Having Brave Conversations About Coaching

I’ve recently had the opportunity to hear from teachers about how coaching is (and isn’t) helping them thrive in their classrooms. These have been courageous conversations that have surfaced some hard lessons about how we can be responsive as coaches. Here’s an example: during a planning session that I recently joined, a coach had hoped to clarify the success criteria with a second grade teacher. She planned the conversation thoughtfully, and yet, the teacher seemed uncomfortable. Having been invited to participate, I asked a simple question, “If coaching could serve you better, what would it look like?” The teacher responded, “I really just need help with classroom management. I’m having a really tough year.” I asked, “What if your coaching cycle goal was two pronged, academic and behavioral?” She said, “We can do that?” The coach then suggested coming into the classroom in the next few days to collect evidence about student engagement and behavior. Then they would have a better vision for what might come next. Later, the teacher remarked to a colleague, “I felt heard as a teacher and now I’m excited to dig in.”

Another example came from an ELA teacher in a junior high. When asked how coaching could serve him, he said, “When it was introduced, I thought it would be a more open-ended process. I like to try things out and that’s what I was hoping to do with a coach. Now it feels like it’s narrowed down and that I don’t get much of a say about what we work on.” Yet another lesson from a brave teacher who was willing to share his perspective about coaching.

One of the most important things we can do is to respond to the needs of teachers so they can respond to the needs of their students. This might simply start with asking them what they need to better support student learning in their classroom. We recommend introducing a process for getting this type of feedback through Teacher Advisory Panels. These panels consist of teachers who are willing to speak to their experiences with coaching. It can be helpful to include a variety of voices, such as teachers who have participated at differing levels. This not only contributes to a culture of openness and feedback, it supports the coach to learn how to best meet the needs of teachers and students. The following questions may get you started if you decide to create a Teacher Advisory Panel.

Questions for Teacher Advisory Panels
Created by: Diane Sweeney Consulting

  1. In what ways have you participated in Student-Centered Coaching?


  2. Why did you decide to engage in this way?


  3. How did your participation impact your instructional practice and your students’ learning?


  4. Do you feel you have a clear vision for the purpose and process for Student-Centered Coaching?


  5. Do you have any feedback that would make the coaching program better?


  6. Do you have any questions about coaching?