By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


How do you handle an angry or negative response to a question you asked? This question surfaced at a recent webinar.

That never happens, right? WRONG! This situation can absolutely happen, especially if the coaching relationship has not been established and the coach is not viewed as a trusted colleague. How the coach handles the situation makes all the difference in establishing a healthy coaching relationship.

If the coach is not familiar with the teacher’s beliefs and practices, then most likely, there has not been a conversation about how those beliefs influence practice. Without that conversation, how does the coach know which approach to the coaching interaction will “feel” appropriate? If there has not been a conversation about how students learn and grow, then the questions the coach asks could be perceived as intimidating and threatening. To avoid this situation, coaches must establish relationships with their teaching colleagues and help them understand the role and function of an instructional coach before they engage in conversations about practice. That's the "before the before" conversation!

How about this…If the coaching conversation is mandated by the principal, the teacher’s response might not be warm and fuzzy. After all, how many teachers are comfortable being forced to have a conversation about their teaching skills when they don’t know if the coach is evaluating them and reporting to the principal? The coach must build trust before asking questions. On the other hand, if the coach’s role has been shared and made explicit to the staff with the coach making his/her expectations visible and then the principal suggests that the teacher contact the instructional coach for support, that would most likely result in a positive response.

Remember, coaching is not a “fixit” model. Coaches are not there to “fix” what’s wrong with anyone’s instructional delivery. The coach is there as a trusted colleague, an experienced practitioner who helps teachers recognize their full potential and take ownership of their own learning. The coach helps guide; the teacher does the rest. 

How have you handled a response that was angry or negative? How did you turn that around into something positive?

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