I was recently working in Southern Georgia with Academic Coaches and their Principals examining how the implementation of coaching can impact student achievement. One of the topics they requested was how to respond to teachers’ statements that were resistant.
I suggested that paraphrasing instead of questioning was sometimes a helpful response.
Here is an example I used:
TEACHER: “My students won’t read an assignment so I don’t see how I can do anything other than present information in class, hoping they will remember some of it.
Coach: You have not been able to get many of the students to work outside of class. Teacher confirms.
Coach: You are worried that presenting information in class won’t get the student achievement that you want. Teacher confirms.
Coach: If students read outside of class you would teach very differently. Teacher confirms.
Coach: You want to find a way to get them to read outside of class
I call this strategy…taking Gripes to Goals. The series of paraphrases reframe the teacher’s words so that a focus for creating a change emerges.
One of the coaches wanted to role play a difficult situation she was facing. She explained that she was requested (by the principal) to work with a teacher who had received four “needs improvement” evaluation comments. Observations showed a lack of classroom management and lack of student engagement. The students did not do homework the teacher assigned and many were failing. The teacher has 30 year’s experience and a doctorate…The coach is in her 7th year.
She played the teacher and I took a coaching role:
Coach: Before we begin, tell me how you are feeling about us working together.
Teacher: I’m wondering how with all my experience and hard work there is anything you can do to make things different. I don’t think you understand.
Coach: You want to be sure I understand. Tell me things you want me to know.
Teacher: There are some very challenging students in here. They don’t do the work and fail the tests. I work very hard and have done everything I can think of. I have great relationships with kids. The principal thinks I’m too friendly but I disagree.
Coach: You work very hard and want your students to be successful.
Teacher: Yes I do.
Coach: You believe the relationships you have with the students supports them as learners.
Coach: You are working hard and students are failing, so you need to do something else.
Teacher: I’m not sure.
Coach: So you have yet to decide whether to keep doing what you are doing harder and longer OR try doing something else.
Teacher: Yeah, I guess so.
Coach: I’m wondering if I can help you with that decision. I’d be happy to look at your students work, then observe them in the classroom, and discuss what I see.
Interesting that when we debriefed the role play with the entire group the person playing the teacher said that she “changed her attitude” because I said “she was a good teacher.”
Note, I never said that.
I believe that paraphrasing caused the teacher to feel “listened to and respected” The reframing caused the teacher to accept a goal for exploration. Now a coach can work with a goal to which the teacher has agreed.
Try using paraphrases to turn gripes to goals. Let me know what you find.