One of the first things I learned after leaving the classroom to become an instructional coach was that there’s no “right” way to do my job. Just like teaching, instructional coaching is all about building relationships established on trust. Over the years, I’ve started leaning on a variety of tech tools and templates to help me establish and nurture these bonds with teachers, which has improved my practice immeasurably.
At the start of every new instructional coaching relationship, I email the teacher to introduce myself and express my excitement about what we’ll accomplish together. Within this email, I include a Google Form questionnaire to learn a little more about them.
The form asks typical icebreaker questions about preferred names and birthdays. But I also ask about their schedule and how they like to communicate. The goal is to get something in writing I can refer to when planning initial coaching activities. I also send a link to a personalized coaching menu—created in Google Drawings or Canva—to give a glimpse into all the ways I’m able to support them. I want each teacher to know that I’m there not just to observe their classrooms and give feedback, but to help them brainstorm lesson ideas, search for new resources, analyze student data, and master all the new technology they may encounter throughout the year.
Also embedded within the questionnaire is a copy of my coaching agreement, which establishes the foundation of our relationship—both the agreed-upon commitments and its confidential nature.
Once we’ve met in person a few times and established a working relationship, we begin a coaching cycle with activities based on the teacher’s needs. A large part of my job includes planning, preparing, and scheduling time within the workweek to accomplish coaching tasks. Google Calendar has been great for streamlining scheduling, organizing tasks, and helping me keep commitments. I love color-coding appointments and events so I can visually “see” everything I need to do. I also attach Google Meet or Zoom links for virtual sessions or check-ins, and I link important items like planning or shared note-taking docs. I love the task feature, which serves as my to-do list right within the calendar.
Since the teachers I coach have such wide variability in their needs, I use Google Sheets to track progress with coaching activities, cycles of inquiry, and teacher-driven goals (see here for an example template of my progress tracker). Each teacher gets access to a shared note-taking document where I record meeting notes and more.
GoReact is a versatile tool that lets teachers upload video of their lessons so that coaches can add targeted feedback. I use it in a couple of different ways. Since I coach some teachers solely online, I use it to provide them just-in-time feedback on their teaching practice.
But I also use it during my own coaching sessions (yes, even coaches need coaching). With permission, I record a coaching conversation with a teacher, upload the video to GoReact, and then self-reflect on my own coaching skills (i.e., listening, asking reflective questions, and providing feedback). I also give a coaching colleague access to my video and allow them to provide feedback as well.
The other premium tool that has recently found a place in my coaching tool kit is TeachFX. A data analytics platform, this tool leverages speech recognition via artificial intelligence to analyze classroom discourse. Teachers record a lesson and upload it to the platform, and the software transcribes and analyzes the conversation, including how much time students spend talking in class and the types of questions teachers are asking.
In my practice, I’ve used it to help shed light on student engagement during academic discussion. When teachers share challenges in getting students to use academic language in class, I suggest that they use TeachFX during an inquiry cycle to record a class period and then reflect on the data to decide what may need to change to get a different outcome.
Naturally, reflective practices are a huge part of my coaching practice. I believe it is important to seek feedback to get a temperature check of my effectiveness; model lifelong learning; and gain insights on what to start, stop, or continue doing in my practices. Throughout the year, when I meet with groups of teachers, I provide a simple analog or digital Plus Delta form—a simple chart for evaluating successes (Plus) and areas for improvement (Delta). My particular form asks three questions:
- What went well?
- What should change?
- What comments, questions, or concerns do you still have?
The information from these Plus Delta forms serves as a compass, guiding future planning and preparation. I also solicit in-depth feedback from teachers in a Google Form with more specific questions. (Here is an editable copy of my coaching feedback form.) Together, this provides a continuous feedback loop that fosters continuous improvement.
Coaching is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor; it requires a deeply personalized approach grounded in trust, enhanced by effective tools, and driven by a commitment to ongoing self-reflection and improvement, on the part of both the teacher and the coach. Most of all, I’ve learned that while there’s no one right way to coach teachers, there are a host of tools and strategies that make it more effective.