Helping Teachers Feel Comfortable with Coaching

As a teacher working with a coach might be nerve-racking and something you might not feel comfortable participating in, however as a coach there are ways to help teachers feel comfortable. With this Modules triggering the question of “What skills, resources, and processes will you use to help peers co-plan learning activities they want to improve?” I reflected back on when I had a coach in my first year at my current school district and how it can be hard to open up to someone regarding the work you are doing in the classroom. A lot of times teachers (including myself) want to appear that we have it all together. Or we want people to think our lessons are awesome 100% of the time. While a lot of the time we do have it together and our lessons are great there is always room for improvement and letting someone in on the imperfections can be scary. Since we are taking a look at how our peers are teaching an activity and helping them improve it I wanted to focus my post on how coaches can help teachers feel more comfortable with the coaching process.

Pennsylvania Institue for Instructional Coaching put out an article for coaches with 5 tips to working with reluctant teachers. As a coach, I think it good to have these 5 tips when working with any teacher regardless if they are hesitant or not.

Start with a Relationship
The coach-teacher relationship is one of the most important aspects of gaining and keeping the trust of reluctant teachers. Start small, sell yourself, and be authentic. Ask for permission to see a lesson or collect some data for one of the teachers in your building. Talk to your peer about how you can help them gain insights into student achievement in their classes. Most importantly, be yourself. Remember, instructional coaching is all about helping teachers to improve practice.

Get Support from Other Teachers
Successful instructional coaching programs must be cultivated. Be sure to develop positive associations around teacher participation in instructional coaching. It is very common for instructional coaching to be associated with struggling teachers. You must be sure to counter any negative preconceived notions associated with receiving, needing, and/or accepting instructional coaching. One way to counter negative perceptions of instructional coaching is to ask the teachers that you work with to share success stories. This is one instance where you would ask a teacher that you are working with to share some of what you are doing in your one-on-one work together

Make the Conversation Confidential
Reluctant teachers often have an array of fears and anxieties towards coaching. These fears and anxieties may stem from a lack of trust toward leadership. Therefore, it is crucial to have the support of your organization’s administration. Make the conversation confidential by gaining the support of the administrators in your school/district. The support provided by the administrative leadership must be public and supported by your procedures and policies as an instructional coach. For example, it is good practice to acquire permission from your teachers before you collect data. Asking for permission and reassuring teachers of the confidential nature of the teacher-coach relationship affirms that instructional coaching is about teacher support.

Make the Conversation Student Centered
Teachers may feel that a coach is there to judge their teaching capability and that may be nerve-racking for a teacher.  Coaches are there to be a support system to the teacher, but teachers may not view coaches in that manner. Begin your before the session by making your conversations with reluctant teachers student-centered.  For example, how do you think the students will react to this new teaching method?  Have your students used this method before?  What skills will your students need in order to accomplish this task?  By making the conversation about the students, the teacher may feel less pressure on them and their practice.

Use Data to Drive the Conversation
Some teachers may not believe they can benefit from working with a coach.  They may believe their classroom runs efficiently and there is not room for growth within their practice. However, you may want to ask those teachers if they use data to drive their instruction. By looking at data, coaches can help teachers that feel they will not benefit from working with a coach see areas where they can grow.


My Take Away

Based on my personal experience and information from the article from Pennslyvania Insitute for Instructional Coaching I believe that to have successful coaching experiences we should always keep in mind how a teacher might be feeling. Building relationships and making the coaching experience centered around students stuck out as the most important part of the 5 tips. With this information, I am going to make sure my peer coaching project really centers on students rather than critiquing my peers teaching style. With this as my focus, I still can’t forget about relationships for this project. I am lucky to have a great relationship with peers before starting this work, but practicing these skills will make sure these relationships are tarnished and continue to grow.

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