Avoid the 6 Coaching Traps

“Apply yourself everyday to just becoming a little bit better.”

  1. Fix it Syndrome: The fix it syndrome is when you need to fix a problem as someone is telling you about it. Remember as a coach to listen and pose questions to help them problem solve. Also remember to be comfortable with silence and give them wait time.
  2. Cheerleader: Your natural instinct is to say “You can do it!” but remember as a coach to empathize with their feelings first to help with the relationship.
    •  Example: Coachee: This sounds really hard to do ____ in my classroom. Coach: Yes, it is difficult but let’s take small steps to make it happen together. (instead of saying, no it is not hard, you just need to do x,y,z.)
  3. Down the Rabbit-Hole: This happens when we listen to feelings and empathize but coaches should respond with sympathy rather than empathy. Stick to what matters as well and don’t get off topic. 
  4. Hurry-Hurry: Often coaches feel rushed due to time. Make a schedule and stick to it honoring both your time and the coachees time. If you notice you are consistently going over then look at why; is it because you are off topic or are you not allowing enough time per session.
  5. Yes-but: We all have that person that pushes back, if a few yes buts occur, flip the script and ask them what solutions do they see.
    • Example: Coachee: Yes but, I don’t think my students can do personalized learning because they don’t take ownership. Coach: How do you think we can help them take more ownership?
  6. One Right Way: Don’t rob people of their autonomy. It is important to let them come up with a solutions or the changes they want to make so they have ownership. Just because it is not your way, doesn’t mean it is wrong, there is more than one way to solve many problems.

I would love to hear from all of you coaching tips you have found that have helped you! Leave them in the comments so we can learn together.

My Next Adventure: Talking with Edu_Thompson

“Become addicted to constant and never-ending self-improvement.” by Anthony J. D’Angelo 

I have an insatiable desire to learn and seek personal and professional development. Looking back over the last ten years there is not one adventure in seeking development that I have regretted!

2010: I started blogging weekly sharing my ideas and thoughts

2011: I started #21stedchat on Twitter with David Prindle who to this day have never met but for 8 years every Sunday night #21stedchat members joined to learn and grow together.

2012: I was selected for Teacher Fellows Institute of Charlotte where I got to further develop my leadership and professional expertise in order to with different educators in public and private sector.

2013: I was selected for ASCD Emerging Leaders. This experience changed my life as it opened up doors and windows into places I had not even imagined. The emerging leader fellows have become friends and through partners that I talk to at least weekly. They have played so many roles in my life from friends, mentors, thought partners and sounding boards.

2014: I started my own company called Edulum LLC where I learned a lot about business but still got to help other educators through providing Professional Development including running my first conference!

2015: I became Google Certified Level one, two and Trainer which opened new doors for me as I met a lot of different educators from across the county.

2016: I became a certified Apple Teacher and started presenting at national conferences.

2017: I went back to school and obtained my add -on Administration License. My cohort was awesome and I was introduced to a lot of amazing professors who I still keep in contact with.

2018: I co published an eBook with Allison Zmuda called: How to Leverage Personalized Learning. This was a unique experience as we wrote it in four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas!

2019: I co-published an article with Allison Rodman: Eight Things Teams Do to Sabotage Their Work. Allie and I did this all virtually through Zoom and Google Docs – looking back on it, it prepared me for 2020 in a lot of ways!

2020: I started my own YouTube Channel! That is right, this year I am really trying something new, different and fun! I have started a YouTube Channel that will air my talk show called Talking with Edu_Thompson starting Monday, Sept 21st, 2020!

Talking with Edu_Thompson is a talk show that focuses on discussing the unique challenges educators are facing and hearing from multiple perspectives in order to learn and grow together! Every other week I will be releasing a new talk show session. Make sure to subscribe today to my new adventure! I love meeting new people and learning from them so if you would like to be on Talking with Edu_Thompson then please direct message me on Twitter or post in the comments as I would love to have you!

5 Ways Leaders Can Show Empathy

“The highest form of  is knowledge empathy.” By Bill Bullard

Empathy is an essential skill for all leaders. It is one of the most important ingredients to building strong, trusting relationships that allows leaders to connect to others. It also can be hard taking on others concerns so it is important that leaders make sure they give themselves grace and also have someone to lean on as well.

  1. Be Fully Present – Remove all distractions. Turn your cell phone over so the screen is not shutting or if you are in front of your computer put it at a 45 degree so it shows the other person you are present.
  2. Actively Listening – Let others share their stories without interrupting them or adding your opinion. Instead ask questions and let the other person drive the conversation.
  3. Show Vulnerability: Share the risks you take, the failures you have, be transparent with your communication and share your process on how you make decisions. Sharing this information shows others that you are not perfect and that helps people relate to you as a leader and builds your empathy muscle.
  4. Withhold Judgment- Understand the other person perspective, let go of the idea of a right or wrong answer. Reflecting on what others have said helps to better understand their perspective as well.
  5. Be a Servant Leader: Help others such as by highlighting their strengths. You also can do this by developing others in ways that unlock their potential, creativity and sense of purpose. 

Want to know how empathic you are? Take this quiz created by UC Berkeley, you will then get a report that gives you more suggestions based on your results.

You might also like my previous blog post on Building Empathy with Educators.

Shifting from Desires to Habits in Education

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” – Anonymous

This past year, when visiting a school, the leadership team was frustrated with the school culture. They wanted the staff in the building to have more gratitude toward each other. Through some guiding questions and honest discussions I helped them reflect on themselves as leaders to think about what they did for the staff to model their gratitude. They soon realized that they were not doing anything to help build a culture of gratitude, they just wanted it to happen.

Traveling across the country working in all levels from classrooms, to school to district level I often see this. We want (fill in the blank of desire) but we want it to magically happen. The below process has helped educators breakdown their desires and make it into actionable tasks.

For this school we backwards mapped what our desire was for the school; have a culture of gratitude. We then thought about the goal we needed in order to make the desire happen. Then we thought about what habit we needed to create in order to be successful with our goal.

Culture of Gratitude Write two notes of gratitudeWrite notes of gratitude per day when eating breakfast, put them in teachers boxes first thin when I arrive.

It is important to note, a habit is simply a regular tendency, behavior, or practice. Habits are the things we do so often they become second nature.  For a habit to take root it needs to be learned, practiced, and used regularly. For this Principal he chose to stack it with a habit he already had, eating breakfast daily.

Three weeks later I received my own note of gratitude from the Principal, “Over the past three weeks, I have written one to four notes each morning and have placed them in boxes when I arrive at school.  Usually, by lunch, I have received a thank you from the people I had given them to.  They are touched, feel cared for, and can not express enough how the words I shared positively affected them.  The whole building has transformed.”

This backward map process can be used to obtain any desire you want for your classroom, school and/or district. The most important piece is making sure you take the time to reflect on what your true desire, goal and habits are. Here are two more examples to see what it looks like at the district and classroom levels:

DistrictIncreasing student achievement Use Instructional Framework as anchor in all PDAll professional developments will reference which instructional framework component the pd is connected to.
ClassroomSelf-Directed LearnersStudents reflect on their learningAt the end of the day, I will give five minutes for students to reflect on their learning for the day.

Teachers as Leaders

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” John C. Maxwell

A few years ago I wrote a blog post called, 10 Ways to Build Teacher Leaders.  I feel it is such as important topic, I wanted to add to it because enhancing teacher leadership can help schools and districts with:

  1. Improve teacher quality
  2. Improve student learning
  3. Provide opportunities for professional growth

Teacher leaders assume a wide range of roles to support school or districts. Some roles that teachers can take to become teacher leaders:

  1. Instructional Coach
  2. Mentors
  3. Professional Learning Specialist
  4. Data Coach
  5. Lab Teacher

To recognize all teachers, here are some ideas to try that can help build teacher leaders:

Super Teacher of the Week: Each week at staff meetings, one teacher is recognized as “Super Teacher of the Week” based on nominations from other staff members. Their nomination is read out loud at the staff meeting. Reward: They’re given a superhero pin to wear all week.

Teacher Shout Outs: Celebrate teachers accomplishments and/or failures to show it is okay to take risks.  Reward: Shout outs are given at staff meetings. If you have sponsors or PTA, gift cards are a nice perk.

Above-and-beyond the Call of Duty: This recognition would go to a teacher that went above and beyond the regular job requirements. Reward: You can take a teacher’s duty for a day.

Spotlight on Support: Establish a bulletin board in the workroom that ‘spotlights’ a different support staff each month. This would be a way to recognize TA’s, Custodians, Bus Drivers, etc. Reward: Hang a bucket or envelope from the bulletin board where staff can fill out notes to recognize that support staff member for his/her special talents etc.

Other teacher leadership resources:

Ten Roles for Teacher Leaders

The Many Faces of Leadership



12 Books Every Principal Should Read

“Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.” By John Green

Below are ten books I highly recommend that all Principals should read in no particular order. I would love to hear what books you think should be on this list as I love growing my library! Please add in the comments.

  1. Innovator Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity  by George Couros
  2. Move Your Bus: An Extraordinary New Approach to Accelerating Success in Work and Life by Ron Clark 
  3. Lead Like a PIRATE: Make School Amazing for Your Students by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf 

  4. The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact by Michael Fullan (He has a lot of great books but this is my favorite)

  5. Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the New Innovation Era by  Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith  
  6. Embracing a Culture of Joy: How Educators Can Bring Joy to Their Classrooms Each Day by Dean Shareski

  7. Anything by Jon Gordan, I love all his books! Soup: A Recipe to Create a Culture of Greatness is probably my favorite. I am currently reading, The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World


Creating Sticky Notes with Google Slides

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” Edward de Bono


This week my blog post is different because I want you to read Tony Vincent‘s blog post, Print Custom Sticky Notes with Google Slides. It is chock full of amazing ideas, tips, tricks and templates for you to utilize in your classroom. The directions are clear, concise and so easy you could implement this tomorrow in your classroom. Happy reading!

Reviewing Google’s Project Oxygen

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. ” By Warren Bennis

I was reviewing my notes on Google’s ‘Oxygen Project’ (yes I know that is from years ago – 2012 to be exact) this week and it got me thinking about why I never took actions on the notes I had down such as how does it fit into education?

Let’s back track a little. For those of you that never heard about Google’s Project Oxygen. “Google’s Project Oxygen was designed to identify what successful Google managers do. Too often, training departments try to help managers improve their competencies — traits of good managers. But changing traits rarely works. Instead, Google chose to teach managers what to do.” They took their extensive research and found that there were “8 Behaviors of Great Managers”.

1. Be a good coach.

2. Empower; don’t micromanage.

3. Be interested in direct reports, success and well-being.

4. Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented.

5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team.

6. Help your employees with career development.

7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team.

8. Have key technical skills so you can advise the team.

With a few minor tweaks, I think these 8 behaviors also fit any leader verse just managers.

Be a Good Coach

  • Provide specific feedback
  • Solution orientated
Empower Your Staff

  • Don’t micromanage
  • Be a lead learner
Be interested in your staff

  • Know their passions
Be productive and results-oriented

  • Help prioritize tasks
Be a good communicator and listen to your staff

  • Two Way Street
Help your staff with career development

  • Let them lead PD/trainings
Have a clear vision and strategy for the school

  • Involve the team
  • Keep them focused on the goals
Have key skills so you can advise the school

  • Change Agent
  • Problem Solving


“Google’s Project Oxygen Pumps Fresh Air Into Management – TheStreet.” 2016. 19 Jun. 2016 <https://www.thestreet.com/story/12328981/1/googles-project-oxygen-pumps-fresh-air-into-management.html>

Shadow a Student Challenge

“You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.” By Conrad Hall

Calling all school leaders….want to learn more about your school’s culture? Step away from the desk and join IDEO’sShadow a Student Challenge.” School leaders from across the U.S. will shadow a student for a day to gain valuable new perspectives. This FREE crash-course in empathy is taking place the week of February 29 – March 4.  

Welcome to the Shadow a Student Challenge from School Retool on Vimeo.

The site’s got a toolkit on how to conduct the most productive observations and a 15-minute online tutorial on how to make best use of the challenge—plus, you can connect with other administrators. #SHADOWASTUDENT

Help Spread the Word: Shadow a Student Challenge_E-mail Templates

Read the below articles for learn more about #SHADOWASTUDENT

For a Day, School Leaders Urged to Immerse Themselves in a Student’s Life by Edweek

Shadow A Student Challenge by New Tech Network


The Coaching Cycle: The Link Between Coaching and Student Achievement

“Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen.” By Pete Carroll

Guest Blog Post from the amazing Kenny McKee

Instructional coaches are tasked with many responsibilities. Leading and developing workshops, collaborating with PLCs, facilitating school-wide assessments, organizing learning walks, analyzing student achievement data, and various other activities all contribute to positive change in schools. However, in the proceedings and productions of these large-scale activities, oftentimes, the heart of coaching, the one-on-one coaching cycle, can fall to the wayside.

Why? To some people, the coaching conversation seems so small. Facilitating workshops and school-wide activities seems important and can make the coach feel important. Activities like these might provide justification for his or her job to wary teachers and administrators.  Let’s face it — big activities look good.  Also, it feels like we are accomplishing more (faster!) when we have lots of people involved. The coaching cycle just doesn’t seem time efficient, right?

However, much of the available research about coaching suggests that change really happens one collaboration at a time, through the use of one-on-one coaching.

So, what do I mean by a coaching cycle? Although there are many interpretations of what constitutes a “cycle”, I categorize a cycle as a professional learning sequence that includes a pre-conference, classroom instruction, and a post-conference reflection.

The classroom instruction and reflection can play out in three scenarios.

  1. The coach observes the teacher teaching a lesson and provides feedback to the teacher.
  2. The coach and the teacher plan and teach a lesson together. They then reflect together.
  3. The teacher observes the coach teaching a lesson and provides feedback to the coach.

There is still much research to be done, but studies that suggest that coaching has a positive impact on student achievement describe collaborations that I would characterize as coaching cycles.

Some studies show that teachers implement more literacy strategies in their classrooms when they work with literacy coaches (Feighan & Heeren, 2009; Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010). Teachers especially give high praise to one-on-one coaching when compared to traditional off-site professional development (Gross, 2010; Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010).  Of all the possible ways coaches work each day, teachers report that significant coach and teacher collaborations have the most impact upon the learning in their classrooms (Campbell & Sweiss, 2010; Gross, 2010; Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010).  Most studies show that teachers report increased student engagement and on-task behavior as results of coaching collaborations (Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010). Coaching cycles help teachers make changes in their instruction because coaches can tailor data collection, planning, and advice to the individual teacher’s situation and needs.

A three-year study of elementary schools tracked the amount of time spent coaching and resulting student achievement.  The researcher used alphabet letter recognition and scores on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III (PPVT-III) to measure student achievement.  A significant correlation between time spent coaching and student achievement was found in the first year, but weak correlations were found during the following two years.  The first year both coaches and teachers had a strong focus on particular content and techniques.  They also had well-defined consultative and reflective conversation cycles.  Teachers and literacy coaches had little focus and fewer structured coaching cycles in years that yielded weak correlations.  The author suggests that more time is not as important as the “type and quality of the interaction” (Shidler, 2009). Thus, the use of structured coaching cycles and a school wide focus likely explains the greater student achievement results in the first year of coaching.

In a study of four middle schools where literacy coaching was implemented for one year,  teachers reported much higher student engagement levels, and student scores made modest gains. Baselines from the state reading test and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) from the prior school year were compared to scores on both assessments after the year of literacy coaching.   Classrooms with the treatment (individual literacy coaching collaborations) increased an average of five points on the state test and seven points on the ITBS (Feighan & Heeren, 2009).

According to available research, structured coaching cycles yield a significant impact on student learning.

Lasting change happens one conversation at a time. Let’s not allow the elaborate productions of meetings, workshops, and high-stakes data blind us from what we can do that really helps teachers become better for their students: one-on-one coaching.


Campbell, M. B., & Sweiss, C. I. (2010). The secondary literacy coaching model: Centrality of the  standards and emerging paradigms. Journal of Reading Education, 35(3), 39-46.

Feighan, K., & Heeren, E. (2009). She was my backbone: Measuring coaching work and its impact. CEDER Yearbook, 67-93.

Gross, P. A. (2010). Not another trend: Secondary level literacy coaching. The Clearing House, 83, 133-137.  doi:10.1080/00098651003774844

Kretlow, A. G., & Bartholomew, C. C. (2010). Using coaching to improve the fidelity of evidence-based practices: A review of studies. Teacher Education & Special Education, 33(4). 279-299. doi:10.1177/0888406410371643

Shidler, L. (2009). The impact of time spent coaching on teacher efficacy of student achievement.  Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(5). 453-460.