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Coaching is the discipline that harnesses the power of teachers. While we may find ourselves coaching teachers about non-work issues, the core of being a good leader is to coach teachers about learning. Through regular conversations, we can help teachers remain focused on student outcomes. Consider five tips for coaching teachers well:

  1. Know that coaching is different from your core technical skills. Effective coaching is hard work. It may be easier to tell teachers what to do. But, in most cases, teachers already know the answers. Coaching requires interactions that cause answers to bubble up from inside teachers’ thinking. If you’re not good at coaching, tap some training, do some reading, or otherwise work at getting better.
  2. Realize the role of principal is just a role. The title may set you apart from teachers, but it doesn’t make you smarter than teachers. Being an effective principal isn’t about being everyone’s friend. It’s about providing direction, making decisions, and offering support so that teachers can do their jobs better.
  3. Make teachers’ success the priority. The more successful your teachers are, the more successful are you! Become known as an incubator of talent. This raises your stock as a principal and creates allies for life.
  4. Filter, not flood. Passing on everything from above without filtering can overwhelm teachers. Recast the directives you receive to fit within the context of what’s already happening in your building. This keeps staff well-informed, yet optimistic. Flooding teachers with every idea cogitated at the central office leads to drowning.
  5. First coach, then counsel, then document. Always start your interactions with proactive encouragement of agreed-upon outcomes. If problems persist, identify the concern in clear terms. Then counsel the teacher around specific requests for change. Follow up with feedback about progress. Finally, if coaching and counseling don’t bring about expected changes, then you can move to documentation. This approach gives you something to build upon and avoids surprises.



Fishler, K. (2014). Karen Fishler coaching. Available at http://www.fishler.com/index.html



This article originally appeared in an issue of our monthly publication NorthStar for Principals.

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