Tips for Difficult or Uncomfortable Instructional Coaching Conversations with Teachers

 Difficult Coaching Conversations

In this post, I share a great way to approach a possibly uncomfortable conversation with a teacher who needs to change something.

What to look for in this post:
  • How to bring up a concern in a coaching conversation
  • Approaching a difficult conversation with a teacher

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If you prefer to hear me talk through this, here is a video featuring all of this content:

[0:14] How to bring up a concern in a coaching conversation

I recently read the book Influencer, and they talked about a situation where the co-pilots were having trouble telling the head pilot whenever there was a problem or risk they were concerned about. One company developed a system where, if a co-pilot needed to challenge the pilot, they would start by saying, “I’m concerned about…”. If they continued to be concerned and didn’t feel like the pilot was listening, then they would upgrade to saying, “I am uncomfortable with…”. As a last resort, they would say, “We cannot go on until this is taken care of.”

[1:19] Approaching a difficult conversation with a teacher

As I was reading that, I thought about how well that would work for instructional coaching as well. At times, we are in situations where we need to express that something is not okay.

With teachers and teams I work with, I have started questioning by stating that I am concerned about the issue. For example, “I’m concerned about us not being focused on our standards for this task.” I can then escalate to saying I am uncomfortable with the issue. I haven’t had to get to this point, but if needed I could say, “We need to pause right here. I’m still not comfortable with this and I think this needs to be addressed before we can go on.”

I was sharing this strategy with a friend who is an instructional coach, and she felt like we needed a “level one”. So maybe before you say you are concerned about something, you could say you are wondering about something.

I know it sounds scary to approach a teacher with a potentially difficult or uncomfortable conversation, but it does get easier the more you practice. I wish you good luck with using this strategy in the future.

Uncomfortable Conversations Meter: (Green) Level 1: "I'm wondering", (Yellow) Level 2: "I'm concerned", (Orange) Level 3: "I'm uncomfortable", (Red) Level 4: "We cannot go on until"

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