How To Serve
Teachers are all over the place in their journeys as educators. And instructional coaches are as well.
In the first part of this series, we covered why it is important to define your role as an instructional coach. Once the role is defined, it’s time to move into building trust in the program and, more importantly, you.
Establishing trust may seem like a no-brainer. However, how do you do that? If you like to toss around key phrases, you might say use a lens of compassion, lead with empathy, or create relationships. And these are all correct.
But at the same time, they are also a bit ambiguous. And therefore, easy to say and hard to do.
This makes choosing how you will serve teachers all the more important. Here are two theorists we can quickly look at for starters.
Jim Knight, in his book The Impact Cycle, addresses three types of coaching you might have to use. Each has its place, and if you are tuned into the teacher, you can figure out which one fits best.
The first is facilitative coaching. This type of coaching treats the coach and teacher as equals. The coach listens and asks questions for the teacher to find their own answers.
This is a great method for those who are open to being facilitated, have experience in the classroom, and are open to new ideas.
Next, there is directive coaching. “Directive coaching is the opposite of facilitative coaching” according to Knight. This is where the coach has the capacity to be the expert and guide through advice-giving.
Who is this good for? New teachers. They often don’t have the years of experience to integrate new knowledge or frameworks into what they do in the classroom. If you choose this model, you need to communicate directly and listen deeply.
Finally, Knight speaks of dialogical coaching. This model is all about using questioning techniques and deep listening to help a teacher uncover the answers he or she already has.
This takes lots of skill. Lots. You have to know a few inquiry models of questioning and practice them frequently so you can use them at a moment’s notice when the opportunity arises. Don’t think you won’t struggle with this. The most experienced coaches I know feel vulnerable here.
Elena Aguilar is another thought leader in this space. She speaks of transformative coaching in her book, The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation.
This model goes deep in examining behaviors, beliefs, and ways of being.
Vulnerability is key for success with this model. Trust isn’t a catchphrase here; you will have to be ready to live it. People have to know you have a level of confidentiality the way attorneys do with their clients.
If you can’t provide that, this model doesn’t work.
A questions structure that works well in this format is the seven questions from the book The Coaching Habit.
Author Michael Bungay Stanier provides a coach with seven easy-to-use scaffolded questions to get at the heart of the matter. No matter the amount of time you have for a coaching session, these questions get the coachee talking.
If you feel you struggle with what questions to ask, the Coaching Habit questions are a great beginners’ guide. Master these and you will be able to find moments to go deep with the work from Aguilar or Knight.
The theorist you pick matters on many levels. You will get better as a coach when you see the strengths and areas of growth in each model so you can start to mesh them together to address the needs of those around you.
It is important to know what your administrator wants for evidence of your work. This is a direct conversation to have.
If a team needs to build consensus around the type of data needed, run them through a consensus workshop and find common ground. Then you will know what is needed and how to communicate it.
This will set you up for how to navigate the journey to making the deepest impact with teachers. They will know what to expect because you will know exactly what you are to do.
It is imperative to protect the relationships with the teachers you have developed. A teacher or administrator will approach you and ask who you are working with and what you are talking about.
You will know how to answer those questions if you define your role well.
More importantly, you will retain the trust of teachers if you maintain the boundaries you establish with them. If they need to be vulnerable to transform their teaching, you will need to hold sacred the conversations you have.
There are ways to do this. Clear and actionable steps.
The next step to take is to break through the theories above and see what it all looks like in action. This so-called boots on the ground moment.
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