The first days of the school year are always a whirlwind, but they’re a great opportunity to start the year well in your coaching role!

Here are 8 strategies to start the year right, as an instructional coach!

1: Be Extra Visible

Especially at the very beginning of the year, when maybe things are a little bit quiet for coaches, but very busy for teachers make sure to walk around campus and pop into the classrooms. Even if there’s nothing that you think might be going wrong, a need will arise, and that will set off the school year positively because you’ll have that great opportunity to do something just in time for a teacher. It starts off your relationship on a really positive note, and it keeps you in their mind as someone who can be supportive for them.

This of course is especially critical for new teachers who might not really know exactly how the coaching process works. Just getting to know you saying hello, learning a little bit about you learning you learning a little bit about them is a great way to start the new year as you’re going around and being visible and popping in and seeing what’s going on in different classrooms.

Bonus: Document Your Conversations

It’s also worthwhile to keep a coaching journal, to keep some notes on what you’re talking about with teachers. Maybe even keep some notes on personal information about them so that you can begin to personalize your interactions with that teacher. You can make notes to remember things about their family or about their holiday or about what they need in their classroom. So that every time you work with that teacher, you have those reminders of exactly what’s important to them to help personalize their learning experience. 

2: Establish or Maintain Quality Relationships With Your School Leadership

If you are returning to the same school, it is likely that you have a great relationship with your school leadership already. But if you’re at a new school, this is a good time to start to get to know your school leadership. You can both establish and maintain that relationship by popping into their office and asking a little bit about their goals for the academic year and what you can do to support them at this point in time.

It’s likely that most school leaders kind of have an expectation that you, as a coach know what your job is and that you can support them, so you can also offer them some insight into how they can support you in being effective in your job. If you want. This might also be a nice time to share with your school leaders how your pop in visits have been going, the great things that are happening in different classrooms, and the ways that you’re planning to support all the teachers in the building or the district right now. This gives them a little bit of an insight into what you’re doing as a coach at the beginning of the year.

Bonus: Visit Middle Leaders Too!

It’s really important to remember to visit all school leaders, not just the building or divisional principals visit with the heads of departments with the tech director or a tech coordinator, visit those people that have middle leadership roles too, and remind them that you can support them too many of those people might be actually in the classroom as well. You can do double duty when you’re going around on your pop ins and just ask if there’s anything you can do to support them in their role as service leader or whatever it might be. 

3: Do Your Research

After visiting with so many teachers and school leaders you probably have a lot of new info to explore. You might know about some new and exciting things that are expected in the school district over the school year, like new PD initiatives, or new tools or techniques teachers might want to use. Now is a great time for you to do a little professional learning research, and potentially create resources for teachers or strategize approaches for working with different teams or different departments, plan some training for the year and upskill yourself.

Bonus: Get Ahead

Now might be a little bit of a quiet time while teachers are classroom prepping. So you can get ahead of a little bit by being prepared and doing a little bit of groundwork for what you know might be coming this academic year. 

4: Set Goals & Identify a Mentor

Everyone benefits from having a coach! We always want to improve our practice as well. Now is a great time to do a little reflection and a little planning ahead and thinking about what you want to achieve this year as a coach. Maybe it’s:

  • working with a more diverse group of teachers, or a team that maybe you had struggled with in the previous year or a different grade level that you didn’t kind of get into their classrooms as much as you it to last year, or
  • being an advocate for your coaching area or another lens on coaching that is important to you and the school community, or
  • helping your school leaders better understand the value and purpose of coaching, or
  • challenging yourself to have deeper coaching conversations or use new coaching skills in your practice.

Whatever it is, identify that goal. As you’re visiting classrooms and seeing all the different people you have on staff, identify who can support you, who can be a great sounding board for you, who can be that other pair of eyes to review the work that you’re doing and make sure you’re moving in the direction you want to go to. 

Bonus: Become a Better Coach!

Work with a mentor to build your coaching skills too! If you don’t have a mentor on staff, that’s okay. I would love to mentor you! We have Private Mentoring packages where you can work with me 1:1 to help you achieve your coaching goals. Find out more:

5: Create a Data Collection Tool

What are you doing to measure the impact of your practice? You can work on creating some data collection tools for teachers, for students, for school leaders at this time of the year, so that you know your work is making an impact on student learning and teacher learning over the course of the year. 

Bonus: Adapt These Tools for Your Colleagues

You can adapt the tools you’re using for yourself, for teachers and leaders too. Create opportunities to support them in their goals of data collection & analysis too! If you’re curious about measuring your impact as a coach, we have a few other resources for you:

6: Get Organized

Set up a place where you can record your thoughts and your plans for all your meetings. Personally, I like a digital planner because I can carry it with me on my phone and it can be on my laptop so I have access to it anytime. But it doesn’t matter if you want to do paper or digital, whatever works for you is perfect.

Bonus: Set Up a Meeting Scheduling Tool

As you’re thinking of how you might want to design this planner process, you might also want to think about a meeting scheduling tool (like Calendly). How will you organize and schedule meetings with the teachers you’re going to work with this year? How can you make it easy for them to book times with you AND keep track of your existing responsibilities?

7: Find Your Lighthouse Teachers

These are teachers who inspire you, and remind you what you love about teaching and learning; who allow you to take some risks in their classroom, maybe even becoming a little bit part of their class so that you can try new things.  These teachers then become your sounding boards and the momentum builders. The teachers who will spread the great work they’re doing with you to their colleagues in their department or their grade level. 

Bonus: Share the Learning

Once you have your lighthouse teachers & inspiration, you can go share those great ideas with the other teachers who might be a little bit more cautious in what they do in their classroom.

8: Make Time for You

Don’t forget to schedule some time for yourself in your calendar. You might not be able to keep those appointments, but having them scheduled will be a reminder that yes, you need to eat lunch, or you need to take a moment to go to the bathroom, or you might need some time to prep some work for another meeting. So don’t forget to schedule those things actually in your calendar.

Bonus: Create a Routine

Even if you end up having to move them all around all the time, at least you won’t forget how important it is to be prepared for the next coaching meeting or that you need to eat on a regular basis each day of the school week. 

Watch the Video

Working on Some Exciting Goals this Year?

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If you are looking for thoughtful, in-depth, action oriented personal professional development customized just to your needs, private mentoring is for you! We will work together, 1:1 to articulate your professional goals and design a custom learning plan to help you reach those goals. Having a mentor gives you an outside sounding board to talk through any issues you may be facing in your role at school: from moving to a leadership position, to finding your voice as a coach, to building your capacity with technology rich learning, we can support you! Find out more at