By Ellen Eisenberg

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

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

In a recent conversation I had with a relatively new coach, she mentioned that she was worried abut losing “teacher buy-in” with some teachers at this mid-point of the year. I asked why she thought she was “losing” them? What were the signs that made her feel like their coaching interactions were over?

She kept saying that she just “felt” the lack of engagement and commitment from some of the teachers with whom she worked. So, we needed a little soul-searching to get to the bottom of this feeling.

First, we talked a lot about how she was feeling… as you can imagine, she was feeling overwhelmed, under productive, compliance driven, and definitely, “earless.” When I questioned that description, she said that she felt she had no time to listen and that her mandate from the principal was to get into the classrooms and produce (whatever that meant). Hmm… red flags for sure.

All of these feelings are the cumulative effect of not really understanding the role, function, and goals of instructional coaching – from all points of view. It appears that the principal doesn’t really know what to expect from coaching and needs a mid-year refresher course; (I wonder what kind of roll out was provided so that the vision could be shared and questions could be asked) the teachers probably need some reminders as well about the role of the coach and how coaching is designed to help teachers achieve the school wide goals for improvement. And, more importantly, the coach needs to take the pulse of the school’s needs and prioritize what can be accomplished through short range, mid-range, and long-range planning.

Without goals and planning, the acute fear of not producing is paralyzing and overpowering. But remember, coaches are not “bean counters.” Their value is not in the number of teachers they “service” but rather in the ways teachers learn to collaborate and become architects of their own learning so that change occurs. Having a master plan gives direction, design, and data.

We have engaged in a series of our own BDA’s. At this point, the coach is planning three things: 1) chat and chews with the topic of the week; 2) mini contests modeled after March Madness to spark mid-year teacher rejuvenation; and 3) offering raffles for items from local places as “bell ringers” during a mini PD/PL session. These inspired her engagement! These are just the short-range “get involved” kinds of things. The more important conversations about teacher engagement are ongoing and require deep reflection, commitment, and the realization that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

What are some strategies you use to ensure continued teacher engagement in your coaching interactions?  

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