Peeling Back The Teacher Coaching Onion

A. Here's what I'm thinking. Chime in. Any feedback session has 4 ways to fail and 1 way to succeed.

Right or wrong?

Any feedback session has 4 ways to fail and 1 way to succeed.

Failure 1: No trust/openness If I'm receiving coaching but don't fully trust it, it acts as a tax. I'm unlikely to change much.

Failure 2: Technical fixes are wrong (or situationally wrong) If the advice you give me on "how to improve" is inaccurate, and I do it, obviously I won't get better. I may get worse.

If the advice you give me is correct but poorly explained, there's a good chance I won't get better, because I'll miss key nuance or connective tissue.

By "situationally wrong," maybe you're telling me to do something that you can do (or many people can do), but I can't (at least not yet). It's technically right for you. It's wrong for me.

Failure 3: Feedback not implemented If I trust you, AND you give me good feedback, AND understand it -- I might nod and thank you and intend to follow it....but still never do it. Maybe I don't practice it. Maybe I'm afraid to do what you say, even though I know it's right. Maybe I don't care enough to absorb the short-term cost of change. Maybe I forget.

Failure 4: Regression We've all been there. We fall back into bad habits.

Help me out here. Do I have that right? There's 4 layers to the teacher coaching onion before you finally hit Success?

B. Z's Story Yesterday I was talking to Z. He works for Teach For America coaching 31 teachers. He's a "program director."

I'm going to paraphrase. He said something along these lines:

I think I'm good with Problem 1. Over the year, I win over my reluctant teachers. They trust and respect me now. They're less touchy. Most of that is through personal relationship building. Some of it was just they tried pointers I gave them, and they worked. So now they're open to more.

I have 4 teachers with whom I'd describe breakout success. They're so hungry to improve. They're on an epic quest to get better.

Of course I think my technical fixes are right. So I don't think I have a lot of what you're calling Failure 2. It's rare I hear a teacher say "I tried to do it the way you said, but it failed."

Most of my teachers are simply Failure 3. It's a pleasure to spend time with them. They seem to like me and listen attentively for coaching. They take notes and stuff.

But their classrooms tend to be quite similar as they were 6 months ago.

I believe a quiet problem in many charter schools, certainly including ours, is that many teacher coaching efforts to do not seem to change teachers that much.

I say quiet in that I have many conversations with charter teachers and leaders along these lines. But it doesn't seem to be "in the open." There's a lot of Failure 3, it seems.