In part 4 of this 4-part interview, Center for School Transformation CAO & Professor Megan Tschannen-Moran talks about how coaches can grow by using their own coaching moves on themselves.

Watch the interview video on teacher coaching above, or read the interview transcript below.

“Yes, but” and other common pitfalls in teacher coaching

– Welcome to another PL together lounge talk. I’m Adam Geller, founder and CEO of Edthena, the video collaboration platform that helps you streamline feedback to teachers. Today, we’re talking with Megan Chonamoran. She’s a professor at William and Mary, and also the author of several books, including Evocative Coaching, transforming schools one conversation at a time. Megan, thanks so much for joining us.

– Thanks so much for inviting me.

– We’ve talked about evocative coaching together. We’ve talked about compassionate communication. These are the tools that in the processes that coaches can implement, but fundamentally they’re about helping the teachers, helping the educators grow. Let’s talk about helping the coaches grow because I mean, certainly too, it’s not as simple as saying, oh, I’m going to do it, just like it’s not as simple as a teacher saying, oh yeah, I’m going to do it. Right? So how, how do you talk with coaches about how they should start thinking about getting better?

– Yeah, well really I invite them to use the same process that we’ve outlined in the evocative coaching model for turning inward, for looking at doing their own self-reflection so starting out by paying attention to their own story, you know, we can learn a lot by paying attention, listening to ourselves and the ways that hopefully we’ve gained some skills in listening to the teachers that we’re working with. But, so what’s our story? What are the stories we’re telling ourselves and are those stories serving us or do we need to shift those stories somehow and then giving ourselves some, some empathy by using the same process of compassionate communication to look inward and like, what’s up with me? What’s going on? What needs are being well-served, well met, for me currently in return, maybe are, are her calling to me needing a little bit more attention?

– Well, I was going to ask you, so I’m imagining being a coach and you know, maybe I’m feeling empowered to lead myself through the cycle. Maybe I’m lucky. And I have a coach, but take me more into the, to the work of the reflection, if you will. I mean, I think coaches are well-versed when it comes to, you know, what, how do we help teachers identify is instruction successful and leading students to the right outcomes, right? There’s a, it’s not as simple as a toolkit, but there are some things that we’re familiar with looking for. So what could or should a coach be looking for if they start observing their coaching conversations?

– So primarily they would be looking to see if the goals of coaching are being met, which is how they cooked up motivation and movement. So is, are the teachers feeling energized about the project or professional learning? Are they wanting to move forward? And then are we actually seeing some improvement, some growth for them? And we also can just ask the people that we’re coaching, like what’s been meaningful about our work together. What would you wish for, you know, if we could adapt it a little bit? What, what might that look for look like? And we have some, some tools as well. So yeah, we have observation tools for in the classroom, what levels of questioning or student engagement or student thinking, but we also can have some self observation tools. Like, who’s doing all the talking? Like just tracking the minutes of who’s, who’s using up this airtime. And if we discover that we are doing way more talking than teachers doing, then likely, we’re taking too much ownership and responsibility and we were depriving the teacher of that. So that might be something that we want to design and experiment for ourselves about how we change that. We might look at the coaching behaviors, just some tally marks. So there’s, there’s some ways that we can practice our craft on ourselves in order to improve our craft.

– I liked how I was as hearing, instead of the observing for teacher talk time, you’re observing for coach talk time, the same, the same issue of balance within the lesson, as well as within the coaching cycle. So, you know, as you’ve supported coaches in developing their skills in evocative coaching and, and becoming better, I mean, are there places that you would guide someone who’s learning this process or practicing this process to advise them that like, Hey, these are the areas that are often stickier, you know, to help guide that inward reflection. I mean, are there, I don’t want to say it as the common pitfalls, right? But are there places where it’s hard and so you could help them know where to look?

– We actually do identify six, what we call coaching traps. And so these are common pitfalls. If you want to put it that way, but ways that we can get off track as coaches and end up getting in the way interfering with the coaching project. And so those are things like the fix it trap that we were taking too much responsibility and we’re getting a whole series of yes, but. Yes, but. Yes, but. Or the hurry, hurry trap, like, because we in schools live with constant state of time poverty. There’s never enough time. And so are we sort of getting in there like nipping at the teacher’s heels to like, let’s go down with it. We gotta get you better right now. And so, and, and again, just cooking up some resistance with the person feels like, Hey, wait, you didn’t hear me. You know, we don’t have this trust. We’re not a connection. So we’ve raced through the no fault turn at the beginning in order to roll up our sleeves and get busy. And, and we’re not being successful because the person doesn’t trust us, we haven’t created the rapport necessary to invite them to take risks. And so they’re putting in the, put them into just a compliance orientation. Well, tell me what to do and I’ll do it. So, so just being aware of those, those kinds of things can, can help us to, to become aware and to grow in our own craft.

– Maybe, you know, take us into, and of course, no, no coaching project as you call it. No coaching project is the same. And whether your coach is looking inward or is supported, no two are the same, but maybe take us a little bit through an example of the design prototyping experiment laying out phase for a coach, because I feel like maybe having a little bit of an example, there could be helpful for the coach who is committed to that self-reflection process, but may not have seen many models of how coaches can get better.

– Right. Right. Well, and one thing I will say when you mentioned, maybe you’re lucky and you have a coach that maybe the resources provided for you, but even if not, I would encourage people to find a peer coach because that also can be very, very valuable in helping you to move through and to create some accountability for, for the projects that you design in your experimental design. So whether you’re doing this on your own, or you’re doing it with your coach, the design process starts with articulating a hypothesis. So you might think, oh dear, I have noticed I’m doing way more of the talking. So my hypothesis is, if I talk less, if I make more space for silence, then the teacher is going to get more engaged in the coaching project process. And so then, okay. So how would I test that? How would I know? And so I would say, well, I’m gonna, I’m gonna use this coaching template with three people. You know, we want to lay it out as specific as we can. I’m going to maybe videotape my coaching session so that I can, mark that. I’m gonna ask for feedback about that. I’m gonna maybe tell the person I’m, I’m coaching that this is my project that I’m, that I’m trying to grow so that I’m modeling ongoing professional learning and growth, and then ask them how I’m doing. So we would lay out what’s my experiment. What are the strategies? What are the steps that I’m going to engage in? And then part of the coaching model and how will I know if I get better? So what will be the evidence if I, if I’ve gotten better in that? And then there there’s the confidence ruler, which says, how likely am I actually going to do to implement this? So this, whether we’re designing an experiment with the teacher or our own coaching experiment saying on a scale of one to 10, how likely it is, we’ll actually do that. So we can ask ourselves that, you know, it may be real flowery, like sounds great. Like this would be great, but am I really gonna do it? Like, and maybe not. And so we’re looking on that scale of one to 10 is at least a seven. So we want at least a seven out of 10 of the confidence that I think I can do this. If it’s, if we get less than seven, we ask two follow up questions first, why didn’t you pick a lower number? And we asked that because then we get the person to talk about, well, I do have this capability, I have this much confidence. So if I’ve said a five or six, we say, why didn’t you pick a three? Like, well, I, I think I can do part of it. And then we can, that gets us talking about, well, why not? You know, what, what would it take to get it up to a seven? So that’s our second question. And so, so we can, again, self-reflect, or we can work with our coach to, to either decrease the level of challenge, you know, through that conversation about what would, why not a lower number we may have identified. Here’s the sticking point. Here’s the part I feel kind of worried about, or we can get more resource. So what I think I could do that if you, you observed it, you were physically present, or if I could talk to you for the five minutes before I was going into this coaching conversation with this challenging teacher, so, and then, and then have the follow-up, how did you grow story? So that’s where there’s some accountability. And we look at what’s the evidence that, that you’ve made some progress.

– And I hear echoes there of the evocative coaching templates. And for those that are listening to this thinking, oh yeah, I, I could commit to this model of incremental growth and incremental change. Well, make sure you go learn more at, which is Megan’s website, where she’s got lots of information about the coaching cycle. Megan, thank you so much for this insight and this reminder that not only can teachers change, but coaches can change and that, that change is incremental, right? Like you don’t have to commit to the end goal right away. You commit to how you progress toward that goal. So thank you for that reminder. And for those of you watching this, or you’ve been shared this video by a colleague, and you’re wondering what else, Megan and I have talked about head to for the rest of this conversation, as well as many more. Megan, thanks so much for joining us to be part of PL together.

– Thank you so much, Adam. I really enjoyed it.

For more interviews with education leaders about teacher coaching and other insights, check out all of our PLtogether Lounge Talks