Overcoming Coaching Detours

Collaboration Montage

Victoria Salvat, instructional coach for Greenville County Schools in SC, dives into the importance of creating collaborative coaching schedules with teachers and how it helps to combat coaching hazards.


ven though my perception of coaching has been through lenses of rainbows and unicorns since my journey began, coaching cycles are not always a path of gold. In a perfect world, I'll set my appointments with teachers, help set goals, analyze pre-assessments, make a plan to boost instruction, observe, debrief, and repeat as necessary. Then voila: the students have learned all the things they were supposed to learn during that cycle! Unfortunately, this isn't always the case and as coaches, we face detours that cause us to change course.

Coaching anyone—from a first year teacher to master teacher—has many detours along the way. Detours can range from a behavior issue in a previous class that has to be dealt with—like teachers out with the stomach bug, standardized tests, etc.—to we-just-have-to-finish-this-other-lesson-first. Initially, if a teacher comes to me with an issue that changes the direction of the coaching cycle, I struggle with the "Nooooo" voice in my head. Yes, it can be frustrating, but you just have to recalculate sometimes as detours do happen and understand that it’ll be okay.

Plan Out Your Route: Set Schedules and Email Teachers

Coaching cycles always tend to feel clear of any detours when you first begin and it's important to begin a cycle by creating a schedule of appointments with teachers. The most successful coaching cycles occur at the beginning of a unit or topic of study where we can plan ahead and analyze pre-assessments together. Scheduling coaching meetings should be collaboratively set up in advance so that you're not always bugging the teacher for a time to meet. Once dates are set, send email confirmations as well as a reminder the day before (or even the morning of) a meeting or observation. Teachers' plates are often full, so friendly reminders are usually appreciated!

Reroute If Needed: Plan Accordingly

One tip for overcoming detours is to allow yourself to be as flexible as possible so that there's time to reschedule meetings with your coachees when detours come your way. I use Google Calendar to help me keep a running account of where I have to be every minute of every work day. If I don't, I'm lost because there's just too much going on with my work as a coach.

My calendar is full of district and coaching meetings, but it's easy for me to manage and see where I'm supposed to be. For example, when a teacher has to reschedule an appointment because we had a surprise fire drill during the time we set up, it's easy for me to check my calendar, click, and drag the appointment over to the next available time.

Stay the Course: Get to Your Goal

If necessary, recalibrate your coaching cycles to be consistent with your meetings, no matter the detours that come along the way. If you forget where you are in the process, meet with the teacher to discuss where they are in instruction and begin a cycle all over again. What's important to remember is that coaching cycles are not always going to look pretty and go as planned. Sometimes you'll be surprised at where it takes you because it's not where you first imagined. However, if you're consistent with meeting with the teacher and you continue to go towards the goal for the students, you’ll get where you need to go!

About our Guest Blogger

Victoria Salvat is a 3rd year instructional coach for Greenville County Schools. This is her 12th year in education and she's glad she didn't quit—even during her hardest years of teaching! Outside of the school building, she enjoys presenting at educational conferences, reading all kinds of self help books, writing in her journal, and running races for buttery soft t-shirts. She has two amazing boys who keep her on her toes and remind her that every child is someone's baby. In her spare time, she's an organizer for EdCamp Greenville.

Follow Victoria on Twitter via @vsal615 or #THATAsianIC!

Victoria Salvat

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Topics: Tips and Tricks, Guest Blogger, Your Coaching Toolbox, Coaching Relationships, Scheduling, Coaching Reluctance

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