I’ve just begun my journey into the world of coaching. I am eager and excited about this opportunity to help pave the way for more effective teaching. I’ve recently been given my list of classrooms that I will be working with and I’m anxious to get started. I get ready to meet my first teacher, Ms. Linda, and I just know that she will be excited to meet me and we will form an instant bond and work together for the benefit of the children in that classroom. I will not get many opportunities to have face to face visits with Ms. Linda, so I know this first one is crucial. I walk through the door, introduce myself, and am immediately brushed off. Ms. Linda does not have time to talk to me right now, she shares that several children need her assistance, she’s got to get the morning snack ready, and her assistant is out for the day so she is flying solo. Ms. Linda does not seem as excited about this meeting as I would have hoped. She quickly shares that I’m the third coach that has been in to work with her, and although she knows that I have to do my job, she’s fine and really doesn’t see how I can help her. A CLASS Observer was in her room last week, and she just doesn’t understand what the big deal is. She’s been teaching for over 10 years and she’s tried it all. So anything I have to share with her is stuff she’s already heard.
Sound familiar? Have we not all encountered a “Ms. Linda” in our roles as coaches? That teacher that just seems resistant to your help, or is hesitant to change her practice? Resistance to coaching may take many forms. You might encounter the teacher that is direct, making it clear she doesn’t want your help, such as Ms. Linda. Or you may find a teacher to be passive, putting off your meetings and recommendations, or acting like she’s open to coaching but never actually changing her behavior. While this may be frustrating, you shouldn’t assume the teacher is to blame.
Here’s how to get to the bottom of what’s going on, so that you can help even the teacher least willing to be coached.
Form a relationship
I cannot stress how important this is in a coach/teacher relationship, or any relationship for that matter. Forming a relationship can be more challenging in an online platform, such as myTeachstone, but certainly not impossible.
Understand the resistance
It’s easy to assume the resistant teacher is simply irrational or difficult. But there is typically a logical, perfectly reasonable explanation for how the teacher is behaving. Perhaps the trust has not been developed just yet or she feels like you don’t appreciate all the effort she makes. It could also be that the teacher hasn’t had a good experience with coaching in the past. You might also see resistance if the teacher hasn’t bought into the process.
It’s not enough to contemplate the reasons why a teacher might be hesitant to coaching, but you should ask her.
Acknowledge efforts and build trust
To accept coaching is to make oneself vulnerable, so coaches need to show teachers that they are worthy of trust.
In closing, I must share what became of my teacher, Ms. Linda. The year that I spent working with her was one of the most eye-opening years for me in my career as a coach. It took quite a long time to really get to the meat of the work, coaching her around the CLASS tool to increase the effectiveness of teacher-child interactions. I probably spent the better part of three months just forming that relationship with her and building trust with her. But once that was established, we were able to move forward. Ms. Linda did eventually open up and became receptive to the coaching. By the end of the year Ms. Linda’s CLASS scores had increased, not by leaps and bounds, but enough that she could see the benefit of the work that we had done. To this day, I still get occasional phone calls and texts from Ms. Linda letting me know how things are going.
The next time you encounter that resistant teacher, think of Ms. Linda and know what is possible.
We’ve written before about the discipline disparities between children of color and their white peers. (Since that post was published last year, the Department of Education has released updated - but not improved - statistics on the topic.) But discipline is not the only school arena where children from different backgrounds have different experiences. There’s also evidence that racial bias affects teachers’ academic and behavioral expectations, even in early childhood.
We’ve been talking about the achievement gap for an awfully long time. We’re all familiar with the term; it’s the disparity in academic achievement between different groups of students. We tend to hear about in relation to white students and students of color, but it can also be used to describe the difference between low-income students and their more advantaged peers.
Empowering and equipping coaches with the information and resources they need to mentor also empowers the teachers they're coaching. Check out these coaching resources that discuss how to provide feedback based on CLASS data, how to prepare teachers for a CLASS observation, and much more.