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Coaching Teachers Through Unexpected Change

Springtime can be rough for teachers, as unexpected and unwelcomed changes happen. Some may be informed that they won't be invited back the following year, or they're told they'll be teaching a different grade level or subject. Sometimes in the spring we find out that a beloved colleague or supervisor is leaving or that a program we love participating in will be cut.

Here are 10 ways to coach teachers through these inevitable experiences, which may happen more often in the spring, but which of course, also happen throughout the year.

  1. Invite them to talk about their feelings. Listen to whatever they say—to their anger and sadness and confusion. Let them know that whatever they're experiencing is okay. Listen, listen and listen some more.
  2. Help them see the elements of stability in their life and school. Help them see what isn't changing. Help them see that their experience in school is more than one person, program or element.
  3. Help them see what they are in control of. Unwelcomed change makes people feel like they don't have control over their lives. Ask them, "What are you free to choose right now?" and they'll be reminded of their own power.
  4. Help them either recognize their own role in the change (if perhaps they've been asked to teach a different grade or even not to return) or help them to not take whatever is happening personally. There might be some overlap between taking responsibility and not taking it personally and so explore that area.
  5. Make sure that they don't take the change personally. Kids tend to blame themselves when things go wrong. Make sure to emphasize that they did nothing to make anyone leave, to drive someone away, or to "get someone fired," as children tend to think when a teacher is released.
  6. If they have a propensity to intense and relentless worrying, suggest a 15-minute time during the day when they can worry. Suggest that when they start worrying at other times, they remember that worry-time is at 5:00pm, or whenever it is.
  7. Ask: What really matters here? Help them see the big picture, gain perspective, and keep the change in proportion.
  8. Help them connect with their own resilience, coping mechanisms, and energy to manage the unwelcomed change. They have dealt with change and challenge before. Help them access those resources and remind them that they will get through this latest challenge.
  9.  Help them see their own resources for making changes that they desire. Help them think about how to be proactive about creating the kind of school and experience they want, even in the face of unwelcomed change.
  10. Guide them to focus on a positive future and what might be possible a year from now. Help them see themselves in a new or slightly different situation in which they're feeling supported, fulfilled, engaged and joyful. If there's anything they can do to make these things happen (such as making new friends) guide them to do those things.
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The opinions expressed in The Art of Coaching Teachers are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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