Closing out vs. Fading out

If you’ve been supporting and/or evaluating teachers all year long, don’t let that work just fade out as summer approaches.  Make sure you and your teachers get the most out of the year by having a formal close-out conversation.  I was talking recently with one of the instructional coaches at YES Prep and she was sharing some of the powerful conversations she’s been having and I wanted to pass some of those ideas along here.  If you’re a teacher and not an instructional leader, you can initiate this important conversation, too.

Focus on teacher strengths.  No matter how strong or struggling the teacher, the most impactful way to set them up for success in thinking about next year is to make sure they know their specific strengths so that they can build on them.  And knowing how stressful teaching is, especially for newer teachers, focusing on positives at the end of the year will help make them feel strong and confident about next year instead of wondering, ‘Can I do this for another year?’

Have teachers identify focus areas for next year.  The summer offers a great time for professional development and personal reflection, but this will only happen if teachers feel motivated and excited to do it.  Even if you know where you want teachers to focus in order to improve, now’s the time to give them complete ownership over their development so that it’s meaningful for them and they’re inspired to do it. 

Create a summer/fall action plan.  Since it is teachers’ hard-earned summer vacation, this will depend on the teacher and so the ideas for next steps should be led by the teacher.  Some teachers might have lots of ideas for conferences, planning, and prep they want to do over the summer and for some it might be minimal and be more about what they’ll do when they return in the Fall.  Either way, it gives them a concrete plan to focus on as they think about next school year.

Clear the path.  This phrase comes from the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath.  Clearing the path is about removing as many barriers as possible so that an action or change is most likely to happen.  In these final conversations with teachers, clearing the path is about thinking through the details of the teachers’ next steps and removing barriers so that teachers can visualize them happening and articulate how they’ll happen.  For example, if a teacher says they want to write 3 unit plans over the summer, talk through their summer plans to help them identify exactly which weeks they’d be able to write them and what resources they would need in order to do it.  Depending on the teacher’s level of enthusiasm, you may even be able to calendar out when everything will happen.  Without this clear path to success, it’s easy for the summer weeks to fly by and then all of a sudden it’s the first day back at school and the teacher hasn’t accomplished any of the summer plans they intended to.

Get some feedback.  Find out from the teachers you support what they appreciated about your support, what they wanted more of, and what they’d want to change.  This could be in person, but if you feel like you’d get more honest feedback, it could be through an anonymous survey.  This is mutually beneficial because it helps them identify what they need from a coach/evaluator and it helps you get insight into how to better support your teachers next year.

Previously published April 30, 2014

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