Why Teachers Become Resistant to Coaching
By Nicole S. Turner
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As an instructional coach, I often reflect on my elementary school days when Mrs. G, the Title I Reading Specialist, would assist those of us who grappled with reading. I guess one thing I should share is that I have some type of reading disability. My mom has never told me that she had me tested but I did attend the “Reading Clinic” during my elementary days. Even now, I often mispronounce and misspell words. When sitting in the classroom, I feared being singled out to join her at the back of the room. This experience was so real. Everyone in the classroom knew that Mrs. G was there to work with those who struggled with reading. Over time, I disliked being pulled by Mrs. G. When Mrs. G would come in the room, I would make up having a headache, and stomach ache and create ways to avoid being pulled into the back of the room.
Many instructional coaches and school administrators can relate to this scenario but in the context of coaching “New”, “Uncertified”, or “Struggling” teachers. Addressing the resistance teachers may have towards instructional coaching is crucial for the development of a thriving educational environment.
Understanding Teacher Resistance to Instructional Coaching
The “Fix It” model is commonly implemented in schools, but it is not without its flaws. When only teachers perceived as having a deficiency are paired with an instructional coach, a stigma similar to Mrs. G’s reading group emerges. Teachers receiving coaching might feel marginalized, fostering a view of instructional coaching as a punitive measure rather than a supportive process. This can lead to resistant teachers, who, feeling cornered, become defensive rather than open to growth.
The misconception that instructional coaching is solely remedial work further alienates teachers. The demand for additional time and energy from already overwhelmed teachers can result in canceled meetings and a reluctance to engage in the coaching process.
Moving Beyond the “Fix It” Model
The shift from the “Fix It” model to an inclusive coaching model is essential. Transformation begins with reshaping our perceptions. Principals and educational leaders can set a new tone by modeling the belief that instructional coaching is a universal asset, not a mark of deficiency. By making coaching accessible to every teacher, the message is clear: instructional coaching is here to empower, not to critique. This approach eliminates the punitive connotations of coaching and encourages a school-wide growth mindset.
Principals as Catalysts for Change
It’s within a principal’s power to inspire change and dismantle the stigma attached to instructional coaching. Principals are instrumental in changing these perceptions by actively demonstrating their investment in coaching and setting up structures that facilitate collaboration between coaches and teachers, they send a powerful message: every teacher is worthy of growth, and every teacher can benefit from the guidance of an instructional coach.
- Shifting from selective to universal coaching availability.
- Actively supporting instructional coaches.
- Fostering collaboration between coaches and teachers.
- Prioritizing professional development for coaches to enhance their effectiveness.
Instructional Coaches Facilitating Growth
Once Principals have moved away from the “Fix it” model for coaching, coaches can step in and do what they do best: Coach EVERY Teacher! As we know, every teacher is unique and holds their strengths and challenges when it comes to working with students. Coaches can meet the needs of each individual by differentiating their support.
I suggest using the tiering system of Whole School Coaching. In this system, the first step is to conduct whole school baseline snapshots to gather observational information about all the teachers in the school.
Next, we separate them into three Tiers.
- Tier 1 typically consists of teachers who have plenty of experience. They may need support with content or instructional execution, but generally, they have command of the classroom. These are teachers that we coach in group settings. Professional development for the whole group might focus on the mission, developing a common language across the school, and developing a shared vision for student success.
- Tier 2 consists of teachers who may need additional support, especially when it comes to developing classroom culture or content. These teachers can be coached in either individual coaching or small groups. Coaches focus on feedback and support based on the school’s goals. Support should be differentiated.
- Tier 3 contains the teachers that need the most support. They may struggle with the basics like organization and classroom management and creating a positive learning culture. These teachers will likely require one-on-one coaching in the form of coaching cycles differentiated by each teacher’s unique needs.
The transition from a “Fix It” model to a more inclusive instructional coaching paradigm can address the issue of resistant teachers. By fostering a culture of continuous growth and support, instructional coaches can enhance teacher performance across the board. It’s time to recognize that instructional coaching is not a remedial measure but a valuable resource for all educators committed to excellence.