Step 3: Theory to Practice - So much fun but what do I do with it?
“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not. “ Albert Einstein.
Easier Said Than Done
Whatever theory of coaching you choose, it is a promise that it is easier said than done. Like most instructional coaches, you didn’t get trained in the application of the theory. It was frameworks and schools of thought.
You may have gone to an institute or a workshop and gotten a crash course in theory, but most likely, you are finding the theory can only take you so far. Every conversation you have will be so nuanced you might struggle to see the theory fit. Admitting you need to refine your skills is exactly where you should be when you are starting out. This stuff takes years of practice. It’s wise to be humble with your capacity.
This doesn’t mean you should tell people you don’t know what you are doing.
Have questions ready to ask them, not directives to tell them. It helps you and them start to establish a relationship. And you get to save yourself from looking unprepared. You have to operate with a can-do outlook. If you don’t know the answers, you find them. No one likes a know-it-all, and there is no way as an instructional leader you can know it all. To get your feet wet, there are a few places you can jump in to start making your presence felt as a “can do” person.
When an elementary teacher works at creating relationships with students, it isn’t a one-day, one-off activity. It is days and weeks of activities. This is exactly the approach many coaches find they need to use. Creating relationships with the teachers you will be working with will take weeks of intentional and planned attempts.
For example, if a classroom teacher has behavior issues and an administrator or peers tells them to “create relationships,” they are not given actionable steps to take. They were given an ambiguous idea. What does building relationships look like? Is it a getting-to-know-you activity? A slide show of who you are as a teacher?
These are great surface level ways to build relationships. But they don’t create change.
And this is where you come in as a coach, you need to be ready to ask the questions to help the individual teacher determine what deep and meaningful relationships look like.
Teachers need to know you, in a professional manner, and you get to provide that in a structured way so
each party knows how to navigate interactions with a coach.
From there, the right resources and strategies can be presented. This takes away the uncertainty of what building relationships looks like. This is actionable. It makes something concrete and approachable. If you approach your work as a coach in this same context, you take away half of your struggle.
Teachers need to know you, in a professional manner, and you get to provide that in a structured way so each party knows how to navigate interactions with a coach. To build relationships, get them to trust you by being consistent in your actions and your words.
So what does it mean to be dependable? Consistent? Trustworthy? It means to do what you say and say what you do.
Being dependable means holding up your end of the coaching relationship. You do this by always providing the support you say you provide.
Be consistent by delivering the same coaching experience to each teacher. You can’t be a chameleon. If you provide them with quality PD experiences, you need to continue to do that. Picking the framework for what a coaching meeting will look like is one way to provide consistency and bring clarity to what you do.
Those resistant to the process you use might need a bit more clarity. Provide this by using tools like 4MAT.
This framework will reach each adult learner. It’s about letting people know what you do, why you do it, how you do it, and how they will experience working with you.
Meet Them Where They Are
It is inevitable that a few people will not want to work with you and there are a multitude of reasons why. It takes a lot of vulnerability to ask for help. Meet those that are resistant where they are. There is good reason for them to be where they are. Brush up on your knowledge of adult psychology and personality types. This will help you understand where people are coming from and where you can get your foot in the door.
It’s no joke, you might need to brush off that Psychology 101 book or start a deep Google dive into how intentional change theory works. Empathy only takes you so far. You need the knowledge and skills to navigate with powerful soft-skills.
If you need a place to start, give Daniel Goldman’s Book Emotional Intelligence: Why it Matters More Than IQ a try. As teachers, we were taught child development and learning theory. Now that you are working with adults, you need to step outside of your traditional lens and move into adult psychology. Adults have far more experiences than kids and those experiences have shaped who they are and how they see the world. No matter how empathic you are or how intuitive, you don’t know them until you ask them.
When you start making connections with those resistant, it’s a great opportunity to have a focused conversation. Consider how you will do that. What model will you choose? If you are new to this, try the ORID model. It is a great starting point for a focused conversation approach. At first, it will seem a bit scripted until you become more skilled at it. Give it time. Think of when you tried a strategy in class for the first time and how you noticed you needed to grow in your application. The same will be true here.
There are many ways to implement the theories you will learn for coaching. Just know all coaches go through these moments with lots of growing pains.
It sounds simple, but once again, theory to practice is a whole other experience.
You do not have to walk alone. Feel free to message Agile Ideas Leadership for any questions or thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ross Herdina, Co-Founder, Agile Ideas Leadership