Instructional Coaching: “What do you do?” -Advice for First Year Coaches

I was asked by a former colleague turned administrator to “email a list of what you do with teachers” so he would have “somewhere to start” with his new, first year instructional coaches.  I am no seasoned professional, this will be my second year as a K-8 instructional coach, and I had TONS of help getting started last fall. I decided I would “pay it forward” and sent him a three page document he could share with his new coaches. Here’s the text of the document I sent. I’m still learning, so please help me out and let me know if you have any other advice you’d offer to new coaches or principals working with them.  I’d appreciate it.



I can clear the table off easily and have room for a kiddo or two to sit with me, so I like the table instead of a desk. Note my planner from Ms. Houser and the ebook that I printed from Chrissy at "Buzzing with Mrs. B." Also, I went ahead and bought myself an extra monitor. I just found that I often have 15 different things open at one time, and this allows me to keep a couple things viewable at the same time.

What do your days look like?

Almost every day is different for me, especially since I’m in two buildings. I have come to rely heavily on my “Time and To Do Planner” (see  Typically my first 20-30 minutes is time for me to check my schedule, respond to emails, and/or touch base quickly with teachers or principals.  After that, I could be doing any number of things. Here’s a basic list.


  • In classrooms
    *Sometimes just observing & offering feedback (I like to actually DO any of the activities the students do and I typically bop around the room, interacting with kids whenever I am observing.)
    *Sometimes I lead a lesson either to model for the teacher, or because we planned a unit together and I begged the teacher to let me lead a few lessons.
    *Sometimes I co-teach
    *Sometimes I’m watching a certain kiddo
    *Sometimes I get a seating chart and track detailed participation data
  • Meet with teachers
    This is a big chunk of my day. Sometimes these meetings are planned, but often they are not. I love my room at Hospers where teachers feel free to pop in and talk.  We talk about all sorts of things: units and lessons, essential questions, student accountability, behavior concerns, curriculum, assessment, technology, etc.  Sometimes these meetings are a part of a “coaching cycle” where we are working through a unit together, but more often they are just a quick meeting to figure something out.
  • Research & Creating Resources
    This is another big part of my day. I love that I have the time to search for or create something for another teacher.
  • Work with students
    Sometimes I work short term with students either one on one or in a small group.  This helps me get to know the kiddos so when I’m talking with a teacher and understand their concerns. I have also done some diagnostic testing with a few students.  I have the time and resources to dig in and see if I can figure out where the gaps are and then begin to offer possible interventions that can be utilized in the classroom.  I have also helped out with writing projects–taking a few kids aside to work through editing and revising.  
  • Help with testing
    I typically help most of the K-5 classrooms with SOME of their fluency testing. They usually give me 5-10 kids that are solid readers so I can get through them quickly.  Once in awhile they’ll give me a kiddo that they are worried about just to have another set of ears listening to them read.  If a teacher is sick (or on maternity leave) I also help with their weekly progress monitoring.
  • Meet with principals
    This is a big one. We meet just about every week for 30-60 minutes. We typically talk about curriculum, data, assessments, and I share some of what I’ve been working on.  I bridge the gap between teachers and admin.   I HIGHLY recommend that principals and coaches meet on a regular basis.  
  • Meet with other coaches
    About once a quarter, the four of us get together and talk about what we’ve been doing, sharing ideas, concerns, and celebrations. It’s our “support group” time and we often do this over our lunch.
  • Webinars
    One of my jobs is to LEARN and stay on top of what’s new. I typically have at least one webinar every month or two. Besides learning how to use some new tech tool, Marzano’s research group puts on a few good webinars and (found through Twitter) there are several others that put on instruction focused events.
  • AEA meetings
    Our local AEA hosts monthly professional development meetings for teacher leaders. Last year they were all really good and provided a chance to network with other coaches from around the area.
  • PLC/Team Meetings
    I go to a lot of PLC meetings. My role varies in those meetings, but mostly I’m there to offer support. Often I’m able to answer questions or I write them down and go and find the answers.  Sometimes I’m leading part of the meeting as  I am asked me to share things. 

What I do with teachers

  • Most of the time, teachers come to me with a question and by just thinking through an issue out loud, they figure it out themselves. I just nod, rephrase some of the things I hear them say, and once in awhile ask them to “tell me more about that.” Overall, they need to know that I am on THEIR side, a colleague who can be trusted.  Also, I avoid using the word “help” unless the teacher specifically says, “I’d like your help.” Instead, I use the word “collaborate”.  “I’d love to collaborate with you on that!”  Steve Barkley had a post about that last year. 

Other tips

    1. Subscribe to,, and
      1. Follow Kathy Perret from the AEA. She’s a great resource and will also take time to either come out and talk to coaches, or meet with them online.
      2. Follow #educoach and try to participate in the Wednesday night chats if you can.
      3. Follow #iaedchat and try to participate in Sunday night chats.
      4. Check out my list of instructional coaches on Twitter:
    3. You might need a few “forms” to help you get started, but don’t get hung up on them. Soon enough you’ll begin feeling comfortable and won’t need forms, but keep a good notebook or legal pad handy at all times.
    4. Never leave your office without your planner. Never. Seriously. That quick trip to the bathroom? Someone will stop you and ask you to visit next Thursday at 2:00. Guaranteed. You’ll probably say, “sure” and find out that you are busy at 2:00 on Thursday and have to reschedule.  Done it too many times to count the first few weeks until I learned to just carry it ALL the time.
    5. Use any “down time” to learn. You won’t have much of it, but when you do, actively seek out your own professional learning.
    6. Get comfortable with just popping in to classrooms.  Not a bad idea to mention to teachers in the morning (“I would love to just visit for a bit this morning…”), but then make time once in awhile to just visit several classrooms. You need to know what’s going on and teachers will eventually just get used to seeing you. That in turn leads to being seen as a colleague, which leads to opportunities to collaborate. 


My first year was a roller coaster–lots of ups & downs and loops, and a TON of fun! I really was busy all year, with only a few days where I felt like I had time to just breathe, catch up on my “to do” list, and learn something on my own. Now, as I begin year two, I’m even busier! I had no “planned” meetings on Friday afternoon and hoped to check on the FAST/Iowa Teir system, but walked down the hall once and had four people catch me and say they needed me to stop when I had time. I was swamped all afternoon. Last fall I spent time writing names on things for people, just to open the door, this year, my to do list is full already.

Finally, in early August of last year, a 2nd year coach took time to do a Google Hangout with me and a few other new coaches. She visited with us for about an hour and  answered a lot of our questions. This document is a way for me to “pay it forward”, so I’m happy to do it. Feel free to contact me anytime with questions or if you want to do a Google Hangout (or meeting, I’m happy to oblige. :-)

Best Wishes,


View of My “Room”

So, I hate the word “office”. Most teachers don’t have offices, so when I made the switch to instructional coaching, I didn’t like the sound of the word “office.” So I call this my “room”.  Being very visual, I LOVE peeking into the “rooms” of other instructional coaches and looking for ideas. This was especially true last fall when I first started as a coach.  So, knowing that there are a ton of new instructional coaches and teacher leaders in our area, I thought you might want a peek into MY “room”.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

Update: Zaption Sold Out–EdPuzzle My New Favorite

Update 8/3/16

I had posted about Zaption being my favorite new tech tool (see below). Unfortunately, they sold out and will be shutting down in September. After doing some searching, I think EdPuzzle is the closest to what Zaption had to offer, PLUS they have a SUPER easy transfer wizard that will take your Zaption lessons and turn them into EdPuzzle lessons literally within a minute or two.  Love that! Here is a link to the video that shows how the transfer wizard works.  Let me know if you have any questions. I’ve been in touch with the creator of EdPuzzle and he is genuinely interested in making it useful for teachers. 


Original Post from June 2016:

“Don’t just watch. Learn.”

That’s the tag line of my new favorite tech tool.  Zaption allows users to create interactive video lessons by adding automatic pause points, questions, and student responses.  It is amazing and one of the best ways to add instant engagement, curiosity, and dialogue to a classroom.  Also, for those interested in the “flipped learning”, Zaption provides an avenue to gauge student learning.  There are so many incredible aspects of Zaption, I cannot begin to explain other than to say, once again, that it is my FAV-OR-ITE tool. Watch this short demo video to get a glimpse of what Zaption can do.

On Reading, Writing, Crayons, and Joy

I love to read. As a reading teacher, that is IMPERATIVE. If you want your kids to love reading, you need to love reading. I am a STRONG believer in this. I’ve been told that preachers need to be able to preach, pray, or die at a moment’s notice. Well, elementary teachers need to be able to recommend a just right book for every reader, tell when a kid is fibbing about reading a book (and know what to do about it), or retire.

Well, I teach writing as well. I think writing is okay. This is a problem. I want my kids to love to write, so I need to love to write. I do love it sometimes. When the mood strikes. Which isn’t all that often as the inconsistent posts on this blog prove.

So, I’m writing this evening.

I had the pleasure of taking my fifth grade kiddos to a second grade classroom to work with our buddy class on a “creativity project” today. Anytime you mix 11 year olds with 8 year olds, you are going to have a few stories to tell. Here’s my favorite from today.

5th Grader: Hey, do you have a white crayon I can use?

2nd Grader #1: I might have a white crayon or a white marker. I’ll look.


2nd Grader #1: Nope. Don’t have one. I think [2nd grader #2] took it.

2nd Grader #2: Hmm… What did it look like?

2nd Grader #1: It was white

(Me: [THINKING]  No kidding? [TRYING to hold in giggle])

2nd Grader #2: Like this? [pulls out stereotypical white Crayola crayon]

2nd Grader #1: Yes! That’s it.

Me: GOL! (GIGGLE out loud)


If you are an elementary school teacher, YOU get this. If not, be jealous. We get these moments  EVERY day.  Pure joy.

So love my job!

God bless elementary kiddos!

-Mrs. T.G. :-)



Olympic Unit

Below is a pdf copy of our TENTATIVE plan for our Winter Olympics Unit we hope to do over the next couple of weeks. Feel free to use and share as you please, keeping in mind this is in DRAFT form, so please forgive mistakes. We will use some of the resources found on (kind of cheesy, I know, but they cover some basic info without me having to create it myself), and we will use a LOT of online resources. Some of the sites I found from my PLN on Twitter are listed below.

Let me if you use the outline or if you find any other really good resources I should have on the list.

Here’s the unit outline: Olympic Unit Outline

And here are some links:

  1. The SCIENCE of the Olympics”
  2. NBC’s official Olympics page (I’m pretty sure they will be broadcasting live events on this link)

    Other pretty good sites:

  8. Tear jerker commercial:|dc_3851824569_b_olympics%20video