By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Every instructional coach faces the dilemma of wanting to help teachers refine their practices and understanding that not every teacher wants to change. Once recognized, the coach must balance the outreach with a little nagging and nurturing, and lots of patience. Just because the coach “sees” something from the outside does not necessarily mean that the teacher does too!

Yes, coaches want to help teachers identify effective instructional strategies and practices but not every teacher acknowledges that going from good to great means reflecting on practices and deciding which ones need to be slightly tweaked, which ones need to be strengthened, and which ones need to be eliminated from their teaching toolboxes.

Over time, coaches experience these situations: 1) early adopters who want to go from “good to great”; 2) silver-bullet adopters who want a coach to immediately try and “fix” their practices; 3) resistant adopters who claim, “I already do that so what else can you show me”; and 4) reluctant adopters who emphatically state, “That’s not what we do here because our students are different.”

Ah, the never-ending battle with the good, bad, and ugly of instructional coaching!

Coaches really have to think about the appropriate approaches to their teaching colleagues and realize that coaching is not a cookie cutter process. Not one size fits all… in fact, coaches very often need to try several approaches with each individual as they navigate the different teaching environments. And, what works one time may not work a second or third time. That’s the beauty of a differentiated structure created to establish relationships and foster healthy transparent communication between and among colleagues. Every significant coaching situation is unique and results in shared learning for all. But because the coach and teacher are coming together with slightly different motives, the coach needs to remember that not every teaching colleague understands what change really means and how to embrace it. Coaches need to tread lightly initially while helping teachers focus on school wide improvement and building their students’ capacity for growth.  

What approaches have you used to address those who want you to engage in the “fixit” model of instructional coaching or who have “dared” you to help them try something new?

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