Sometimes teachers aren’t just quite ready for coaching… yet…

But, they are interested in improving student learning and achieving their professional goals.

So, when we, as coaches, want to conduct a formal coaching cycle with them, it can feel intimidating and overwhelming.

Today’s post is all about how to simplify the coaching experience, so that you can begin working with colleagues who are ready to grow, without the stress of a formal coaching cycle!

That’s where “covert coaching” comes in. This idea was inspired by a conversation inside The Coach Certificate and Mentorship program that I had with my Premium Cohort recently. We were talking about what happens when a coaching cycle just feels too intimidating. We as coaches really want to do perfect coaching cycles with pre-meetings and observations and reflections and all of these opportunities to dig deep into their practice. But sometimes teachers just feel like this is too much. So how do you help coach those teachers who are growth minded and ready to learn, but they aren’t ready to go through a huge coaching cycle?

Some of the challenges that those teachers might feel are that:

  • coaching seems intimidating, or
  • it seems like it takes a lot of work or
  • there’s too many meetings involved, or
  • maybe they don’t even really feel like they need any help.

Does this sound like your experience as a coach? Have you felt this kind of reluctance to be coached because it just feels like too much?

If that is the case, you might like this idea of Covert Coaching (I know the name is kind of cheesy, but I like it because it’s easy to remember). I’ve got four steps for covert coaching for you today, and hopefully some or all of these will make sense in your setting and you will be able to use them with that teacher that’s growth minded, but just not ready for a whole coaching cycle yet.

1: Make it Easy

Don’t put any labels on what you’re doing. Don’t call it a “coaching cycle”. Don’t have any massive shared agenda. Just have quick focus conversations on what the teacher needs about something small. You don’t want to start with a big, huge project re-imagining this whole entire unit that they do with their class. Just start with something small and make it feel really successful, easy and natural. That’s easy, natural, and small and successful for the teacher. It might end up being a little more work for you because you can’t use your normal coaching process in this case. But remember, you’re building their foundation, you’re building their capacity for a maybe fuller coaching cycle, farther down the road. If they have success in this easy, simple, quick setting right now.

2: Exchange the Observation for Something Less Stressful

Try not do a classroom observation in the formal sense, but instead, either ask if you can pop by or offer to take a small group to lead a conversation, or maybe even offer to teach a class. Basically find a way to be in the classroom and do something that takes the load off the teacher. Instead of putting more stress on them, by observing, you might even ask about needs for specific students and pull them out of the class to get a better understanding about what’s going on in the classroom. Even if you can’t be in the room at the moment.

3: Be in The Right Place at the Right Time

Try to be somewhere where you can cross paths with this teacher and have a purposeful conversation without having to schedule a meeting and have an agenda and send a calendar invite. You might want to:

  • be where they are when they’re on duty, because they can’t leave and you can just stop by and talk to them.
  • swing by after a team meeting or catch them in the corridor when they’re moving from one place to another.
  • or if you feel like they can handle it, send them an email with just the right resource and no further pressure. Something that says “I know you were interested in this. I found this thing that seemed like it would really support you have a look. If you want to talk about it further, I’m available.”

Keep it simple, easy, the right thing, the right place, at the right time.

4: What’s Making Them Crazy?

Identify what’s not working. The reality is they’re probably doing lots of amazing things in their classroom and they don’t need support for that. You just want to help them with the thing that’s driving them nuts! To do that, you need to know their students really well. You can also connect with their team or grade level peers about challenges that they all share so that you have a better understanding of what’s going on in that classroom or grade level. You could also consider attending team meetings to get a better picture of what’s going on. And again, just like before you can share just the right resource to support that exact issue, that’s making them crazy.

Plus 2 Bonus Tips!

As you’re going through this process, make sure to show appreciation for the amazing things that this teacher is doing in their classroom. Sometimes that’s even the easiest way to start a conversation is about what’s working well in their classroom to open the door to some further conversations along those lines. Plus, as you’re moving forward you might also want to share successes from any of those 4 strategies that you tried above.

Also, as you’re testing out the strategies above, make sure you are keeping your own notes about how things are going. If you’re not keeping a shared agenda with your coachee because you’re trying to keep it simple, you’re likely going to have to keep notes somewhere else. So you make sure you document what you did on which day and how it worked and what might work better in the future.

Please Share

I hope that those four strategies and a couple of extra tips are helpful for you to start this process of covert coaching for when teachers who aren’t quite ready for coaching, yet! If any of these resonate with you, please let us know, and share this post with your network! If you have other strategies that work really well, please share those in the comments below, because we can all benefit from hearing more ways to help those teachers that aren’t ready… yet!

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