I love notebooks. I love planners. I love calendars in all shapes and sizes. And, since you are reading this post on a blog that celebrates notebooks, sticky notes and colorful markers, you likely already know this. =)

But, did you know exactly HOW I use all of those notebooks? I use one notebook to capture coaching sketchnotes and ideas to make my coaching more joyful and effective. In fact, this entire blog is a digitized version of that notebook! I use another notebook to plan and take notes on professional learning sessions and grade level meetings. I have another notebook dedicated only to coaching cycles so I can keep track of teachers’ individual goals and our coaching activities together, too.

But there’s one more notebook I haven’t shared with you yet. Actually, it’s a calendar. A coaching connection calendar. Let me explain.In coaching, relationships are everything. We cannot collaborate with teachers around our instructional practices unless we connect with them first. And we cannot connect with them unless we are intentional in building strong personal and professional relationships. Teachers need to know they matter, that we are here to support and not evaluate and that our work together will not only support students, but it will be enjoyable, too.

This doesn’t happen by jumping right into a coaching cycle. It happens by connecting as humans first. And maintaining those connections over time. Ralph Fletcher reminds us that we are not ready to teach a child unless we know at least ten things about them and I think the same applies to the teachers we work with as well. But what’s a busy coach to do? Some of us are working with large numbers of teachers and even coach across multiple schools and/or districts. How do we keep track of who we connect with, what we learned and who we might reach out to next?

That’s how my coaching calendar was born. As a coach working across multiple districts and buildings and now, as a teacher educator and coach who works with multiple groups of teachers online, I needed (and still need) a way to intentionally grow my relationships with teachers and then keep track of all I was learning so I could deepen that relationship over time….even if we never met in person or I arrived at the building sporadically.

It was a tall order, but one I knew a notebook could fill. Actually, a calendar/notebook combination. I started using it out of sheer desperation, but now use it as a tool in my coaching toolbox. My coaching calendar has two parts: a calendar and a notebook section in the back. You can find a simple calendar to use for this purpose anywhere calendars are sold, but I particularly like Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner brand. The calendars are simple, clean and have what I need.


The Calendar:

I use the calendar for one reason and one reason only: to document the connections I’ve made with teachers. I’ll note personal emails I’ve sent, formal and informal conversations I’ve had and any other points of contact. This way, I can easily see which teachers I tend to connect with most often and which teachers I need to make a better effort to reach.

I also use the calendar to plan out connection opportunities, too. I’ll literally schedule in a planned classroom drop-in to say hello, a personal email just to check in or an invitation for a Zoom session to catch up. I’ll even plan these connections over time so I can ensure my communication with teachers is consistent, too.

Now, at a glance, I can see which teachers I’ve connected with often, which teachers I’ve neglected and which I need to make more of an effort to build a relationship with.

The Notebook:

I divide the notebook section at the back of my calendar into sections based on the districts, schools or even teachers I work with. I note all the things I am learning about teachers in this section: notes about their families, hobbies, interests, passions and more. I used to think I’d remember all of this, but once I started working with multiple schools and districts, I realized I needed help keeping everything straight, And keeping everything straight is critical to forming coaching relationships because we want teachers to know we listened, payed attention and that they are worth remembering.

So, there you have it. That’s how I keep track of all the teachers I’m fortunate to work with and remember the small details that have a big impact on cultivating coaching relationships. If you want to give this a try, you can start with this simple printable calendar/notebook combination I created. And if you want to dive deeper into learning more about the teachers you work with, you might like to explore my upcoming workshop: The Power of Personality in Instructional Coaching.

Now, it’s your turn: How do you currently connect with teachers and use the information you’ve gathered to form positive relationships? Let’s start some conversations in the comments!
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