Most educators, leaders, and teacher coaches have heard the name Maia Heyck-Merlin by now. In her books, The Together Teacher and The Together Leader, she delves deep into what it takes to keep your head above water in dynamic workspaces where resources and time are typically limited. Below you’ll find how Heyck-Merlin defines “Togetherness” in The Together Leader.
How many of these features ring a bell with you? Which ones do you need to devote more energy towards?
She argues, “Togetherness is not about ticking things off a list but rather ensuring the right things are done by the right people at the right times.” That certainly sounds utopian! The Together books are absolute tomes of practical information for those seeking “togetherness” in the hopes of decreasing stress and improving professional outcomes. Paul Bambrick-Santoyo (author of Get Better Faster and Leverage Leadership) also puts great focus on the same values. Protecting your time, how to schedule observations and feedback, and building your weekly schedule are just a few of the challenges he covers.
The goal of this post is to provide information on a few of the organizational tools for teacher coaches that can be worked into your kit based on these two resources.
“By intentionally planning the use of your time, you can lock in instructional and cultural leadership -- and lock out almost everything else.”
- Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, Leverage Leadership 2.0
Forming a Weekly Schedule for Teacher Coaches
First, we’ll turn to Leverage Leadership 2.0 and check in on its guidelines for building a weekly schedule. “Without a schedule that makes time for the most important actions you can take to fuel your school’s growth, you’re not building skyscrapers -- you’re fighting fires.”
To create a schedule that “builds skyscrapers,” here’s a quick breakdown of the main points that Bambrick-Santoyo lays out:
Step 1: Prework - Distribute Your Teachers Across the Leadership Team
Step 2: Block Out Student Culture Times
Step 3: Lock In Group Meetings
Step 4: Lock In Teacher-Leader Meetings
Step 5: Lock In Observations
Step 6: Add Time for Staff Culture
Step 7: Add Work Time for Big Projects
And even more importantly, the next step is to defend the time that you’ve dedicated. Bambrick puts forward the idea that a school leader’s main role is in two areas: instruction and culture. And thus, every moment spent outside of those areas is a moment that the levers for success are not being advanced. So, “Minimizing the time that leaders spend on ‘everything else’ is a vital priority.”
The proposed solution is to “Defeat Distractions” by designating an operations leader or team, and picking a first responder (someone specifically trained to provide assistance in an emergency) who attends to the “daily … small emergencies.”
The Together Teacher Coach
When it comes to scheduling your observations and feedback meetings, have no fear, Leverage Leadership 2.0 has some great guiding points:
Lock in Feedback Meetings
Conduct Shorter Visits
Observe in Blocks
Adjust Your Schedule Week to Week
Combine the Feedback Meeting with Other Meetings
Side note: We realize shorter visits or combined meetings might throw you off. Here’s the Why behind the What:
Shorter Visits: “So long as leaders are strategic about what they are looking for, this shorter length of time [15 minutes] is sufficient for thorough and direct feedback. … significantly longer observations are often inefficient, especially when they come at the expense of observing far fewer teachers.”
Combined Meetings: Combining observation feedback with other levers for a teacher makes more efficient use of everyone’s time. In the provided example, 10-20 minutes are spent on observation and feedback, and then 20-40 minutes are spent on planning or weekly data.
In Get Better Faster, Principal Nikki Bridges gives a binder with organizational materials to every new teacher at their first meeting. Inside she provides:
Task Management Tracker
Weekly Meeting Notes
Data-Driven Instructional Plan
How can we be more intentional in the way we organize our time?
Here’s the bottom line: Whetstone understands. We know how busy it can be in schools. Our team is largely composed of former teachers and school leaders. We talk to current educators and school/district leaders every day who tell us about their struggle to balance their time with their priorities. Our response? Whetstone is designed to help you solve this exact problem.
Whetstone Is the Go-To Resource for Teacher Coaches
Combining insights from Heck-Merlin and Bambrick Santoyo, we work with schools to be both laser-focused on instructional quality and to be extraordinarily organized. Teachers and leaders need an efficient, time-saving tool to manage all the information scattered about in Google Docs, desk drawers, and seemingly infinite file folders. We are a one-stop-shop for your weekly data meetings, coaching and evaluation reports, instructional resources, and more.
Our Customer Success team is fully committed to, well—your success! It’s in the name. They are here to provide all the training and ongoing support you need, and to ensure that incorporating Whetstone into your school’s toolkit isn’t a heavy or daunting lift.
We’ve partnered with over 1,300 schools to keep leaders and teachers organized, efficient, and informed while helping leaders prioritize instructional coaching and educator development. If you are ready to join these leaders and let us help make instructional coaching easier, you can schedule a meeting with us here.