Setting up for success: STCM School Leadership Coach Susan Sprenger on preparing for a new year

September 17, 2015

For students, the school year begins on their first day back to class. But for school leaders and the STCM School Leadership Coaches that support them, the school year has been underway for weeks.

Susan Sprenger, a coach supporting leaders at schools in all three sectors, recently shared an inside look at how Schools That Can Milwaukee supports principals to ensure a successful start to the school year.

“Coaching in the summer and in September is totally different from the rest of the year,” Sprenger says.

For one, new coaches have joined the STCM team and new schools have joined the STCM network. Candor and trust are critical to successful coaching, so relationships must be built between coaches and leaders.

“It’s about relationship development with new leaders, getting to know their school, and getting to know their working style.”

 

Summer coaching focuses on setting goals and planning

While working to build a strong relationship, coaches and leaders begin to plan for the coming year.

“Coaching at the beginning of the school year is focused on a few ‘big rocks,’” Sprenger says.

First, coaches and leaders work together to analyze the previous year’s data and identify school-wide goals for the new year. From there, quantitative and qualitative metrics are selected to measure success throughout the school year.

“We have to create the roadmap that will take us from the beginning of the year to the end of the year,” Sprenger says.

This roadmap comes into play for the next ‘big rock:’ creating a plan and calendar for staff professional development. This plan sets a clear instructional vision during teacher training days before the new year begins and carries it through the rest of the year.

“We need to establish what high-quality instruction looks like, determine how we are going to get there, and then figure out how best to communicate this to teachers,” Sprenger says.

The third priority focuses on supporting teachers. Before the year starts, Sprenger says she works with leaders to determine how they will develop and coach faculty to achieve the school-wide goals they have selected.
Coaching shifts as the school year progresses

Once the school year begins, leaders’ plans and goals for teacher support are put into action.

Support is differentiated for first-year teachers, for teachers who are new to the building, and for veteran teachers. For new teachers, Sprenger says she encourages leaders to set weekly goals for them. More veteran teachers work with leaders to set their own month-long or quarter-long goals. Together, these goals all feed up to the broader, school-wide goals.

Once the year is underway, Sprenger says her work tends to focus more on helping leaders establish a strong culture. As the year progresses into October, her coaching will transition to focus more on strong academics and improving classroom instruction.

All the while, the focus remains on helping leaders stay true to the vision they established during summer planning.

“When the school year picks up, it can be tough to stay locked on those goals you’ve established,” Sprenger says. “A big part of my job is to keep my leaders connected with their ‘big rocks,’ even when other, unexpected things come up.”

Click to read more about how STCM supports schools in Milwaukee.

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