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    Instituting MTSS Leadership in MTSS

    Being a Chicago native, I am a huge fan of Phil Jackson, the former Chicago Bulls basketball coach. In addition to coaching the Bulls to six championships over nine seasons, Jackson has a superb resume, including being an excellent basketball player in his own right, and coaching individuals who are now known as some of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball. Three things are for certain. Phil Jackson…

    • Knows the game of basketball;

    • Knows how to build effective teams; and

    • Knows how to coach them to success consistently

     Although I am not an NBA basketball player or an NBA coach, I can appreciate stellar coaching when I see it. As a building administrator, I proudly coached many educators and teams within my school buildings to succeed. And now, as an educational consultant, I have the privilege of helping educators, whom I consider "coaches," gain the knowledge, skills, and aptitude to coach ALL their teams to success.  

    As a fan who grew up closely watching stellar coaches like Phil Jackson, I learned some things that played directly into my work as an administrator and MTSS coordinator, especially when I needed to build effective teams for MTSS implementation. However, coaching was not always easy for me, especially as a novice administrator. In those early days, I lacked the knowledge, resources, and experiences to effectively coach some of my most challenging individuals and teams. In hindsight, I wish I had a guide me through those situations because I would have loved to be a successful “coach" to everyone I worked with.

    When met with defeat as a leader and coach, I allowed one of Phil Jackson's quotes to guide my work in many ways. That quote is, "The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.

    For this quote to come to reality with my teams at school, and now in my work as a consultant, I have found that successful coaches must possess 4 things. 

    Today, as a consultant, I will share those 4 things and how you can successfully establish and coach teams needed for effective MTSS implementation. 

    Item #1: Have a Clear Vision 

    The coach must have a clear understanding of the purpose and mission of the team and a clear vision of where he/she wants to lead the team (beginning with the end goal in mind). The coach must be transparent about the end goal and ensure all players have the playbook or a guide to success. The coach must provide time and ensure that all players study the playbook and practice what is in the playbook. 

    As a leader and coach, the MTSS handbook is the “playbook” which is used to guide the MTSS practices, protocols, procedures, and flow on your campus. It is crucial to ensure the vision, goals, and timelines of when goals need to be met are not only consistently communicated to your team, but you also must protect time for them to meet and practice perfecting their crafts to ensure all goals are going to being met.

    Ensure you have an effective MTSS Handbook and it guides each individuals work within MTSS on your campus/district.  You must be present in classrooms, MTSS meetings, school activities/events, etc., (the MTSS version of “basketball practices”) to coach in the moment, provide live feedback, and ensure you are coaching educators to develop and grow in their crafts while simultaneously being in alignment with the researched-based practices, protocols, and procedures that have been memorialized in the MTSS Handbook. 

    Item #2:  Know the Areas of Strength and Areas of Need for Your Team

    The coach must know the skills, talents, needs, attributes, time, and resources needed to create and build a team that can successfully super pass the end goal. The coach must be confident that individuals selected to be on the team not only possess the skills, talents, attributes, and/or resources needed for success but will work well together to get the job done. Many great individual players need to be more coachable and/or cannot play well with others. Neither is suitable for a team.

    The coach must know what their team needs from them to be successful, and the coach must be willing, dedicated, trustworthy, and capable of consistently meeting the needs of their team and be there every step of the way, giving in-the-moment coaching to each player to ensure they perfect their craft and meet their goals over time. To accomplish this, the leader must be present and supportive at MTSS meetings, during instruction, and MTSS planning/implementation.

    👉 Additional Resource: The MTSS Coaching Toolkit

    Item #3: Value Your Team

    The coach must create an environment where each member of the team is valued and celebrated for their skill and contributions. Having a strong MTSS culture within the team and on the school campus is mandatory. Each individual team member must have a voice, opportunities to develop their own craft and contributions to the team and an appreciation of their team member’s contributions. This type of environment and culture is created by the coach (leader) interacting with each individual with respect. Treating them as knowledgeable professionals and giving them the support they need to continuously learn and develop their craft; and celebrating them when they accomplish their individual goals and goals as a team. The celebrations must be consistent and memorialized. 

    For tips on how to build a strong MTSS culture and ideas for celebrations, read: How to Establish a Supportive & Successful MTSS Culture

    Item #4: Clarify Roles and Responsibilities

    Each player must explicitly know their role and responsibilities to the team and the roles and responsibilities of others. 

    No great coach is successful by coaching alone (Not even Phil Jackson), and that is the beautiful thing about it. Even the head coach (school leader) should be a part of a team comprised of other great coaches (leaders, innovators, strategists, etc.), and they should apply the same principles as stated above to ensure they are successful when working together and with the teams they coach. The coaches' ability to work together directly successfully impacts the effectiveness and success of the teams they coach.

    As a leader of MTSS, you or another school leader must be a part of the School Level Meeting, Grade Content Meeting, and Indivdual Student Meeting. All meetings serve different purposes but a leader's (coach’s) strategizing, input, and guidance are needed at all meetings.

    To plan for MTSS success and make data-driven decisions, you must have other leaders present with you to ensure decisions are made that will benefit the entire school community. Finally, all leaders must progress monitor the implementation and fidelity of those initiatives, decisions, processes, protocols, standards, etc. 

    Incorporating the four steps above leads to effective MTSS implementations. St. Martin and Vail discuss the importance of regulating the above items in this essential quote, “It is the role of the district to standardize the MTSS procedures and processes and the role of the building-level administrators to customize the implementation allowing MTSS to serve as an organizational framework for meeting the needs of all staff and learners through a continuous improvement model.” (St. Martin & Vail, 2013).



    Be sure to check the following:

    • Know all the team's needs to effectively implement MTSS on your campus.
    • Know the individuals on teams you are responsible for coaching and how you will support them to success.
    • Create a coachable environment; where individuals are celebrated, teams are celebrated, and everyone has the opportunity to have a voice, grow, and be creative in their own crafts and contributions to their teams.
    • Know who is responsible for coaching you and where you can get the support you need as a leader.
    •  Carefully select the individuals with the skill set and dedication needed to coach with you and distribute coaching responsibilities appropriately. 
    • Remember no successful coach will be a coach alone.

    In Conclusion

    Creating winning MTSS teams is vital for the young minds, hearts, and spirits who need their educators to be champions so they can develop into champions themselves. MTSS work was not created to be completed in silos. Educators must work together as an effective team (many different teams) to support their students and each other. To create and develop effective MTSS teams, there must be coaches and leaders present who:

    1. Know the MTSS framework, vision, and goals 
    2. Know how to build effective MTSS teams
    3. Know how to and does consistently coach MTSS teams to success

    Let Phil Jackson's words above motivate you to build, coach, and be a part of nothing but championship MTSS teams!


    • Be intentional about building and establishing MTSS teams that are aligned with the vision and goals of the campus.
    • Be responsible for guiding the success of each MTSS team by coaching individuals and ensure as a leader, you have support to do so successfully. 

    Additional Resources:


    Key takeaways from this article:

    • Teams are only as successful as the individuals on the team
    • Leaders must invest in their teams to be successful
    • MTSS work can not be done in silos; it must be accomplished through many successful teams


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    (St. Martin & Vail, 2013)






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    Tagged: Instituting MTSS, Leadership in MTSS

    April 11, 2023

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