Working with Reluctant Teachers

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Build the Relationship

I know it has been said before, but one cannot argue the power of building a collaborative relationship with your teachers. I wouldn’t recommend presenting yourself as “the expert”, but rather as a resource and a partner. Teachers may be reluctant for a number of different reasons. Maybe they have had a negative experience with a mentor or coach in the past. It is important to take the time to find out where the reluctance is coming from and work through it with them. Notice I didn’t say solve whatever issues they are having or have had in the past. Playing “fix-it” will only exacerbate the reluctance. Take the time to get to know them both professionally and personally. It is not necessary to be “friends” outside of work, but it is necessary that the teacher knows that you care about them on a personal level. Do not be afraid to ask about their spouse, children, or what they like to do for fun. Taking an interest in them outside of their professional skills will go a long way in building a relationship.

Keep their Confidence

As a coach, it is not your job to report back to the Director or Principal on your teachers progress through the coaching progress. In fact, if you are reporting your findings to anyone other than the teacher, you are violating their privacy and undermining the process. One of the reasons I have found that teachers for be reluctant to the coaching process is when they have been struggling with effective teaching and have been put on notice by their director or principal. This creates a high-stakes environment for the teacher. They may fear that if they don’t improve with your coaching, they will lose their jobs. This is a tough situation for all involved. One practice that I make sure that everyone (including the director) is clear on, is that coaching sessions are confidential. I even go as far as having a coaching contract that the teacher and director sign that states what my responsibilities are, what the teacher’s responsibilities are, and that all conversations will be held in the strictest confidence. If this practice is not welcomed by the director or principal I first attempt to explain the reasoning behind the process. If the director or principal still do not agree then I simply refuse that particular coaching job. That isn’t to say that a contract will automatically gain you trust. It is a process that does not happen overnight. You MUST put in the time. Trust is earned, not given.

Student Focused

Teachers are more likely to open themselves up to honest reflection and real change when they can see the value it brings to their students. When talking through a difficult situation it helps to keep the focus on what is best for their students. Teachers can be reluctant to the coaching process when they feel it is going to create more work for them. One thing that teachers do not have an abundance of is time. Asking them to create something like a visual schedule for their classroom can seem overwhelming and unnecessary to a reluctant teacher. However, when the teacher can see the value it will bring to the classroom through reflective conversation rather than as a suggestion from you, they will be more likely to implement it into their daily plans.

Data Driven

Last, I would like to suggest to you that the coaching process by driven by data. Data is collected through observations, conversations, watching classroom videos, and observational assessments. Data takes the subjective nature out of the process, an important point when working with a reluctant teacher. The ability to say “I heard you give 5 positive descriptive feedback today” sounds much more credible and kind than to say “You didn’t give a lot of positive descriptive feedback today.” Using data rather than opinion will give a reluctant teacher something more tangible to hold on to and will go a long way in building your credibility.

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