Cupcakes with Coach ~ Setting the Stage for the 1st Meeting

EEKK! Now that we’ve prepared ourselves with research and gathered materials, it’s time for that 1ST MEETING!  But let’s be real, whether this is your first year, or your tenth year as a coach, getting the “teacher buy in” can be tricky.  So, after trying to decide HOW I could get the trust of my teachers, and begin to build that relationship, I came up with this ~ Cupcakes with the Coach!  I don’t know about you, but anytime cupcakes are involved, it’s going to be a good adventure!

Ok, so the main focus of the 1st Meeting is to get a feel for the concerns of your cooperating teacher and to get to know him/her a little bit. Building that relationship is key to having a successful year!!  To start things off, you’ll want to make sure that meeting times are convenient for the cooperating teacher, which is why I used  That way, the teachers can book appointments at THEIR convenience!  

So the meeting is set, the cupcakes ready, and it’s meeting day!  Ahh!  What now??  Make this meeting as relaxed and as little of a business meeting feel as possible ~ which is where the cupcakes come into play!  Cupcakes with Coach is a great way to open things up in a relaxing environment, and still get the job done.  Coffee, juice, water, in addition to your cupcakes, add a nice touch. An inviting table cloth to pull everything together will create an environment that will help build that relationship!

Cupcakes with Coach

Setting the Stage for the 1st Meeting

Get to know your teacher!  Invite them into your space, have a seat and begin with a cup of coffee, tea, and a cupcake while asking a few “get to know you” questions.  I would tell your teacher that you’re going to be jotting a few things down so that you can go back later and see if there is something that can help you, help them!  

Some questions you could ask are:

          **What would you like me to know about you as a teacher and learner?  

          **What concerns do you have about coaching?

          **What do you think you might need from me as a coach?

          **What are your areas of strengths? What areas need improvement? (I may even give an example                    here of what I’ve done to improve MYSELF, or at least some things I know I’M working on 🙂

          **What key parts of your practice can be improved to promote student achievement?

It may even be helpful for you to begin the meeting by answering the questions yourself for your teacher.  This could open up conversations that will help you get to know them even more!

Some things you’ll also want to go over with your teacher, are data results or in my case data walls (which will drive questions on where you want to focus on during the year).  Warning: data can be a drag to look at (and sometimes a little disheartening) so, have another cupcake!!

In my current building, it is required that each teacher has a mini data wall of some sort posted in his/her classroom. Every building doesn’t require this.  In my years in the classroom, I have found this to be very useful as I liked to track an area in which my class needed improvement. For example, when I taught early elementary grades (K-3) and I taught all subjects we tracked our attendance data.  It encouraged students to be at school and even on time.  It was one of my best attendance years.  We had the highest attendance in the entire school.  Every quarter we set a SMART Goal for attendance and if we reached it the students got a reward.  The first quarter was a pizza party, the second quarter was a cupcake party, third quarter it was a dance party and 4th quarter on the last day we had 40 minutes of recess (we all know that was a BIG deal!).  

When I taught upper elementary 6th grade, I only taught 1 subject MATH! This was when I wanted to use academics to encourage students to learn and to pay attention.  Since I taught 3 different classes each day, I did a math competition board with data.   I tracked each class by its chapter assessments.  We set a SMART Goal, for example, 80% of students will receive 75% or better on each chapter test for the 1st quarter. I posted the results of each chapter test under each class name (students created class names the first week of school).   If the students reached this goal then they received rewards.  That school year, I offered to tutor during lunch 2 days a week… I just couldn’t believe how many students came for tutoring.   It was a great year as well…. Students scores grew on the district assessment in double digit numbers.

During my Cupcakes with the Coach meeting, I always give these examples to help teachers get an understanding of how powerful a classroom data wall can be.   And then begin with some guiding questions to help with the data portion of the meeting.

Here are the questions I began with during my meeting that helped to guide this conversation:

          **Have you set up your classroom Data Wall?

          **If so, what data are you tracking and why did you choose that particular data?

          **If not, when do you plan to set up the data wall? What Data do you plan to track and why?

          **How can I help you with data walls?

Once the discussion on data is finished and you feel like you have adequate goals set, you can move on to discussing how the lessons are set up or how the teacher’s day is planned. This school year my building has lost a grade level (7th grade) and moved from 45-minute classes to 90-minute block.  Some teachers have taught block schedules before so this has been an easier transition than with some of the newer teachers who haven’t experienced this.  Overall, from my conversations during my cupcakes with coach meetings, it’s been a positive and welcomed change. Since the transition, our administration has asked that each class incorporate learning stations within the 90 minutes. During this meeting, I am just getting a feel for the comfort level of my teachers.  I am not giving much feedback but taking in all of the information.  This will help guide my next steps and allow me to tier my support.  

For a Cupcakes with the Coach meeting I had recently, I used these focus questions: 

          **Since we have moved to the 90 Minute block, how have you been using your 90 minutes?

          **Have you started implementing Learning Stations?

          **If so, what are your strengths? What are your struggles?

          **If not, why not yet? When do you plan to start? How can I be of assistance in helping to make this                transition easier?

         **How are you structuring your weekly lesson plans? i.e. M/Tu, W/Th, Fr

          **Let’s look at an example. (Take a look at prepared lesson plan examples from years previously taught)

At this point in the meeting, you’ll want to make sure that your teacher isn’t overwhelmed (hint: offer more cupcakes! )  And if you feel like you are at a point where you can continue, proceed with some organizational guidelines or “things you need to know”.  If you are at all like me, I NEED a schedule to keep myself on track!  Even if you feel like your cooperating teacher’s brain is about to blow, stress the importance of this key dates to keep you organized with test dates and to keep us on track for the benefit of promoting student achievement.  

In my years of coaching, I have had conducted several coaching cycles. Within the coaching cycles, we have talked about strategies, lesson plans, and data.  Last school year, I visited a school in Charlotte, North Carolina and observed a coach working with a teacher in a meeting called Content Planning.  I was very curious about what this was and why? With a bit of digging and conversation, I was able to get a complete rationale.  My admin team was also impressed with the idea and I came back to the school and got to work.  I developed a plan for content planning and mapped out a few templates and put this into action with a few teachers.  As the year went on, I continued to tweak it and this year I have implemented it full blown.  

This is very exciting!  

Even if you do regular coaching cycle meetings, you can schedule a consistent time with a teacher.  I used the following question: What day of the week and time will be a good time for us to meet? Now, I have a standing appointment with my teachers every other week.  Of course, we will meet in between to discuss observations etc… but this will be our lesson-planning meeting that will consist of conversations around effective instructional strategies for what the teacher is teaching the next two weeks and looking at the district bi-weekly data to identify what standards and skills that need to be retaught.  I continued the conversation with reviewing the district assessment calendars and answering any questions about where to find district pacing guides etc… 

And there you have it!  Your very 1st Successful Cupcakes with the Coach session is done!  You’re off to a great start to the school year!  What better way to be off to a good start with a tummy full of cupcakes and a brain full of awesome ideas!  


Coaches~ let’s hear your ideas to build relationships on that first meeting with your teachers!  

Post in comments below!


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