How Coaching Helps Teachers and Leaders Reduce Stress and Build Trust
- By Kennedy Schultz
COVID-19 pandemic changed how we teach and lead. From book drop-offs
to hotspots for families, the past school year required tremendous
amounts of flexibility and adaptation as schools switched between
in-person and remote learning environments.
the center of it all has been K–12
school administrators — keeping lines of communication open with
families, keeping in touch with local health workers, and ensuring
times of crisis, making decisions and shifting priorities can feel
monumental. Taking a moment to collect and reflect on data can help
leaders manage time and effort more effectively. When leaders share
this data in supportive coaching relationships, it builds trust among
an instructional coach, I work closely with teachers and leaders as
they develop these reflective practices in schools. Below are three
key lessons I learned during the 2020–2021 school year. Education
leaders are encouraged to use these lessons to support teachers and
1: Support teacher planning with data
was having difficulty balancing planning, teaching and grading duties
for his multiple high school language classes. Despite his strong
passion for teaching, a disorganized schedule and unclear learning
targets meant confusion from students.
used the Try-Measure-Learn
(TML) approach to establish an organization system in Adam’s
classroom. TML creates change in teachers' classroom practice one
step at a time, by identifying a high-impact strategy specifically
related to a teacher's classroom needs, supporting the teacher in
implementing that strategy, and immediately measuring its impact to
determine next steps. This cycle makes significant shifts in practice
actionable using a change-over-time method.
a first step, Adam created and shared a to-do list in Google Docs to
help him predict (and meet) his planning and grading deadlines each
reflected on what worked and what obstacles he continued to face.
shared to-do list helped ensure accountability and guided our
conversations. For example, when he missed multiple deadlines, Adam
realized that he was trying to accomplish too many tasks
not finishing any of them.
and I worked together to block time on his calendar each week to
focus on one
task: whether it be grading, planning or responding to emails. As a
result, his stress was reduced, and students were receiving more
consistent feedback. The cycle Adam established with his students was
especially useful when remote learning was instituted later that
2: Connect with teachers to spur engagement
an experienced middle school leader, started in a new role at an
elementary school toward the beginning of the pandemic. After her
school shifted to remote instruction, Rachel put together a variety
of digital resources meant to support teachers.
found that in addition to not using the resources, teachers weren’t
responding to her emails or participating in surveys she put together
to source feedback. In October 2020, Rachel and I began working
together to identify a new way to communicate.
decided to have Rachel schedule time to attend each grade level
she learned that anxiety around the pandemic was overwhelming
teachers. She then reached out to teachers to gather feedback
that helped her identify more personalized approaches for teacher
discovered that connecting face-to-face through video calls or
was a more effective way to communicate her goals and respond to
3: Using Data to Manage Leadership Roles
we first met in September 2020, Allison* explained that her role “had
changed on a dime”. In addition to working as a literacy
specialist, she was the sole support for her district’s dual
language and immersion programs. These responsibilities were
compounded by new duties brought on by the pandemic.
central office team was tasked with designing and creating remote ELA
units in Canvas for the entire district. She was working days, nights
and weekends to keep her head above water.
our coaching conversation, Allison and I identified the main source
of this problem: she had two separate supervisors for her two primary
roles, and each person was unaware of the extent of her workload in
the other area.
started by collecting data on her workload for one week, noting how
much time she was spending to complete each project. She then shared
that data with both supervisors
to collaborate on a more manageable balance of distributed
a result, her supervisors reassigned projects, adjusted priorities
and engaged in more proactive planning to ensure that Allison would
maintain a more reasonable balance. This process also enabled Allison
to advocate for herself, which, in turn, reduced her stress and gave
her more time to recharge. With more balance, Allison can bring her
best self to all her work responsibilities.
lessons learned into practice
pandemic has transformed what it means to teach and lead. Regardless
of your specific role, taking small moments to collect and reflect on
data with an experienced coach can lead to big, positive changes.
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