Coaching Tip 3: 📝 Coaching Deep Or Coaching Surface Level


Posted By Sam Shields On 11/15/2021 at 11:30 am

Coaching Skinny (Tips)
Coaching Impact

Coaching Tip 3: 📝

Coaching Deep or Coaching Surface Level

Dear Coach Sam,

These days I feel as though I am not doing much coaching at all and I am not having an impact on teachers or even student learning. Can you give me some advice on how to look at my coaching to see if I am doing ‘enough’?

Looking for insight,


Dear Molly,

I have felt and still do feel the same way you are feeling as a coach. Right now teaching, coaching, and learning seem to just feel ‘off’. Nonetheless, each of us have a different coaching environment and different circumstances that affect how our coaching looks, feels, and ultimately evolves. 

One thing that I have found to be helpful is to look at ‘what’ you ARE doing as a coach and look at how ‘deep’ it goes with the learning of others. Picture an iceberg (like the Titanic hit, except we aren’t going to hit it this time). Everything above the water is very surface level, light, and easier, while everything below the water is heavier, deeper, and harder. 

When I view my coaching, I look at everything above the water as what I do to support teachers and students that is surface level with lighter impact and everything below the water as supports I provide which are much deeper with a heavier impact on learning. Joellen Killion also refers to this as Coaching Light and Coaching Heavy in the December 2010 edition of Learning Forward. 

My look at Coaching Light and Coaching Heavy is slightly different. I like to look at it as a way to determine my impact as a coach, and then take the various ways I coach light and heavy to be categorized by type. 

HOWEVER, I must preface that for me ‘coaching is coaching’ and whether it be one coaching conversation, multiple coaching conversations, or even a full coaching cycle- change & impact will occur. The deepest level of change & impact may take longer periods of time to see, but each conversation does count. Each touchpoint counts. Each email check in counts. Each hallway interaction counts. And each professional development session provided for your educators count.

Check out my examples here where I show you how I brainstormed different ways I coach surface level and ways I coach deeper using my iceberg. From there I categorized each by the type of coaching actions I take

Pro Tips: Try making your own iceberg to see what supports you are offering that are surface level (i.e., light) and which supports you offer that are deep (i.e., heavy). 

You may even consider using a simple platform like Your Coaches Corner, which allows you input all the touchpoints, events, and cycles you engage in with educators and groups, so that you can have historical data to look back on and reflect on the types of coaching you are providing. You can even use the Time Tracker Report on the platform to look at how you spend your time as a coach. 

Using Your Coaches Corner gives you an authentic way to track and organize your coaching work; providing you with a medium to reflect on your impact and practice! 

Best of Luck,

Coach Sam

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