#educoachOC Chat 17: Coaching as a Gift

During previous chats, we have asked for suggestions for topics that people would like to discuss. This month we’ll be discussing one of those topics – how to coach resistant teachers. Some may consider the answer to this question to be a very simple one: you can’t and shouldn’t! As with most questions in education the answer more likely starts with “well, it depends…”. The topic, phrased in this way, raises lots of questions about how coaching is envisioned, presented and enacted in any given school. It may also raise questions about intent – of both those designated to coach and those initiating it – and perception – of those on the ‘receiving end’ of it. The notion of coaching ‘resistant’ teachers undoubtedly also raises issues of power and trust. What, or who, are they resisting and why?

Some of these questions and issues may be too tricky to discuss all at once in a one-hour Twitter chat so we’ve decided to home-in on the specific issue of how school-based coaches might advocate and enact ‘coaching as a gift – coaching as a service to teachers rather than a treatment!

I’ve had several conversations with new school coaches, in a wide range of contexts, where they have expressed significant frustration that the teachers to whom they so desperately want to provide support are not immediately flocking to them in their droves! In one of those conversations, the budding coach used a retail metaphor. The coach had ‘set-up shop’, with a nice shiny new sign outside and what they thought was an inviting space inside, but no-one came in – not even to browse. The coach could see lots of potential customers walking on by, blissfully unaware of what he could do for them. The ensuing conversation explored this metaphor further and covered everything from walking up and down the street wearing a sandwich board, to what to advertise on the sandwich board and from ‘unique selling points’ and possible special offers to the market’s readiness for this new service. We also talked about what happens when the ‘gift’ of coaching is returned to the shop because it was unsolicited or the customer wasn’t completely satisfied. We could have covered ‘terms and conditions’, had there been time. It was a great conversation!

The issues illustrated here are very common and appear to be rooted in teacher identity and professionalism. Depending on how coaching is presented and implemented in a school, and to what ends, the proposition of working with a coach, for many teachers, can be slightly challenging at best, and an outright professional affront at worst. So, how do we, as coaches with the best of intentions, alleviate these anxieties and mitigate for other organisational factors that may be outside of our sphere of influence?

Several experts in the field have addressed these issues. Here’s a sample of further reading if you’re interested:

Jim Knight’s work on Instructional Coaching based around what he calls the seven Partnership Principles: https://resources.corwin.com/sites/default/files/Chapter2.pdf

Christian van Nieuwerburgh introduces the term “democratic voluntary involvement” as a pre-cursor for the development of a coaching culture in this book chapter: https://au.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/74874_vanNieuwerburgh_Towards_a_Coaching_Culture.pdf

We are very grateful that Christian van Nieuwerburgh has also given permission for this extract from An Introduction to Coaching Skills (1st Ed): to be shared: van Nieuwerburgh 2014 Extract pp156-158

A couple of recent blogs were related to the issues raised here – this by Elena Aguilar and this by Peter de Witt.

Here are the chat questions this month:

  1. How would you describe the benefits of coaching in a school context?
  2. What contextual factors influence whether coaching is perceived as a ‘gift’ or service as opposed to a ‘treatment’ or affront?
  3. If teachers are resistant to coaching, what or who might they be resisting?
  4. What can schools do to build trust and faith in the coaching process?
  5. What are some starting points or strategies for working with teachers where coaching has been mandated?

Daylight saving time changes have in various places recently so please check the chat times carefully. The chat will take place on Monday 3rd April at 8.30pm AEST.

That’s 6.30am in New York, 11.30am in London, 1.30pm in Doha, 4pm in Mumbai, 6.30pm in Singapore and Perth, and 10.30pm in Auckland.

We hope that you’ll join us!

The #educoachOC team

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