Remember why you started

August 17, 2014
by laura coughlin
1 Comment

What Teachers Want from Their Coach

Imgage attribution:

Imgage attribution:

School starts tomorrow, and so does my new adventure as Middle School Instructional Coach. I was lucky enough in the past week to get to sit down with nearly every faculty member in my building and ask them what they want and need from me as their Instructional Coach. What they told me fell fairly easily into 2 categories: What they need me to BE, and what they need me to DO.

What they need me to BE:
Be Positive
Be Present
Be Thick-skinned
Be a Model

What they need me to DO:
Relieve teacher stress
Help teachers’ time be used valuably
Find and share online resource
Find timely articles to use with students in all content areas
Help process meaningful data
Arrange visits to other classrooms
Decompress staff tension
Help teachers keep ahead of deadlines

So these are my goals… to be the Coach that the rest of the staff hopes I can be!

May 30, 2014
by laura coughlin

Intuition as a Guide

I love teaching. I came to it later in life — I was 29 when I earned my teaching certification. I tried a lot of other things before teaching, and I am sure that teaching is what I am meant to do.

So why did I accept an Instructional Coaching position where I will only teach one section of students and will spend the majority of my time working with adults? Because it felt right.

I have always lived my life with a “go with your gut” philosophy. It has led me down many interesting roads, but never really steered me wrong. I recently came across this quote in the book “S” by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst: “Without intuition, the world becomes a flat place, a stunted place. A place where change is impossible.”

I know I am in for some big changes as I set out on this coaching adventure. I would love some advice from those of you out there who already coach or work with a great coach. Any advice, really. What to do. What not to do. What to read. Who to follow. As a coach, what do you wish you had known when you were just starting out? As a teacher or administrator, what do you wish your coach had known from the beginning? Any help is greatly appreciated.


May 24, 2014
by laura coughlin

My First Post as an Instructional Coach

For the past 7 years the school I have worked at has been a big (and wonderful) part of my life. Knowing that I was leaving full time teaching at my beloved school to be the Instructional Coach at a different one made the final days of this school year hard.

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy;

for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves.” -Anatole France

I even briefly wondered if leaving the position and school where I was happy and comfortable had been the wrong one. I had become very confident and secure in my job, and leaving means that I am sending myself into uncharted territory. What if I am not well received in my new school? What if I struggle to find my footing as an Instructional Coach? But I finally realized that every school year is new, and brings its own challenges. Assuming that the coming year might go more smoothly in one place than another is mostly an illusion.

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature,

nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” -Helen Keller

I still have fears of course. But I also know that I feel a definite pull in a forward direction. It is time for this change. I would not be satisfied to stay in the same place for my next 20 years of work life. It is time for me to move forward into new experiences and adventures.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment

that something else is more important than fear.” -Ambrose Redmoon

March 22, 2014
by laura coughlin

Our Class Instagram is Finally Working

At the beginning of the school year I decided I would try to implement using a class Instagram, but it seemed I was in fairly uncharted territory. There weren’t many examples of classroom Instagram accounts in my PLN, and when I introduced it to my students, I only had 1 begin to follow the account. It didn’t work very well, but it was the beginning of the year, so I let it go and focused on other things that were working.

But I kept the class Instagram account in the back of my mind. I just had this gut feeling that it could be a tool to help me connect with my students and parents.

When 3rd quarter began, I decided to give it a new try. I reminded my students that the account existed and started posting to it more frequently. It was a more moderate success this time. The account (@mrscoughlinsclass) now has 22 followers, and I see evidence of students using it as a tool outside of classroom time.

I was feeling like the Instagram account was working more the way I had intended, when BAM, a students asked me a questions that convinced me once and for all that maintaining the account was worthwhile. While working on writing an argument, one of my students raised his hand and said, “Can I get on my phone and check the Instagram account? I want to see that example you had on the board a few days ago.”
THIS was what I had been hoping for from the start. I am hoping that more students will begin using the account this way, remembering that the account exists as a photo resource and connecting previous lessons with our current in-class work.

Do you or another educator you know use Instagram as a school tool? I would love to hear how it’s working and what you use it for!

March 8, 2014
by laura coughlin

A New Challenge

I really let this blog wither on the vine this year, for many reasons, BUT I miss taking time to blog. I miss the connections and feeling of sharing beyond my face-to-face reach.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau

I began blogging after my first year of teaching, when I was grappling with who I wanted to be as a teacher. Now, a few years later, I am hoping to get back on a blogging roll as I take on another new challenge: I will begin the next school year at a new school in a new role – Instruction Coach.

I am beyond excited about this coming new challenge. Over the past few years I have taken on more calls to be a teacher-leader and have come to realize that working with the amazing adults who choose teaching as a profession can be just a rewarding as working with the students we all touch.

December 6, 2013
by laura coughlin

Mission Accomplished (for 1 day)

This school year has taken me up like a tidal wave, leaving no time for composed, contemplative blogging!

I thought I’d give keeping it short and sweet a try.

Earlier this week I was beginning class and one of my 7th graders said, “I wish all of my other teachers were as enthusiastic as you!”

Mission Accomplished

August 17, 2013
by laura coughlin

Here We Go

2 days until I FINALLY get to meet my new students, and so far it’s shaping up to be my best year yet.

1) At our district-wide “Welcome Back” meeting our brand new superintendent said: “If you take care of the kids, the test scores will take care of themselves.” Yes. He said that. I didn’t dream it. (I checked with others to be sure!!)

2) 3 of my 8 department members are newly hired to the district, and so far they all seem like home run hires… student centered, hardworking, and fun to be around.

3) I spent the last 3 days in PD and NEVER FELT LIKE MY TIME WAS WASTED. I’m pretty sure that is a world record.

4) I got a new classroom and it has ceiling fans and 7 wall outlets. (We have no air conditioning and it is routinely in the 90 degrees F in my area for the first 4 weeks of school. My last classroom had 2 wall outlets and no ceiling fans… I’m in heaven.

5) I love what I do. I love it more every year.

July 31, 2013
by laura coughlin
1 Comment

Instagram in the Classroom

Do you have an Instagram account for your classroom? If so, I would love to connect with you and hear how you use it!

School starts for me in 2 weeks. I started an Instagram account for my classroom yesterday (@MrsCoughlinsClass) and am hoping to use it in a few ways:

1) Get my kids excited about class.
Middle schoolers love social media, and they also love to see themselves and their classmate in photos!

2) Record what my classes are doing.
I often take photos of my classes when they are doing something interesting, but unless I write a blog post that needs a photo, the pictures often just sit on my phone. Having an Instagram account creates a place to house all those photos where they actually serve a purpose.

3) Connect with parents and kids, in my community and around the world.
Ideally, I would love it if my students’ families connected with our Instagram account and could see pictures of what their kids did at school. It could be a great conversation starter at home! I would also love to be able to connect with other classrooms around the world and see what YOU are doing at school.

What do you use Instagram for in your classroom? Follow @MrsCoughlinsClass

July 29, 2013
by laura coughlin

How I Measure Success in My Classroom

A few days ago my husband and I were talking about what constitutes tangible success in the field of education. He noted that being an educator isn’t like being a carpenter, where you start out with a pile of wood and end up with a cabinet. I told him that I felt like I could see tangible success in my middle school students, but had trouble giving him an example at the time.

But, I was thinking about it now! And as often happens, once it was on my mind it didn’t take me very long to find examples of how I measure success in my classroom.

1. A classroom where questions are welcome.

I got an email from a former student asking me to answer a question for her. I felt flattered that she though of me when she needed an answer. It’s July, and we have been away from school for 2 months. On top of that, each student at my middle school sees 8 teachers in a day. It felt like a teaching success that when this student had a question and needed to think of someone who would be willing to answer it, she thought of me. It’s a teaching success to me to create an environment where my students know that questions are welcome.

2. A classroom where the students feel loved.

The family of a former student visited my church yesterday. I have had the oldest son in class for the past 2 years, and he is headed to high school on a few weeks. His younger sister will begin middle school this year. They sat in the pew in front of with their mother, and I was chatting with her. I said, “I loved having your son in class.” He turned around and said, “What?” I looked at him and said, “I loved having you in class.” He smiled and said, “I love you too,” and turned back around. A few minutes later while we were singing a hymn, his sister shyly turned and around and said, “I hope I have you in class.” Both kids filled my heart. The ultimate teaching success is knowing that in my classroom students feel loved.