10 Tips for Coaching Teachers During a Pandemic

Coaching teachers during a pandemic can be challenging. Covid-19 has changed the professional development landscape and therefore teacher leaders need to be creative and responsive in how they support teachers.

10 tips for Coaching Teachers During a Pandemic are shared below. For best results, implement just a few tips at a time to avoid overwhelm for all stakeholders.

tips for coaching teachers during a pandemic1. Research or Complete a Resource Hunt

Offer teachers the gift of your time by researching activities or engagement ideas for an upcoming lesson. During a pandemic, teachers are often overwhelmed trying to plan and prepare for instruction as it constantly changes from in-person to remote to a hybrid model.

Gifting teachers your time, a resource they are limited on, can decrease their overwhelm. Many teachers want to plan and execute stellar lessons, but lack the time to do so. Showing up to support teachers in this way is one way to roll up your sleeves and offer the assistance they actually need. Use these coaching coupons when you gift them your time!

2. Draft a Micro-Newsletter

A newsletter is a great way to consistently connect with teachers. These are often one page in length and full of lots of information. However, knowing teachers are overwhelmed during a pandemic, keeping the information short and to the point will ensure teachers feel the most supported.

A micro-newsletter can contain a tip of the week, teacher or student spotlight, upcoming dates/reminders and an encouraging quote or funny meme.

When you are brief and provide timely ideas for instruction, teachers begin to trust your support and will engage more often with you.

3. Provide Lesson Plan Feedback

This is a coaching strategy that can be used during a normal school year. However, the components you address in your feedback may differ. For example, lesson plan feedback might usually center around the  alignment between all lesson components or how often students are engaged in a lesson. Where as during pandemic teaching, your lesson plan feedback might center on which tech tool best enhances the content and the variety of ways teachers build a sense of community in their classrooms.

4. Lead Community Building Activities

Emotions run high when trying to show up professionally when the world around you personally is met with unrest. Creating opportunities to connect with each other and focus on fun and inspiring ideas motivates teachers to keep showing up as their best for kids.

Try having themed meetings, bingo boards, or shout out tools.

    • A themed meeting is a way to hype everyone up to attend and have fun even though it’s a meeting. This might look like having a crazy sock day or bringing in your favorite snack to share.
    • Bingo boards can be given to staff as a way to encourage them to complete certain actions related to their job while having competitive fun trying to win bingo! Bingo squares could include: greet staff by name in the hallway, try out a new tech tool, call 1 student at home etc.
    • There is a plethora of shout out tools available to acknowledge staff for a job well done. It doesn’t matter which tool you share, all that matters is you consistently recognize how hard their job is and how great they are at doing it. Check out SHOUTOUT  or JamBoard with your colleagues.

5. Host Office Hours

Many times teachers need to just vent before they move towards productivity at the workplace. Creating a consistent time and place to have an open chat with staff allows them to feel heard while processing their emotions. A virtual office hour can be held on a platform like Zoom and teachers can pop in and out during that hour for Q/A, comments or just to chat. It’s important to consistently host the room and stay the entire block of time even if no one is there. When you consistently offer yourself to serve others they begin to trust you and will eventually show up in droves. A menu of support can be helpful tool in starting this process.

6. Complete Virtual Classroom Audits

A less invasive way to provide teachers with feedback instead of observing them live is to execute an audit of their virtual classroom. Simply log in to their website that hosts all of the content students must access and provide feedback. You might notate on things such as:

    • Virtual classroom set-up (and if visually appealing)
    • Clear directives for navigation
    • Easy upload or communication options
    • Opportunities for student-to-student or student-to-teacher collaboration
    • Project or assignment exemplars
    • Clarity of assignment directions
    • Clear and specific student performance feedback
    • Common Q/A’s
    • Schedule/agenda/upcoming due dates
    • Celebration or good news

7. Provide Bite-Sized PD

Just like a lengthy newsletter can be overwhelming and go unread, a lengthy professional development   session will do the same. If you want teachers to learn something new and then implement that new learning, keep it bite sized with a singular focus. This might mean you have multiple follow-up meetings where you add on to the learning, but each learning event should be clear and simple in focus. It should also come with actionable tips or next steps of implementation. This ensures teachers apply their learning. Check out this blog post to learn more about leading efficient and engaging professional development sessions.

You can incentivize this part by hosting a drawing like a google form survey listing their biggest take away in exchange for a reward. You might even try a “be seen implementing next week” contest to keep them on their toes!

8. Offer Observation Options

Let teachers decide how they wish to be observed in the beginning. You want them to get the support they need to run an efficient, engaging and high quality learning environment. Knowing the instructional changes during a pandemic come fast and without warning, we want to be cognizant of how delicate of a subject observations can be during high stress times.

Offer teachers options like A) submit recorded videos of instruction and receive feedback or B) attend class live with the options of being a “fly on the wall” (no interaction) or active participation with cues or private chat. Cues would be decided ahead of time where you use a motion or cue card when the teacher needs to implement the action they’ve been working on (ie. longer wait time, clarifying instructions, efficient transition etc.).

Both options allow teachers to perfect their craft but at the pace of their comfortability. The end goal would be to attend all classes live, regardless if they want you to participate or just watch.

9. Co-Teach with Teachers

Many teachers need to see great teaching in action. If they cannot go out and watch their peers teach, then watching you lead a portion of a lesson is the next best thing.

This is also a strategy that can be used during a normal school year, but the focus on the co-teaching model is different. For example, in the past you might have planned to lead a 10 minute mini lesson or lead a small group of 5 students in a guided reading group. Now, however, you might share your screen or model a polling activity to drive engagement.

Co-teaching can still be effective even if class is virtual.

10. Engage in 1:1 Calls

One-on-one calls with teachers are powerful. They allow you to personally connect with teachers during one of the hardest times in their career. You also can transition your in-person meeting formats for pre-observation or post-observation debriefs to a phone or video call. You can share your screen if in a video call to discuss specific evidence points or you can send documents ahead of time if on a phone call.

Either way, the same format can be followed and be just as effective even though the medium you use to conduct the meeting is different. Click here for more details on hosting 1:1 calls with teachers.

Coaching teachers during a pandemic can be challenging, but if you implement the tips above you will have a tremendous impact. (You might also want to grab the Virtual Learning & Leading PD Guide.)

What tips would you add to coaching teachers during a pandemic?

About the author, Gretchen

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.