Principal referral can be a powerful way to accelerate the impact of coaching in a school, but it has to be handled with care. If the partnership principles are ignored and struggling teachers are told they must work with the coach “or else,” coaching can be seen as a punishment, not a support, and future coaching opportunities may dry up.
I suggest a different approach, one consistent with the partnership principles. Rather than telling teachers they must work with coaches, I suggest that principals focus on the teaching practice that must change, and offer the coach as one of several possible ways the teacher might bring about the change. Thus, a principal might say, “Sonny, when I observed your class, I noticed that 10 of your 24 students were off task during your lesson. You need to implement ways to keep those kids on task. Our coach Cher is great at time on task, and you might want to talk with her about this, but if you can find another way, that’s fine too. What matters is that more kids are learning. I’m going to check back frequently, so let me know if there is anything I can do to help.”
In this way, the principal can put the onus on the teacher to change results while not dictating the solution. By offering coaching as one option, the principal increases the likelihood the teacher will see the coach not as an obstacle, but just one option—not a punishment, but as a lifeline.