Rock Solid Observations: The Backbone of Your Program (w/ Downloadable Form!)

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I am a firm believer in hiring personality over experience. I can train anyone with the right personality to coach preschool gymnastics. I can’t train anyone to have charisma, enthusiasm, pizzaz….“it”.  In order to create a premier preschool program, you have to train staff in an engaging way. It’s no secret: Staff training is the most important way to get consistency in your preschool program.

Consistency is the ticket to growth.

If you are expecting your coaches to come in, set something up and coach a fantastic class without a lesson plan, you are missing the first vital step of the process. Learning how to navigate a new landscape, with seven four year olds in tow is hard. Having to make stuff up when you’re not sure what a four year old can even do, is stressful.

It all starts with a great lesson plan.

Set Your Coaches Up to Win

Using lesson plans as a training tool helped me keep the staff consistent, while also leaving room for their own style and flair while coaching. Everyone knew what to do for every class and station. There were no surprises

Lesson plans were perfect because coaches didn’t have to worry about creating set ups, progressions or figuring out what to do with each age group.

The lesson plans were already created, so the staff could really focus on upbeat, engaged and vibrant coaching.

They could shine! We all know fantastic coaches will make your program.

The System (and Words Matter!)

When I taught Kinder, I had a student teacher. My job was to mentor her, as well as evaluate her progress as an educator. I combined my experience mentoring teachers with my evaluation system I developed in the gym, to come up with this easy coach observation-based training system.

The observation- based training system I created was based on four foundational principles:

  1. It is positive
  2. Feedback should be constructive
  3. It would leave room for growth
  4. It is a conversation

The feedback is based on three golden statements:

I notice...

I wonder...

Next steps...

All of these phrases leave room for a conversation about coaching, improvement and reflection (a huge part of moving forward as a coach/teacher).

The Rock

The first thing I do with a new staff member is look at the lesson plan. Ask what they notice. Ask about what questions they may have. Explain that the lesson plan is the rock that outstanding coaching is built on.

When I am finished observing a staff member, the first question I ask is “Tell me about today’s class”. This open ended question leaves room for the staff member to reflect on their coaching and gives an opportunity to talk about what went well and what challenges they had. Leaving the question open ended is key.

A basic breakdown of training a new staff member went like this:

  • Shadow with me or senior staff member
  • Gradual release (slowly give opportunities for the new staff member to coach. This could begin with leading closing circle and increase to leading the whole class with you there to support)
  • Teach a full class with me in a supporting role
  • Teach on own (I always let people teach a couple of classes to get the flow on their own before I came in to observe again)
  • Teach while being observed (observation #1)
  • Have a conversation about feedback from the observation
  • Observation # 2 (A couple of weeks later) Have conversation about feedback
  • Observation # 3 (a month later) Have a conversation about feedback

[Side bar: I know what you’re thinking: “I don’t have time for this! I’ve got meets to run, preschoolers to wrangle and bills to pay!” Time for some tough love: you’ve just got to make time. This is the backbone of your preschool program success. Think of it as an investment with a huge pay off at the end. Think of all the energetic coaches you will see on the floor, rocking all of your preschool classes.]

After this, I would observe the coach once a quarter. This observation approach is also effective to connect with more experienced staff members to freshen up their game a bit.

But it all starts with the lesson plan. Using the plan to ground your training will accelerate the observation process.

Coaches who are trained at the highest level, get feedback and support are going to be the glue that hold your preschool program together. With coaches who are free to focus only on great, invested coaching, your preschool program will flourish.

Click on the button to grab your copy of the staff observation form you can use with any Happy Gymnastics lesson plan. Click for Observation Form