Sunday / July 21

Understanding Your Beliefs is the First Step in Effective Coaching

When coaches ask why their instructional coaching efforts aren’t having the impact that they would like to see, I oftentimes ask them to take a step back to analyze the situation. Coaching skills don’t mean a lot if they aren’t grounded in a set of beliefs about why we are here in the first place. Time and time again, we must circle back to our beliefs if we find ourselves struggling in our coaching.

This blog post focuses on a set of beliefs that coaches can use to keep them grounded while partnering with teachers to drive students’ success.

What Are Your Coaching Beliefs?

The following question was sent to me on Twitter. You’ll notice that my response brings the coach right back to her beliefs and how they impact her work with teachers.

Coach’s Message:

Can student-centered coaching work when a teacher does not have good classroom management nor her routines and procedures established? Should I work with the teacher first on classroom management/routines/procedures or dive in with student-centered coaching?

My Response:

The key is that you work on a goal that the teacher has set. Not a goal that you think the teacher should set. In my experience, the teacher has to be an invested partner in the process. We find that while classroom management may be an entry point to coaching, we hope to see the standards driving our coaching cycles. That way we can make sure that we are impacting student learning.

Coach’s Response:

Thank you! I have to change my mindset and be an advocate for change. We haven’t necessarily been willing to give teachers, especially teachers who are struggling in certain areas, the opportunity to set their own goals. We tend to set the goals for the teachers and then work with the teachers to accomplish them. This, of course, is not always well received. Still trying to switch!

The Importance of Clear Coaching Beliefs

In reading the dialogue above, you may have noticed the fact that the coach was feeling unsure about where to start with coaching. Leading her back to the belief that teachers own their own work and set their own goals reminded her that coaches need to avoid the trap of “fixing” teachers. This belief is essential when it comes to working honestly and authentically with adult learners.

I often ask coaches to write down the beliefs that underpin their work with teachers. Coaches find that reflecting on their beliefs is essential to their success.

“Being clear about our beliefs, and then aligning them with our actions, is a powerful step toward being an effective coach.”

If you haven’t written down your own beliefs, I encourage you to do so. Here are my coaching beliefs:

  1. Increased student achievement—for all students every day—is why we are here.
  2. It’s not our job to fix teachers or to be the expert on all things. Everyone brings varied experience and expertise to the table.
  3. The goals of others drive our work. We can’t tell people what to care about.
  4. Our work is ongoing—it doesn’t happen in single conversations.
  5. Relationship is an important factor but not our goal.
  6. We are smarter together, and collaboration is critical.
  7. Everyone is a learner, and our work is never done.
  8. We assume best intent. Everyone cares about kids and is doing the best job that they can.

Next Steps

As you look to increase the impact of your coaching work, you’ll no doubt encounter challenges. This is natural and to be expected. Explore more on how the Student-Centered Coaching model creates the right mind frame to ensure coaching success.


Footnote: This article is excerpted from Student-Centered Coaching: The Moves by Diane Sweeney and Leanna S. Harris (Corwin, 2017).


Latest comment

  • This article really resonated with me. Thank you. It helped me reflect on a coaching experience I had this past year, and how I would like to approach things differently with the coachee and administration this fall.

    **Also: The “Download the Free Guide” button is not working, and I would love to get a copy – please help. Thanks in advance!

leave a comment