Tips for Coaching Resistant Teachers

Coaching resistant teachers comes with its obstacles. Not only do you have to figure out what the resistance is, but you have to work to remove the barriers all before you can even begin a productive coaching partnership.

This post will outline common reasons teachers feel resistant to working with a coach, ways to overcome the resistance, followed by action steps you can take as a coach to turn a turbulent partnership into a productive one.

Common Reasons for Resistance

tips for coaching resistant teachersA discussion thread recently occurred on Twitter (now called X) around the reasons teachers do not want to partner with a coach for professional learning. Some reasons were personal while others were non-cooperative in nature. Overall, a handful of reasons were mentioned multiple times throughout the thread, such as:

  • Lack of credit– Coaches observe teachers using stellar instructional methods with students and then deliver professional development to all staff on those exact methods without giving credit to the original teacher demonstrating them.
  • Lack of time– Teachers are required to teach at high levels, plan thoroughly, assess student achievement levels, analyze various data points, collaborate with peers, and attend numerous meetings. Many times teachers are not given a lunch break, let alone time to meet with a coach that doesn’t conflict with the rest of their required duties. Put simply, teachers want time built into the day to meet and not have to meet after school hours.
  • Remove from evaluation– Some schools utilize coaching as part of the evaluation process. This means a teacher’s participation with a coach and a coach’s observation of a teacher teaching can be incorporated into a performance evaluation. Most coaches do not have administrative licenses or training for their classroom visits to be formally recorded. Teachers wouldn’t mind working with a coach if it was removed from their evaluation, especially since coaches are colleagues on the same hierarchy level.
  • Brain fog and overwhelm– Teachers are emotionally and physically taxed with all the requirements they are to meet on a daily basis. They have limited bandwidth for additional meetings. They don’t mind coaching but it ends but a better balance of teacher requirements need to occur first.
  • Zero trust– Coaching requires transparency and honesty in order to get to the root of obstacles teachers are facing in the classroom. Oftentimes, the discussion between coach and teacher is shared with administrators leading to poor evaluation scores or mistreatment. Teachers want to partner with a coach if information shared can be confidential.

(Please note these are reasons based on other people’s personal experiences.)

Ways to overcome Resistance

Resistance breeds from lack of trust, commitment, and/or fairness. Once these feelings begin, it is hard to stop them from overcoming judgment and motivation, especially when it requires two people to work together.

  • Clear teacher expectations – The effectiveness of coaching begins with leadership. How a principal introduces the coach, requires or appoints coaching, and celebrates growth over perfection plays a major role in how coaching is perceived among teachers. If coaching is only for poor performers, is forced upon unwilling participants, and has unrealistic expectations of performance turnaround, then teachers are resistant before coaching even begins. Setting the stage for coaching, in addition to a clear outline of teacher requirements/duties, allows teachers to get on board with the idea of coaching.
  • Build in time – If coaching is a priority at a school site, time during the school day should be dedicated to coaching without eliminating required breaks for teachers. This means the principal has to prioritize teacher requirements so that proper time and energy can be put into the coaching partnership.
  • Establish boundaries– The coach and teacher should together create the norms for the partnership. Each should share boundaries they want to honor and create a plan for what coaching will look like for that pair. By establishing these early, many miscommunications and unmet expectations can be avoided.
  • Everyone contributes– The mindset that everyone has something to contribute builds a culture of coaching. If coaches are looked at as perfect educators or gurus, there is no room for human error. But when teachers are valued for their skills or knowledge, they are more willing to engage. Encouraging everyone to showcase their strengths with each other, and celebrating these schoolwide breeds confidence and competence.
  • Confidentiality– It is important that what is discussed during coaching is kept between the people in the partnership, unless of course it something is revealed that goes against school or district policy (ie. substance abuse, child welfare, etc.) Teachers should be able to talk about their weaknesses or worries without it being held against them by others not in the coaching relationship. Coaches need to create a safe place for learning and risk taking by honoring confidentiality.
  • Transparency– Sometimes teachers feel suspicious for what coaches are thinking or doing. When a coach consistently is transparent with what they are doing and why, the teacher is able to trust the coach has their best interest at heart and better understands the coaching process.
  • Fresh Start– When a coaching relationship is fractured, repair is necessary. Coaches and teachers can agree to a fresh start, getting all their grievances on the table and discussing each one in detail. By acknowledging the mistakes of the past and agreeing on a new way forward, coaches and teachers can have a productive partnership in the end.

Next Steps

  • Meet with your principal– It’s important to be on the same page for what coaching should look like at your specific building. Outline requirements for coaching together and meet regularly together so you can make adjustments based on teacher and student performance and or needs.
  • Conduct an all staff meeting– Roll out coaching together with your principal at an all staff meeting so teachers know the vision behind coaching and what it will look like day-to-day. Teachers can ask questions, coaching techniques can be modeled, and everyone can get on the same page.
  • Be human– Before jumping into coaching, connect with teachers as a person. What are your common interests or hobbies? Knowing staff names, acknowledging them in common areas around the school, and connecting with them personally goes a lot way for establishing trust and interest in coaching.
  • Give teachers a voice– Allow teachers to be part of the coaching process. It should be collaborative, not something done to the teachers. Provide insight, share suggestions, and allow teachers to develop next steps. Their personality, teaching style, and ideas should be taken into consideration when personalizing support.
  • Build up your coaching toolbox– Browse over 350 pages of coaching resources to best support your teacher’s needs.

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.





What tips can you share about coaching resistant teachers?

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.