Coaching Teachers Who Just Don’t Think Like You

During the 4th annual Illinois Council of Instructional Coaching Conference I was able to attend Jane Kise’s keynote: Coaching Teachers Who Just Don’t Think Like You. Although her talk was chock-full of instructional coaching strategies, one insight really stood out:

“There are no resistant teachers, but rather, only teachers whose needs during change have not been met. Not YET.”

Identifying and fulfilling teachers’ needs is the golden key to creating meaningful change.  How can we use this insight to create more effective coaching opportunities?

First, instructional coaches should identify their own personality type so they can understand how their tendencies affect their interactions with teachers. For example, an extrovert coaching an introvert might need to remember to give the introvert more time to process questions when de-briefing a lesson instead of filling the silence with chatter.  Or, if according to the Myers-Briggs test, you’re more of the “feeling” type coaching a “thinking” type, you might want to use specific praise, assume ideas will be debated without taking it personally, collect objective data, and don’t be offended if the conversation is focused just on “business.”

Second, after we identify our own personality types, we can begin to identify and meet teachers’ needs in a coaching relationship. Below are the 4 most common types of instructional coaches teachers want based on their needs.

(NOTE: Jane Kise deliberately exaggerated each type of coach so the differences are more clear. In reality, teachers will likely need a mix of multiple coaching types.)

 

Teachers’ Needs

Type of Coach

If you really want to help me improve instruction, give me hands-on relevant lessons that I can use right away in my classroom–with tangible results.”

Useful Resource: On-the-spot tips, structures, modeling relevant lesson plans with strategies that can be used in other ways, immediate assessment data from students, answers to questions.
Instead of looking at theories or general ideas, let’s set goals for trying one new, concrete task or strategy at a time. If you provide too many choices, I’ll assume you want me to perfect all of them at once!”

Encouraging Sage: Concrete experiences, specific and clear instructions, modeling, on-the-spot encouragement and help, strategies that can be implemented piece by piece, relevant feedback, clear goals.

I get all kinds of creative ideas from books and workshops. Let’s add my ideas to your and together decide what’s best for my students. I’d love your thoughts, then, on how to make it work well the first time.”

Collegial Mentor: Freedom to be creative, options, assistance clarifying directions for students, flexible tools, evidence that students are engaged & motivated.

“I do a fair amount of investigating by reading or talking with colleagues, to stay on top of my field, so please bring only cutting-edge strategies. Have the theoretical background or research handy—I may want to look it over.”

Expert: Theories & frameworks, expert knowledge, assistance in making rigorous assignments accessible for all students, rich conversations, challenges to their thinking.

SOURCE: Differentiated Coaching: A Framework for Helping Teachers Change

Finally, we should remember that teachers’ needs will shift throughout the school year. During the summer teachers may be looking for expert ideas but in December teachers might just be trying to keep their head above water and seek concrete, useful resources.

By understanding teachers’ needs we can provide the type of coaching that is useful for them and build a long-lasting relationship which can pay dividends for students for years to come.

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