Coaching is essential for the success of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports. Coaching is not about giving directives or forcing others to invest, but is rather about recognizing strengths and challenges in MTSS implementation and helping staff grow in their professional practice, apply professional learning, and overcome challenges to meet personal and collective goals.
While building a Multi-Tiered System of Supports practice within a school or district, consider how to best coach team members, from teachers to counselors to support staff to administrators; each requires different levels of support. This toolkit provides a few resources to consider in coaching your team for MTSS success. These resources work no matter where you are in the MTSS implementation journey.
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Resource #1:Walk-Through Form
Great leaders are visibly present on the ground with their staff and students. Establishing a regular walk-through practice is a great way to stay in touch. A consistent method for observing and capturing those snapshots helps leaders engage in meaningful conversations and planning. Just as a sports coach will watch the game tape to set the next step, having a straightforward way to collect observational data is vital. Adapt this walk-through form to fit your context.
Jim Knight, the instructional coaching guru, talks about asking great questions as essential in any coaching practice. “Good questions are like intellectual fireworks, leading to explosions of ideas and more learning for the questioner and the conversation partner.” (Knight, 2022) Observation and assessment data provide a starting point for conversation, and open-ended questions prompt reflection and insight. This PDF provides some coaching questions to guide conversation after observing an intervention or lesson or having MTSS data for reflection.
Professional development and coachingshould be a two-way conversation. Provide ample opportunities for staff to provide feedback about their strengths and needs in MTSS implementation. We expect educators to differentiate instruction for their learners, and we should do the same for staff members. Since most teams have a variety of experiences, styles, and interests, a survey to gather information about these perspectives can help leaders make decisions for future steps.
Here is an example of a survey used to gather data about what professional training and coaching teachers need before starting a school year or even mid-year.
What support do you offer for educators to improve their practice? There is a need for all team members to examine different aspects of their work, to be reflective, and to work towards improvement in theMTSS implementation process.Sometimes the staff does not know what support to ask for because they don’t know what is possible. A menu of options provides staff with a clear list of opportunities to help them grow.
Many educators cite a lack of support and connection as a reason they leave the profession. A simple way to address that need is to take notice of the good things happening in your school. A simple handwritten note is an excellent opportunity for leaders to form a connection with a teacher, whether at the building or district level.
Here is a quick note card template to print — make it a habit to write short notes at the moment as you move around the school. Don’t be surprised if you see your note tacked up in a visible place — the encouragement and recognition will be much appreciated.
Larissa Napolitan is the Digital Content Creator for Branching Minds and the host of Branching Minds' podcast "Schoolin' Around." As a former middle school English teacher and instructional coach, she has over 13 years of experience building systems for improvement, training and coaching teachers in new technology and instructional methods, and leading efforts to build curriculum and literacy initiatives. She holds Masters's degree in Curriculum and Instruction and Education Administration from Emporia State University. Not only is she passionate about using her experience and academic knowledge, but loves to use her writing and voice to make a broader impact on education, teachers, and students.