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Instructional Leadership

Instructional Coach Lessons Learned: Lesson Two: It’s the Little Things

Written By Petra Claflin, Senior Instructional Coach
In her end-of-year reflection, of one of my teachers cited an example of a time in September when she was really stressed and I was willing to reschedule our meeting since she was having a really rough day and then brought her a latte during her off period. She detailed how much that meant to her in that moment and ended the written anecdote with, “THANK YOU!” It may or may not surprise you to know that this was part of her answer to, “What did your IC do that was most helpful?” And really, when you think about it, it’s not that surprising. In the life of a first-year teacher, a lot of what they’re trying to do is just get through the day and then the week and then the month of October and on and on until finally it’s January and things start looking up. So having someone take a moment to respond to their emotional needs vs. just their instructional needs is huge.

In terms of my coaching her, while this situation meant that we had to postpone a debrief and giving her feedback got put on hold for another day, the benefits clearly outweighed the losses. Not only did that latte mean a lot to her in the moment, the appreciation she felt for my gesture paid dividends throughout the year. From that moment, she knew that I was there for her and cared about her as a person and not only as a professional. This meant that moving forward, she was more open and willing to hear and trust my feedback because she knew it was coming from a good place. That latte sealed a positive trajectory for our coaching relationship. Now did I know this at the time? I hadn’t a clue. But she did. And we never know what ‘little thing’ will flip that switch and get our teachers on our side. But the good news is that it often is, in fact, a little thing. A genuine thing, but a little thing. Here are some ideas for little things that may pay off big:

  • Lattes J
  • Thank you notes or other personal cards
  • Snacks
  • Quick e-mails that demonstrate you’re thinking about them (ie: checking on how a field trip went, a student performance, a weekend trip they went on, etc.)
  • Popping in just to say hello
  • Holiday treats
  • Public praise (in the teacher’s lounge, in all-staff e-mail/meetings, on Facebook groups, etc)
  • Helping them with classroom organization/beautification tasks


One thought on “Instructional Coach Lessons Learned: Lesson Two: It’s the Little Things

  1. So much of a new teacher’s life is around managing the details that they are either too fully aware of and learning to manage or very unaware of and constantly being made aware of. This is a tough position to be in when as teachers we strive for achievment and excellence. There is a saying out there that goes, “The devil is in the details”, If this is so then I think, “The little things help turn those little devils into devil’s food CAKE!” While cake is not the greatest coping stategy the kind things that a coach or a colleage can do for new teachers are invaluable and sustaining.

    Posted by Larissa Brown | July 3, 2012, 10:58 am

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