Research says that a school leader’s primary role is to coach and develop their staff. Maintaining this priority leads to an increase in student achievement, as well as a positive school climate and culture (Kohansal, 2015).
For leaders, there are so many demands on time that it’s often challenging to focus on coaching and development, despite their positive impact on student and staff growth. The days are filled with meetings and assessments, so finding time to visit classrooms outside of completing teacher observations can be tricky.
Some schools have found success with a unique “tiered level of support” conducted by the leader or members of the administrative team. This system was developed to offer support to all teachers and to give the leader more non-evaluative interaction with teachers in the classroom. These intentional visits place the focus on noticing positives, which can help strengthen relationships between teachers and school leaders. They have the potential to build willingness and trust with school-wide initiative implementation.
It’s easier to focus on areas that require improvement, so ways that a teacher has successfully taught the whole child can go unnoticed. These intentional interactions are instrumental in seeing the potential in a teacher and celebrating the positives. At other times, the focus can be placed on plans for improvement.
Schools very effectively tier students to meet grade level proficiency, supporting them through interventions while still measuring progress. That same concept has been successful with teacher levels of support, but with a twist. Here’s how it works:
A coaching rubric is used to identify levels of support for teachers so that coaching and developing them can be more consistent and meaningful. The levels allow you to provide support for teachers using “noticing of positives.” As teachers are noticed for what they are doing well, collaboration and cooperation may increase.
If a teacher is intensive, he or she will be visited once weekly, always by the administrator. The administrator will plan to make an unannounced visit to the classroom (not a formal observation) weekly and notice something positive, then verbally describe it. This should be a very short visit, and the leader should not bring anything with them to the classroom. The leader will later use a Google Doc form to record what they noticed and the date. These visits allow the leader to monitor progress while also encouraging the teacher through noticing.
A strategic teacher should receive a visit twice a month by anyone on the administrative team, using the same process described above. It’s important to complete the Google Doc for strategic teachers as well.
Benchmark teachers receive a monthly visit by anyone on the administrative team, using the same process as above and completing the Google Doc.
These informal observations allow leaders to document positives noticed within the classroom and help teachers feel seen and celebrated on a consistent basis. Coaching and developing staff is a priority for leaders, but it’s difficult to find the time to invest in this process without having a support system in place. This rubric will help the leader identify appropriate levels of support and start the process while remaining consistent. As intensive teachers grow and become more proficient within the rubric, they can be moved to strategic and then to benchmark.
Just like in the RTI/MTSS process that is used for students, a teacher will stay at the same tier while the administrator visits and monitors progress for six weeks. Every six weeks, the teacher can be reevaluated and may have made enough progress to move to a different tier. All new teachers start as intensive so that the administrator can guide and coach them.
The amount of time in the room will be minimal, but it’s enough to develop a relationship and an increased sense of trust. Using this rubric process to identify staff strengths provides the structure to be successful. The Google Doc helps with documentation for the formal observation, so that positives can be added to areas for growth.