Our Senior Associate Shane Safir was a guest blogger for EdWeek’s The Art of Coaching Teachers blog by Elena Aguilar. Elena writes,
“There’s one request for advice that I receive more than any other from coaches: How can I coach a resistant teacher?”
Shane questions the term “resistant” and turns it back to a series of questions for the coach, encouraging coaches to first question where this label came from by investigating the context, getting to know the story of the teacher, and looking in the mirror to examine one’s own emotional reactions to coaching, change, peers, etc.
Shane Safir, Senior Associate, National Equity Project
The Pitfalls of Perception
The answer to this perennial coaching question–how can I coach a resistant teacher?–actually sits inside the question itself in the word “resistant.” When we label a client “resistant,” we create a psychological and even moral distance that can undermine our goals. Resistant means “refusing to accept new ideas or changes.” This label carries a layer of judgment that may prevent us from trying to understand our coachee’s reality, dilemmas, competing commitments, or even aspirations.
How can we really determine that a coachee has refused to work toward change? What if 90% of her has refused, but a hopeful, dormant 10% is open to your support? What if she is actually fearful, mistrusting, under-confident, distracted by competing priorities, or so burned by previous ‘interventions’ that she can’t yet engage in the opportunity you’re offering?
How To Approach a “Resistant Teacher”
Here are a few tips for approaching your coachee that might soften her resistance and foster relational trust.
1. Look in the mirror. As human beings, we have a natural tendency to look “out the window” for external sources of our current challenges. Resist that tendency, and take a moment to notice your own reactions to this coachee. Do you have a physiological response as you prepare to coach him or her? Does your body become tense or rigid? What emotions come up when you think about this person – fear, anger, distress, frustration? All of these reactions can distort the way you perceive and approach your coachee. Simply noticing your own physical and emotional signals and taking a deep breath may be enough to interrupt the auto-pilot response and shift to a more “distress-free” stance…
Register today for this summer’s Coaching for Equity Institutes to learn much more about our coaching approaches.