How to Make the Most Out of a Tight Coaching Schedule

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Tim Livingston, development specialist in Texas, shares both his insights on how coaches can better manage their time and questions to guide the journey.

While A Wrinkle in Time ("WIT") was one of the movie world's latest buzzes, I believe there are some interesting and entertaining parallels we can use this summer in our instructional coaching world. As we think about effective time management for the next or first school year, WIT can be a "mental movie meeting place" to help remind us of what makes the most of the moments we give to support teacher maturation. I'm a fourth-year mathematics coach and I've always sought to think through my profession using contemporary ideas that are relevant to both teachers and students—let's have some fun with it!

Quick aside: If you haven't yet seen the movie yet, don't worry, I got you! Here's the lightning summary with spoiler warning: Dad is a scientist, finds a time portal (i.e., the "wrinkle in time" or "tesseract"), and gets very lost. His daughter doesn't know that he's lost in the time portal and after a long time, three "Astral Travelers" show up—Ms. Who, Ms. What, & Ms. Which—to tell the girl that they know where her father is. They all proceed to go on a journey through time and space (using a nifty tesseract) to find him. All of them see a lot of cool stuff and eventually find dad. The End!

Just like the characters' development in the movie, our roles as coaches are often undefined—sometimes disconnected—and can be overall mystical; this ambiguity is the malady of effective time management. Although there are no "wrinkles in time" or wormhole openings whereby we as coaches can retrieve lost opportunities, knowing the proverbial "Ms. Who," "Ms. What," and "Ms. Which" (i.e., reflective questions to ask) can help guide our efforts and resolve, maximizing our time as we prepare for the coming school year.

The journey into learning of any kind is paved by thoughtful questions. When effective management of one's timely coaching is the focus, asking the right "Ms. Who, What, and Which" questions can be our proverbial "tesseracts" into effective time management. These questions seem simple and intuitive but require reflective intentionality and purposeful systematic accountability. What this means is that we should be constantly reevaluating our coaching moves and establishing systems that make our work accountable not only to others, but more importantly to us. The goal of these questions is to be a practical means of recalibrating. Thinking through them has made the most of my coaching efforts and created efficient and sustainable coaching moves, despite impinging distractions. Are you ready to "tesser"? Let's go!

Guiding Questions: Who, What, and Which

Ms. Who? 

  • Who is this for?
  • Who can be empowered?

Ms. What? 

  • What is the campus's priority?
  • What are the specific targets for the year?
  • What are my expected outcomes for coaching supports?
  • What are the highest leverage points for coaching supports?
  • What can be modeled?
  • What is ideal and what can be made to fit?

Ms. Which? 

  • Which circulating issue should I address first, next, and so on?
  • Which response would yield the most benefit?

Just like the daughter and her guiding companions, we can also use these guiding questions to move through the open space of instructional coaching. These reflective questions are a practical way to refine our purpose, focus, and collaborative efforts day to day. For the scope of the school year, we should consider who and what our highest leverage points are and which tasks are most beneficial to our targeted schedule (daily or weekly) of priorities. Might I suggest that whatever your "target" is, that it encompasses supporting teachers in moving toward the best/ideal conditions for student learning?

Although you set your coaching sight on teaching and learning, you will similarly encounter the antagonistic directives that will offset your priorities and swallow up a lot of your time. In the end, while the daughter and her companions escape the antagonist brain villain, "It," you might not be so lucky. You must make a respective attempt to manage any and every directive that does not allow you to exercise best practices for coaching; "time is of the essence." This entails managing your time wisely and focusing the majority of the time directly impacting teaching and learning on your local campus.

Final Thought

As moviegoers witnessed the destruction of the It, the theme for most was conspicuous—love wins outs! This is the fulcrum that makes effective time management even possible: in every scenario that a coach faces, the repeated adherence to altruistic means will ultimately save you time! Altruism saves time! Dependability saves time! Empathy saves time! The issue of time management isn't a mechanical dilemma, it’s an adaptive one; it's efficiency will be determined by your connection to the people around you. Know your people, love your people, empower your people, listen to your people, challenge your people, see your ability to overcome setbacks, and find what's been possibly missing in effectively managing your coaching schedule.

We recently published the 2022 Coaching Impact Report where we share practices, tools, and trends driving instructional coaching today so that you can take what works (and avoid what doesn’t) and apply it to your district’s coaching program.

About our Guest Blogger

Tim Livingston, a Georgia native, is a development specialist in a Texas school district. Prior to his current role, Tim taught in the classroom for many years and also served as an instructional coach. Before pursuing his passion through education, Tim served in the U.S. Air Force for 8 years. Tim has a B.S. in Workforce Education and Development from Southern Illinois University, a M.Ed. in Educational Administration from Prairie View A&M University, and an Ed.S. in Leadership in Mathematics Education from Regent University.

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