Coaching Plans: Going from vague to specific

Meet Garrett. He's from NYC, but loves the NOLA scene, particularly the music (he's an amateur and plays with his friends). He's pictured wearing the Saints jersey, but he says this in no way lessens his dedication to the New York Jets. What you'll find here, with his permission, are 2 plans.

1. The first is a draft that is vague.

2. The second is much more specific.

Check both out.


I. During this school year, I will decrease the misbehavior tax in my class, which will in turn increase my total student learning. I will do this through mastery of the 7 proactive moves, increased authoritative presence, controlling my emotions, and consistency. I will also form better relationships with parents and families through increased contact, which in turn, should also lower behavior tax.

II. The people that will help me are my principal, Mark Burton, my "partner-in-crime" Courtney Hueter, my MTC coach, Max, and my reading coach, Eliza Griffin.

III. Some obstacles and emotions that I have are first, that I am a very emotional person, so it may take a while to get my emotions in check and learn to control my breathing to prevent a physical reaction. Another emotion I have is the fear of scholar blow ups when they get violent. I'm worried that the moves I learn may not be able to control those situations.

IV. Actions that I will take are practicing the 7 proactive moves and 9 reactive moves. When I am writing my lesson plans for each class, I will write clear directions and expectations into my lessons so I know exactly what I want my scholars to do at all times. For the first few weeks, I will write specific lesson plans for each transitions and move that I would like my scholars to make in my class, and practice those moves with my scholars until it is mastered. I will also check for understanding after every direction I give, just like I would do with academic content.

V. Growth will be measured through observations. At the front of my classroom I will keep a checklist with things that I want to improve about my teaching. Anyone that observes can grab one at the door and will have specific actions and teacher-moves that they can look for in how I handle my class. It will also be measured by an on-task/off-task tally, periodically throughout the week. During independent work time, I will tally those scholars on-task and those off-task 3 times a day (morning, noon, end of day) to see if scholars are putting in effort and following directions.

Okay, so that's it.

Now, we really want to build relationships with the principal of each teacher. We want to be on the same page -- teacher, principal, MTC coach. So we're asking all our teachers to write a short letter to their principal. Like this:

Dear Mark (that's Garrett's principal),

As you know, I am a planner. I love putting together standards into logical units, breaking down standards into objectives, and creating those daily and unit lesson plans. Where I have struggled the past 3 years, is behavior management.

While I have improved, especially this past year, it is still the area that is setting me back from having a breakthrough year. Through the help of MATCH Teacher Coaching, and members of our school staff, I will be dramatically increasing my success in the area of behavior management.

Below is a draft plan that I have been working on the week of July 5 to 8 with MTC. I’d appreciate your thoughts and feedback.

Thank you, Garrett

Hopefully, a next step is that Mark will either help us tighten/tweak the plan, or, if it's problematic, help us scrap it and work on a new one.

Okay. Let's get back to the original point. How do we move a plan from vague to specific? Here is the version that Garrett and I worked on.


I. I will achieve the following change in my day-to-day teaching

a. When you visit my class, you will see a sharp decrease in misbehavior. My presence when I am giving directions and reacting to misbehavior will be more demanding and commanding. My body language will present me as the most important figure in the room, which will allow me to have control of my classroom. This means when delivering directions and in “behavior mode,” I will be standing up straight, standing still, squaring up to the class, appear relaxed, and make eye contact with the scholar(s).

To prevent misbehavior, I will employ the following proactive moves: Greeting all scholars at the door in the morning, circulating, using proximity, scanning the room with my eyes, delivering clear expectations and directions, planning reminders of those expectations, and narrating compliance.

All directions that I give in the classroom will be planned. I will use the acronym “SCORMS +1” to help me. That means my directions will be specific, have concrete tasks that are observable, I’ll have an action for scholars to show they are ready, it will contain a magic word (i.e. When I say “GO”), the steps will be sequential, and I may have a visual to show what to do. I will also include behavioral expectations in my directions, like level 0 voices or SPARKing.

After delivering my lessons, I will check for understanding through cold call to ensure scholars understand the expectations. I may also have scholars model the directions and expectations if the directions are more complicated. Throughout my lesson plans, and in execution of my lesson, I will have reminders of what the expectations are to proactively prevent scholars from not knowing what to do and making poor behavioral choices.

Another sharp difference that you will see from last year is that I will be even-keel when delivering consequences and demerits to scholars. I will have control of my emotions by controlling my breathing before my body has a physical reaction (“fight or flight”) to scholars’ behavior. Posted in my room will be the saying “My life is in the hands of any fool who can make me angry,” to remind me to have total control of myself.

I want to be THE classroom that you take any and all visitors whenever possible.

Let's pause. Setting aside the jargon, can you visualize this classroom?

b. You will also hear more, from parents, that I have been calling them a LOT more than usual. I plan on calling parents for 6 hours a week (1 hour a night Monday-Thursday, and 2 total hours over the weekend) for the first 2 months of school. These calls will be mostly for praising scholar actions and proactive positive calls, hoping to invest scholars in making great choices at school. There will also be reactive calls when necessary. After those 2 months, I will reevaluate the return on my time invested. Hopefully, the payoffs of these calls will be positive and I can continue my schedule of calling.

This increased contact may also include home visits, and parent summits. Parent summits would occur when a scholar is repeatedly misbehaving in class, and we need to come together and create a plan to help the scholar make the correct choices.

I really hope that we leave a mark on NOLA in terms of the power of phoning parents. We believe that is an absolute game-changing teacher move.

II. Obstacles and Emotions

a. I’ve reflected with MTC during PD on why I have issues in classroom management, and a lot of it boils down to my emotions. You and I joke sometimes by calling me “Mr. E,” and it’s true -– I’m an emotional guy! What can I say? It’d hard for me to hit that even level and I’m worried about not being able to take control.

b. I also worry about being able to handle blow-ups with scholars such as Mark R. and other very emotional scholars. I want to be able to be consistent and hold 100% of my scholars accountable, 100% of the time, but I’m worried about reactions from these scholars. That fear sometimes makes me let small things slide, like with Student X and Y, which led to a lot of other misbehaviors.

c. This also ties to a fear of being inconsistent and losing my class. I want to be the “cool teacher,” the “fun teacher,” the “nice teacher,” but I also need to get a better grip on my class. A lot of the reason why I lost my classes the last few years, especially towards the end, is inconsistency and I’m worried about falling into that trap again.

We try to get folks to just jump in and put these issues on the table. It's hard to coach when you're working "around" such fears.

III. Short-term actions I can do right now to prepare for the start of school

a. I will adopt and internalize the 6 beliefs I've read about in MTC: That I am the ultimate authority in my room, that my goal in classroom management MUST be 100%, my ability to patrol and manage behavior must be practice and strengthened to the point of automaticity, that even when I make a mistake, I still have the right and responsibility to correct wrong behavior, that I have to hit the ground running from day 1, and even “bad” kids want to be good and do well.

b. I will practice my math workshop and reader’s workshop lesson each day before school, with authoritative presence and clear directions, so that I can deliver a clear and effective lesson every day.

c. From July 11th till day 1 of school, I will practice my teacher moves, both proactive and reactive, for 30 minutes a day to the point of automaticity. I will also post these proactive and reactive moves in my classroom so that I can use them until they are automatic.

d. I will write clear and effective directions into each and every lesson plans, anytime scholars need to perform an action in the classroom. These lessons will also be practice in the mornings.

e. I will write 10-15 detailed lesson plans that cover all the procedures that scholars must master in the first week of school.

f. I will create a time-management schedule for myself, which includes 6 hours a week of contacting parents.

g. I will acquire a list of my 3rd graders and send an introductory letter and begin calling them or visiting homes.

Lots to do. There's always a race before school starts.

III. Enlist help

a. Courtney Hueter will come in and watch me, with a seating chart, every day. She’s my partner in crime and we will be working together to hold each other accountable. I will have a checklist ready by the door of the actions that I am working on (which will be ready by August 8th). I also pledged to visit her classroom once a day to give her feedback.

b. My MTC Coach, Max, will visit for the week of 9/26/11. He and I will schedule a 3-way intake meeting with you for the first day, so that we all can get on the same page. After that, Max and I will talk each day about what we’re working on for the next day, and we’ll copy you on those. Feel free to jump in anytime, by email or in person, as I would love you to be a part of this process.

c. What I’m hoping from you, Mark, is similar to what Courtney’s doing. I will have my checklist in a folder at the door, and I’m hoping that you can stop in, any day any time, and give me feedback. The more to the point, the better.

When I signed up for MATCH, I wrote:

“I want to become a master teacher. The only way for me to do this is by getting feedback, even if it’s not something that I want to hear. What would make next year different is getting this feedback and being held accountable for implementing everything that is discussed. While my administration has been amazing, the one thing I could push them on is holding me accountable for all things they ask me to do (i.e. posting objectives each day).

Our view is that if our coaching process simply catalyzes Garrett and Courtney to really push each other, that by itself may generate big gains. DAILY feedback is very powerful.

IV. How will I measure my teacher growth this year?

a. My end of the year, iLEAP test scores in math will go from 96 last year to a 130-150 this year. My ELA iLEAP test scores will go from a 77 in ELA to a 100-120 this year. I know the scholars coming in are more behind than last year, but I can do this.

b. I’d want a higher ranking on the Teaching with Excellence rubric from approaching to mastery or exemplar.

c. MTC is sending independent evaluators in March 2012 to see what change there is compared to April of 2011, when I was observed. My rating on the MATCH rubric that day was 9 out of 10 on Achieving Aim, and 8 out of 10 in behavioral climate. I want to knock that reviewer’s socks off by achieving a 10 out of 10 in both categories.

d. In addition to feedback from Courtney, Max, you, and any others that come observe, I will be tally those scholars on-task and those off-task 3 times a day (morning, noon, end of day) to see if scholars are putting in effort and following directions. That’s my short term way of knowing if I’m really making changes.

All in all, a great week in NOLA. We got high marks from the teachers in our daily feedback. Not everyone loved it -- one dude literally made a run for it and may have fled the state, and a few folks had body language that says "I'm not sure if I'm fully invested in this" -- but most describe themselves as energized. Big props to Erica, Max, and Katherine.