Sometimes, we must be reminded that doing what’s right is not always doing what is popular. In fact, sometimes, it is quite the opposite. I think we all fall into the category of wanting to be so helpful that we forget there are goals for change that need to be attained. Layer the fear of losing one’s job, i.e., instructional coach, on top of wanting to please, and we get a lot of “niceness” and not enough data that indicates change is taking place. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not talking about collecting data that is directly related to student achievement… we know that there is no direct correlation unless the only support is instructional coaching. We do know, however, that the association between improved student outcomes and direct teacher support can be attributed to instructional coaching and mentoring.
So, what does that mean? It means that instructional coaches should be personable, friendly, respectful, sensitive, and a host of other attributes. But it also means that instructional coaches need to help teachers identify which practices need to be strengthened and subsequently changed in order for student outcomes to shift. And, this can’t be done by being likeable. Sometimes, those difficult conversations must be initiated.
“My concern about being over-focused on ‘likeability’ is that this becomes a prescription for just being ‘nice in the workplace’, and while being nice, and being civil is a good thing, it is not how to be a good leader” says Karen Cates of the Kellogg School of Management (What’s Not to Like? www.iedp.com/articles, December 17, 2019). In fact, she goes on to say, “Likeability is a good thing to have in your leadership toolkit, but it shouldn’t be the biggest hammer in the box.”
The coaching role is messy and knowing the areas of strength and areas of need for your teaching colleagues and addressing those necessities will make a difference in changing practice. That’s leadership!
What’s the biggest hammer in your coaching toolbox?