Many coaches are struggling with the practicality of keeping notes about their work with colleagues. It’s not that they don’t want to keep appropriate and professional notes; it’s more about the time it takes and the kind of notes that cause the coaches to anguish over how to complete that kind of process. It’s certainly not easy to do yet the rewards for taking the time to maintain records is crucial to a coach’s success.
What many practitioners do not understand is that coaches do not walk into school and announce, “Oh, what should we do today?” Coaches plan and prepare for their work with teachers every day. So, how do they know what they need to do in preparation for their work with teachers? They keep notes so they can differentiate their support to teachers; they keep notes so they know where they are, where they want to go, and plan the steps it takes to get there.
Coaches need to document not only what/how they work with colleagues but also what their next steps are to provide ongoing, job-embedded professional development to them. However, coaching is confidential so the documentation stays in the hands of the coach and the teacher(s) being coached. Coaches and teachers work together and co-construct the “look fors” (before) in their collaborative consultation. When the coach visits the classroom (during), the coach uses the co-constructed form to document what happened in the classroom. This form is again used as the coach and teacher reflect and debrief (after) the lesson. This kind of documentation is record keeping, a way for both the coach and teacher to keep track of their work together. This is one kind of documentation.
The more deliberate and thought-provoking kind of documentation is reflecting about the practice. Some questions include: How do you know the students were engaged in the work? Why were specific decisions made? How do you know that the students reached the intended outcomes? How can this practice be improved? What are the next steps to improve learning? These are great conversation starters that encourage deep thinking and contemplation, critical for ongoing discussions about student learning.
At the same time, coaches need to reflect on their work with teachers and ask the questions, “What am I doing to help teachers change and improve their practice? What am I doing to help teachers improve student engagement and outcomes?” Their relationships are developmental as is the process for reflecting and determining next steps. Coaches need to know what kind of support is necessary and if resources are required. They need to reflect on the conversations, actions, and thinking throughout the BDA cycle of coaching. They need to prepare themselves for the work they want to accomplish with their colleagues. They need to review their goals and objectives and determine if they have achieved what they set out to do. This process is continual and strengthens practice. How can that happen if the only thing to rely on is memory?