Dealing with Push Back as an Instructional Coach

As an instructional coach, partnering with teachers is not always easy. Many times, teachers push back on working together or implementing suggestions from the coach for improvement in their classroom instruction.

Push back refers to when an individual is not in agreement with what someone else is saying, doing or requesting of them and either refuses to comply or provides reasons of opposition.

This can be frustrating for the coach, especially if their performance is linked to the compliance of teachers being in a working partnership with them.

This post will provide suggestions for how instructional coaches can deal with push back from teachers.

Prior to Experiencing Push Back

Dealing with pushback as an instructional coachMeeting with teachers to set expectations for the teacher-coach partnership helps ward off the feeling that coaching is something happening to teachers instead of alongside them. When mandates are forced on educators, the instinct to push back is strong. However, when the coaching approach is presented to all teachers as a way to improve student learning, and encouraged from the principal, more teachers are willing to comply than push back.

After setting expectations for what the partnership will look like (ie. the clear roles of each participant, what to focus on, how often they will meet, etc.), coaches should meet with teachers individually.  By sitting down one-on-one with teachers, coaches can better understand what each teacher wants to accomplish this year. This allows the coach approach to be personalized to each teacher, giving them voice and choice in the process. This also wards off push back because they feel a part of the process.

During Push Back

There will be times that coaches can sense push back from teachers and other times where it is quite obvious. Because the coach has met with each teacher and set expectations for the partnership, a relationship has started to build. Leaning on that connection, coaches can approach a teacher individually and ask “I am sensing some push back from you in regards to some suggestions I have made. I’d like to hear what you’re thinking and feeling so we can come up with a solution pleasing to both of us.” Again, this provides teachers with voice and choice in the partnership by giving them the opportunity to voice concern and share potential strategies they think might be a better fit. By honoring the teacher’s thoughts and feelings, the relationship continues to strengthen while overcoming push back. Together, create new steps forward.

In times when push back creates a rift, and the teacher does not want to work through it, allow time to work in your favor. Sometimes teachers feel like they don’t need or want a coach, and it is being forced upon them. They may even like you personally, but do not want to work together because it makes them feel inferior. This is a common and legitimate feeling. Remind them of the expectations of the partnership, reiterate your rationale for the request receiving push back, and invite them into a conversation about why they are pushing back. Share examples of how exemplary teachers have engaged in coaching partnerships and become even greater; it isn’t always for struggling staff members. If after a significant amount of time has passed without interest in working together or overcoming the obstacle, loop the principal in for perspective and advice.

After Experiencing Push Back

Thank the teacher for being honest about what they were experiencing. Continue honoring the partnership, upholding the expectations set forth and reiterating that at any point if they have feelings of push back they be open and honest so together they can overcome the obstacle. The more you work together, the better you know each other. It becomes easier to consider their learning style and emotions when coaching decreasing the likelihood that push back will occur in the future. Push back is a natural part of the learning process. When we expect it and prepare for it, we can move through it more quickly.

If you are need of resources to help you become an even stronger coach, browse these printable and digital options. Check out my instructional coaching must-haves here.





How do you deal with push back in your role?

About the author, Gretchen

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.