Part 3: More Ideas For One Week

In the past 2 blog posts, I garnered some ideas on a different approach to teacher coaching. Instead of the traditional -- to spread out what is often an hour per week of interaction between coach and teacher -- I asked what a 50-hour-all-in-one-week coach and teacher collaboration might look like.

Some of my peeps have sent even more ideas, so I wanted to post them.

Norm Atkins of Relay University (formerly TeacherU) points out

Yes. I think tennis camp is good complement to tennis lessons. (But beware) just one week. In tennis, intense repetition helps, but needs to be repeated over time or is lost.....

Bill Olsen of Noble Street College Prep has some crazy ideas! I love it. He gets us out of the normal "box" -- which is simply thinking about teacher moves during a lesson.

1. 7 days of exercise around the teacher’s fitness goals with the goal to create a sustainable exercise habit.

2. 7 days of reflection and writing around conflict and challenges the teacher has experienced with students

3. 7 days of video study using one of the good banks of video out there or observation

4. Planning, teaching, and feedback on one hour of teaching each day.

5. Co-planning the next big unit the teacher will teach.

Jesse Cook Robinson is a leader with a Boston turnaround effort. Last year she bought me a bottle of fancy vodka that I use to make martinis for Pru.

She thought back to her teaching days at Downtown College Prep in California, in her 3rd year of teaching. She wondered what coaching she wishes she had at that time.

I was eager, TFA alumn, good classroom management in that kids did what I told them to do, but a pretty bad teacher all around.

This is a half-baked brain dump, I haven't completely through.

I'm also assuming that this is vacation or something, so there are no kids.

Each Day:

a. 30 min:

Start every day in the morning with a Do Now of assessment and data. Look at this assessment item from your assessment. What are the skills, understandings, and concepts that kids need to know to be able to do this? Give direct, standards-based advise. This is what they need to know. This is NOT what they need to know. Get to know your standards.

b. 1.5 hours:

Then go into planning--this is what makes a great class. Look at this person's materials and give feedback on their assessments in days 1-2, long term plans in days 3-4, and lesson materials in 5-7. ALl of this should be about alignment. Standards--objectives--activities/task--assessment.

c. 2 hours:

Presence/pacing boot camp. I think the next level of classroom management for people that have 2-3 years under their belt is all about urgency and pacing. Get them practicing, give 'em direct feedback.

d. Afternoon--student engagement! How do you design lessons that get kids THINKING and DOING and get you to SHUT UP.

All of this is with a lot of video of their classroom and others' classrooms and a lot of practice on their part.

Ben Marcovitz is the founder of Sci Academy in New Orleans. Some years ago he spent a couple weeks with us apprenticing with our high school principal, Jorge Miranda. Back then, I thought he was a smart, fun guy. Only later did I realize -- after he founded his school -- that he's a total bad-ass! He wrote:

Fun to think about. First and foremost, I would want to make sure that a teacher understands that teaching is all about what the kids walk out with.

Therefore, every lesson must have a razor sharp objective with a incredibly rigorous and aligned assessment at the end of the period.

Also, the teachers need to track their own mastery on a daily basis and learn from their numbers exactly how to go to bat again tomorrow. The overall picture would be broader goals for your students, to long-term/unit planning, to lesson planning, to ensuring each lesson is maxed out to mastery by truly knowing how to make rigorous assessments and objectives. In short, I would want them to learn how to be purposeful and how to respond with purpose.

Beyond that I would want them to feel like they had a ton of tools for manipulation of their classroom midstream. Things aren't looking good for your assessment mid-class? How do you pivot? What are the questions you should ask yourself during class to make sure kids are going to turn around and learn the material? How do you check this on old objectives so they don't go away?

These are broad brush strokes.

Kate Murray is a principal at Prospect Hill Charter Schools in Cambridge, MA

I think what's interesting about year 3 of teaching is that you're just starting to realize how much you don't know.

You're through the trauma of being new, only to realize how vast and complicated this artform really is. For me, I was suddenly very aware of how limited my perspective was in terms of really seeing what was going on in my own classroom.

When I was in year 3, I wanted to be observed. I wanted people to watch me teach. I wanted to be video taped and then I wanted to look at each minute under a magnifying glass. I wanted feedback from somebody who could see the classroom from a more objective perspective. It sounds sort of simplistic, but I think a week of observations with meetings to talk about what is happening would be very useful.

If I were going to break down the meetings I would say that they should/could include discussion about lesson rigor, lesson design, questioning, classroom management, and pacing.

I'm not sure how useful this would be, but I have often thought it might be enlightening to have some kind of audit about where the teacher stands/walks in the classroom and the things that she says/does without realizing it.

Tobey Jackson was the principal of Boston Collegiate Charter School and, among various hats he has now, does evaluation for our teacher residency. He's tall.


When I think about this kind of coaching, I'm more focused on the "what for" than on the "what" - there are 100 aspects of good instruction you could choose to hone in on in one intensive week. You can't get to it all, so you've gotta have a focus. I can think of three high-impact coaching scenarios :

1. Build a muscle or two -

Teacher and coach focus on 2-3 areas to work on for that week. Assuming it's an experienced teacher, ideally you're honing in on instructional competencies and not culture. Teacher and coach use Sunday to ID key competencies and meticulously plan week of lessons that incorporate practice on these competencies.

Measurable goals are set and plan is made for how coach will gather evidence (video, observation notes, student assessment) to monitor progress toward goal. After school, teacher and coach debrief and tweak plans for next day.

Debriefs on observations should not be excessive - bulk of time should be to use lessons learned to improve subsequent lessons. Consider the possibility of having the coach model teach to demonstrate a competency.

2. Teacher turnaround -

The target is a struggling teacher (weak culture a/o low rigor a/o not much student learning) who needs to have a successful week of good teaching. The idea here is to establish a baseline for the teacher to work from moving forward. Use Sunday to get at root causes for struggle and plan a week of lessons that address those issues. After that it's pretty similar to #1.

3. Use of prep time -

We all know that a teacher's lesson prep and workflow outside the classroom directly impacts the quality of instruction, so spend a week focusing on that. The idea here is to help development of efficient systems and routines for grading, organization, admin duties, etc. that will maximize amount of time teacher can invest in planning lessons. Coach would start the week documenting how teacher uses time and then help modify methods. Coaching should also include teaching effective approaches to lesson planning.

Lekisha Jackson taught math at MATCH back in 2001. She's always been an out of the box thinker and do-er. Recently back from teaching in Serbia (or was it Slovenia), she just helped us with a bunch of logistics around our new charter school. She offered:

I would want to focus on the following areas:

* Technology

How do you meaningfully integrate technology, so it is not an afterthought or used just for purposes of application?

* Differentiation

When you are teaching a mixed-level class, especially in mathematics where the disparities can be marked (or even a homogeneously grouped class for that matter since disparities still exist), how can you effectively and creatively differentiate without splitting the class and teaching each group separately or doing project/group work?

* Real-time Assessment & Customized Learning

Explore software that allows you to customize assessments that are not rote (require students to apply concepts in unfamiliar situations) to accurately pinpoint each students' needs on a high-frequency basis. This software should also provide instantaneous results and supply creative ways to address individual gaps/push a student forward beyond grade-level standards.

* Holistic Learning

I feel that many students leave schools with a serious deficiency in life skills, such as wellness, finance, presentation-skills, etc. Outside of projects, class discussions and parental involvement, how can we better prepare our students for life while not short-changing our subject needs?

Also, how do we effectively create school-wide interdisciplinary units - social entrepreneur project, construction project, etc? There needs to be more interdisciplinary awareness and integration.

* *

Bill Phillips, head of NY Charter Association, good guy, likes thinking about this stuff from more of an "outsider" perspective.


First let me make your process 17% cheaper. As you know, Boston is in a decade-long sports renaissance. Tell the student to take Sunday off, and to go watch a Pats or Sox game. If the following week is a bust, at least they'll learn what it looks like to root for an excellent team.

I would use the week to teach the student how to use video tape to do self-analytics on Teach Like a Champion (TLC). It seems to me that you could code the habits from TLC, and then develop metrics that lead to or indicate improved academic performance. Would probably be as difficult as this, but you get the general idea. Ultimately, the student would learn how to break down and code their own teaching analysis.

Give the student lots of notice before the teacher/coach immersion week. Tell them that you want them to start videotaping themselves teaching, and to do it constantly. Then, tell them you want them to bring their 5 best days and their 5 worst days.

I will assume that you can break TLC into 5 sessions worth of training. Each morning, cover 20 percent of the material. During that period, make the student break down two tapes -- one good, one bad.

During the afternoons, have the student teach a class while practicing the techniques learned from the morning sessions. This would be videotaped, and for the first 3 days, the student would break down that tape.

On the 4th afternoon, I would have the student teach the next student. (I just decided this teacher/coach immersion approach is going to occur on a rolling week basis.) This would probably be pretty rocky, so I'd have the student teach the next student on the 5th day too.

From this approach, you would teach the student how to self-analize on a reasonably objective standard. (Since it's on video, you could always audit.) This would increase the capacity of your professional development function since you would increase your trainers by the number of students who learn this method. I think is how you could justify the cost of the omnipresent-teacher/coach model.

I think you need the omnipresent-teacher/coach for two reasons:

1) I threw the students into the "directed practice" routine almost immediately. I expect that they need an expert to make sure they identify the mistakes ASAP; and

2) I asked the student to become a teacher on day 4. That increases the degree of difficulty and risk. The teacher/coach now needs to make sure that the student-teacher teaches properly, and the new student receives and interprets the ideas properly.