coaching and PLCs are a great way to support teachers with Content. They may not always need one-on-one coaching.
Now that we’ve discussed Organization, Management, and Content, we can move to the fourth element of the Core 4, Instructional Execution. This is the icing on the cake, or the secret sauce, that each teacher uses to bring the content alive for their students. Instructional Execution involves the specifics of what happens in class daily, the tools and instructional strategies that teachers use to engage their learners, and the tool kit of methods that allows teachers to differentiate and meet the needs of every learner.
Teachers with strong Instructional Execution will be able to challenge their students at all different depths of knowledge, engage them in exciting and aligned activities, and use research-backed impactful strategies for student success. All teachers can hone their Instructional Execution skills. As new research comes out, even veteran teachers can try a new strategy. Again, PLCs and group coaching are great places to explore these strategies and practice with peers. One-on-one coaching may or may not be needed.
Core 4 Snapshots
You’ll want to gather all of this information early on, to help you tier teachers and strategically plan your support. Plan to spend a few minutes in every room, early in the school year. Your goal is not to perform a formal observation. It is to make yourself available, show your support, and take a “snapshot” of where each teacher is currently with respect to each element of the Core 4.
If you want to do a deep dive into learning more about implementing the Simple Core 4 Pillars Check out the full course HERE.