By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Professional Institute for Instructional Coaching (TPIIC)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Confidentiality and responding to principals will always be issues if the principal does not understand the role, rules, and responsibilities of effective instructional coaching.

One question just emailed to me is, “How do I get my principal to jump onboard and understand that coaching is to support a teacher, not to be used to gain information about a teacher the principals thinks is weak?”

Right from the get-go, the principal is breaching confidentiality by telling the coach there is a weak teacher. Those kinds of discussions are best left to the administrative team whose role and function is to evaluate a teacher’s performance. The minute a principal tells a coach to work with “that weak teacher,” the coaching relationship is compromised. And, here’s a news flash… most teachers in a school are well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the teaching staff! If the coach is mandated to work with “that weak teacher,” the others have already figured out that coaching means working with someone whose practice is considered anemic.

Don’t plunge into that trap.

But, how does a coach avoid that pitfall?

First and foremost, a coach and principal must share a vision and definition of effective instructional coaching. Both have to be on the same page and revisit this definition and vision periodically so the communication is transparent and the goals are front and center.

Second, this vision must be shared with the staff and also revisited so that there are no misunderstandings about the role and expectations of the coaching model. Always refer to school’s plan for improvement and align the coaching goals with those. No one can argue with the idea that effective coaching brings the school closer to accomplishing the goals when those goals are widely disseminated, discussed, and revisited.

If a coach finds him/herself in this predicament, an effective way to handle the situation is to remind the principal that coaching is confidential, an “offstage” dimension in their work. You are happy to share the topics of professional learning that are planned and/or have taken place but sharing a teacher’s performance with the coach is the teacher’s choice, not a coach/principal driven decision. A more promising way for the principal to handle this is to remind the teacher that there is an instructional coach on staff who is happy to help the teacher identify goals, strategies, and effective instructional practices that will yield positive results in teaching and learning.

How do you handle a situation that breaches confidentiality?

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