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Effective Communication with Lisa Westman, Ep. 84 Buzzing with Ms. B: The Coaching Podcast

Do you find it difficult to talk to teachers and administrators? On this episode of The Coaching Podcast, author and consultant, Lisa Westman, joins me to share tips for effective communication with educators. We discuss coaching resistant teachers and why instructional coaches need to have empathy. Get ideas for improving communication with your team. Click to listen to the podcast or read the blog!

Effective communication is one of the most important skills for instructional coaches. However, it’s not always easy to talk with teachers in a way that everyone understands each other.

Author, speaker, and consultant, Lisa Westman, joins me on this episode to discuss effective communication for instructional coaches. She shares ideas and strategies to help build bridges when communicating with teachers.

She and I talk about empathy and why it’s a crucial component of communication for instructional coaches. We talk about clarity and how to be compassionate but still set boundaries.

Empathy & Instruction

On this episode of The Coaching Podcast, Lisa and I talk about why coaches need to have empathy for their teachers. She also talks about why assuming positive intent and asking questions to clarify are so important when building relationships.

Coaches need to recognize that teachers have different points of view and experiences. When we are empathetic and understand their perspective, they are more likely to hear what we say to them.

Growing Effective Communication

During the episode, Lisa shares tips for effective communication with teachers and administrators. The first thing she suggests is always being genuine. Listen to what other people are saying and try to get to know them as a person. It’s not about getting your point across but rather genuinely wanting to learn about those you coach.

Even though things can feel personal at times, it usually isn’t. Teachers are human and sometimes get frustrated. If the coach can see that the teacher needs someone to listen and not judge them, we form true relationships. Instructional coaches need to talk about tough stuff but not when a teacher is in distress.

To communicate effectively, Lisa suggests resisting the temptation to make statements and instead suggests asking more questions. If we can understand what teachers need and why they need it, we will be better able to reach our goals.

Asking for help can be difficult for some teachers and administrators. Lisa discusses how we inadvertently perpetuate shame and magnify deficiencies in education. She explains that we get fixated on deficits in education instead of a focus on teachers’ strengths. Instructional coaches can help by supporting teachers and respecting their experience.

Being vulnerable is uncomfortable for a lot of teachers. As a coach, one thing you can do is let your guard down. When you let your guard down, other people let their guard down too. To create relationships that are sustaining, purposeful, and real you must put yourself out there first.

Lisa shares that being vulnerable is about letting people know your greatest insecurities. Coaches are considered the experts. We feel like we need to have the answers but inevitably teachers will ask you something you don’t know. It’s OK not to know something because we’re always growing and learning.

Constructive Feedback for Teachers

Not everyone loves getting feedback. For some people, it’s downright scary!

Lisa explains that feedback is only useful when it’s related to a goal. If you’re giving somebody feedback on something else, it’s unsolicited advice and that will be hard to take in.

No one likes being told what to do, especially if they didn’t ask. It doesn’t feel good, and we risk alienating those people or making them feel smothered. It’s better to give small bits over time.

Language and Clarity When Coaching

During the episode, Lisa reminds us that we don’t always have to use big terms or academic language with teachers. It can be confusing because we don’t always have a common meaning, or the person has a misconception about the term. It’s crucial to be very clear in what you’re saying and clarity often comes from simplicity.

Another thing that can get in the way of clearly communicating is that teachers may be uncomfortable with your visits. It may put them on the defensive. Try your best to make teachers feel comfortable so they can be open and listen. Be aware of your non-verbal cues like how you’re sitting and eye contact.

How to Talk to a Resistant Teachers

Teaching isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. There are hard days or a string of bad days.

Recognizing and meeting people where they are at is more important than trying to change someone. Often, they aren’t ready to hear what you say and forced change doesn’t stick.

Coaches should listen to how teachers are talking about the situation and try to find where the resistance is for them. Lisa says that most people resist because they are either scared they can’t do something or they’ve been trying for years and their voice has not been heard.

She explains that if a teacher comes to a coach upset, the most effective thing to do is validate their feelings without probing any further. Have genuine conversations and build real relationships with those you coach. Let’s also celebrate teachers’ accomplishments more than we focus on their deficits

As coaches, we are not trying to change people. We are trying to ensure that they feel supported and safe. It’s important that we don’t hold things against them or push our agendas when they are vulnerable. We are there to support the team with the goal of growing our students.

The real magic happens in education when we build relationships and make an effort to communicate effectively. If you want to hear all Lisa’s tips, be sure to listen to the entire episode.

Ready to listen? You can listen below with the media player, or search for Buzzing with MS. B: The Coaching Podcast anywhere you listen to podcasts!

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Podcast produced by Fernie Ceniceros

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