In the weeks leading up to our annual conference, Teaching, Learning, and Coaching, I’ll be posting interviews with the experts who will be presenting at the conference. The interviews will surface many different ways of looking at coaching, and like the conference itself, I hope they inspire, educate and provoke new thinking. I don’t agree with everything I hear in the interviews, but I am grateful for others’ thinking. We move forward by challenging our beliefs, and I hope you feel challenged too. You can keep up with the interviews by subscribing to this blog.

This week’s interview: Jane Kise

Jane Kise’s book Differentiated Coaching was one of the first books published on the topic of coaching, and I was lucky enough to read a pre-publication copy of the book as I was writing Instructional Coaching.  Jane’s book inspired me and pushed me forward, not just because of what is said, but also because of how well it was written.  I knew I was going to have to up my game if I wanted to play in Jane’s league as an author.

Jane was also a consultant for our coaching team when we were first studying instructional coaching, helping us better understand how we could differentiate our responses to different teachers. Jane was one of the first presenters at our early TLC conferences more than a decade ago.

Dr. Kise is an educational consultant, with extensive experience in leadership, instructional coaching, differentiation, and effective mathematics instruction. She is considered a worldwide leading expert in Jungian type and is certified in Neuroscience and Jungian Personality.  Besides giving workshops, she focuses her consulting services around the “5 C’s”: change, communication, collaboration, conflict resolution and coaching. She has an active client base in North America, but also conducts workshops in England, Germany, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand and Australia.

How did you come to write about coaching?

My first book on leadership coaching, Work it Out, came out more than 20 years ago, and not long after that a local school principal asked me to work with her teachers as she moved to a new school. Teachers are leaders in their classrooms, so a lot of what I was already doing transferred rather easily.

I was first called in to work on collaboration and conflict resolution and then on differentiating instruction with these same teachers. When I’m working with leaders, I try to get a read on what they need. I look for how they communicate and what kinds of information best suits their way of learning. What I had learned on the executive side played out quite closely for teachers too, so I was prompted to do my doctoral research in that area. That research is a case study on coaching a teaching team, and it demonstrated that the model worked in schools.

Tell me a bit about your publications on coaching

Differentiated Coaching is my flagship book; in fact, the second edition just came out last week. When the book was first published in 2006, there were just a few books on coaching. In addition, many of them simply duplicated group professional development, but one teacher at a time. What I added were deep stories on the four teachers I was working with, showing how different they were. I demonstrated that when coaches shift their communication style and differentiate the processes and information they provide, they give teachers the freedom to change more quickly—teachers can meet the needs of their students faster because their own needs have been met. The coach has done just what they’re asking the teachers to do—differentiate for the students.

I love coaching in group settings where I work with a content team, a grade-level team, or some other form of professional learning community. So my other major book on coaching is Creating a Coaching Culture. This book focuses on helping professional learning communities (PLC) to develop the skills they need to coach each other.

Recently I was asked by an instructional coach if I liked group coaching. The questioner’s district only had the coaches working with individuals, and the person was shocked when I responded that, in fact, I hesitated to coach unless I could work with the whole team. I find it so much easier to move an individual when team members can collaborate. You get deep collaborative communication with real questioning about how we teach and how students learn. It’s difficult to develop that, but when it gets going, it’s the quickest path I have ever seen for growth, including my own.

What are some of the core ideas in your approach to coaching?

One of the core ideas is that there are no resistant teachers. Rather, there are teachers whose needs during change haven’t been met. Leaders in all fields tend to use The Golden Rule during change efforts. Most leaders fail to meet the needs of people who don’t think as they do. So instead, you need The Platinum Rule–doing unto others as they wish, not as you would like your needs to be met. The research shows that when needs aren’t met, resistance goes up. So get away from the idea of resistant teachers and figure out how we failed to meet their needs. That’s one of the biggest things I try to emphasize.

When coaches start out, they’re often looking for the rules. In fact, sometimes they get stuck in the rules and develop an “either-or” pattern. In the first edition of Differentiated Coaching, I presented a simple coaching model focused on understanding teachers’ strengths and beliefs so that you can focus on their problems or interests. Sometimes there is truly an elephant in the classroom that needs to be fixed. Further, you have to meet teachers’ needs during coaching through a sort of code switching. I change up the kinds of evidence I provide depending on what they need to be motivated to change. Change is hard work. Often it takes too long to get students’ test scores or they’re not the evidence that convinces some teachers.

In the current edition of Differentiated Coaching, I am much more explicit about what I implied in the first edition. You can focus on issues of concern to teachers and figure out a way to tie them to what the school needs. You can focus on students and meet the teachers’ needs at the same time. You can provide evidence that helps motivate teachers and also get evidence of student learning. Coaching is an art as well as a science, so you are constantly adjusting and shifting. I find that when I propose this idea, it frees coaches up to think about their practice as well.

What distinguishes your work from other people’s work on coaching?

One of the main distinctions is that my work is grounded in a framework of cognitive processes for learning, for both adults and students. If I’m working with the adults on coaching, they gain insights into how to better meet the needs of their students at the same time, and it’s not a labeling framework. Instead, you end up changing words. For example, “this teacher is old-fashioned” becomes “this teacher has the strengths of this personality type.” I find that this approach replaces a negative stereotype with positive labels and a bridge for communication. The second edition of the coaching book comes with access to an amazing interactive way to verify your personality type. It’s a tool. You watch videos, listen to different descriptions, and choose which description fits you best. It’s all about education, collaboration and working with students, many of whom don’t think like you. You get a rich exposure to patterns in how we approach the world of education. For example, everyone agrees that, over all, math teachers tend to have different personalities than English teachers.

You can turn around and use those patterns, not to make coaching mechanical but to gain insight. It’s huge to have a tool to do that. My approach works with teachers who aren’t necessarily eager to be coached. As an outside consultant, I’m often asked to work with teachers who have been labeled lazy or resistant. In every case where I’ve worked through the differentiated coaching process, these teachers begin to embrace changing how they teach to meet the needs of more students. It’s a partnership based on stepping into their shoes.

What have been some of your key learnings over the past few years?

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect as I put together the second edition of my book. One of my biggest learnings has been the need to explicitly address how school leaders (including coaches) can navigate the difficult terrain of meeting teacher needs while concentrating on success for all students. It’s not enough to have a growth mindset towards teachers. It’s also important to ensure that they have the support they need when the changes they are being asked to make are not in sync with their strengths. For example, a quiet, introverted teacher can become overwhelmed by the chaos of students talking when he or she is asked to run small groups in a classroom. That teacher will need more support than a teacher who enjoys the energy that comes from students busily working in groups.

Another learning has been the phenomenal growth that happens in teachers’ expertise when they get to focus. For example, I got to work with one middle school math team on fractions instruction—for two years! We learned how to observe and use richer problems. We learned to make more useful formative assessments because that drove what we did for our RTI in a richer way. My goal is always to work myself out of a job. If I can get them to think, “how will this keep going three to five years from now?,” then I can exit the scene a lot sooner, assured that they’ve got something that they embrace and that they can continue to build on.

What’s a good metaphor for what coaches do?

I still like the origin of the word “coach.” Originally, coaches were vehicles for moving important people. Teachers are tremendously valuable. The last time I checked estimates, it cost at least $18,000 to replace a teacher in terms of hiring and training. I don’t know any teachers whose ideal destination isn’t a classroom where every student is learning. I ask people to imagine the type of vehicle they would most like to drive. I want a restored 66 T-bird convertible, but I’ll climb into what they choose if it will get them to where they want to go. So that’s how I see the space that I’m creating— this place where they want to be, this vehicle that they want to use to further their own goals.

What else do people need to know about your approach to coaching?

Well, it takes a lot of time! On the executive side, standard coaching is a six-month arrangement. We take a lot of time upfront to set the goals and get the person to come up with how he or she is going to move forward. We meet and discuss. I find that schools typically want to hurry that process up, so I’m saying, “let’s go slow to go fast.” Once people understand the whole model, other things start happening and fall into place. So, take the time.

Since our conference theme is “It’s All About the Kids,” please tell me a bit about the impact your work has on children

I could tell lots of stories of teachers almost giddy because they finally understood what their students needed. I remember working with one school where only 7% of the kids were at grade level. As classroom participation and work completion increased and discipline problems went down, students were able to work more independently on complex assignments so they started coming to after-school enrichment. In addition, teachers started forming better relationships with the students. Some of the schools I worked with assumed that 20% of students weren’t teachable. As they worked through being coached in their own style and understanding how different their needs were, they transferred that learning over to how they viewed the students. Out of 120 students, all but one or two (who really needed extra counseling) responded positively. When teachers’ needs are met, they start deeply understanding how to meet the needs of every student.

Please give us a quick summary of what you will present at TLC

I titled my session Thriving Teachers, Thriving Students because I believe that it is all about the kids. We can’t have teachers who are stressed out, burned out if we want thriving students. If we want to make a difference in teachers’ lives, we need them to be energized and effective. That self-efficacy provides the deep motivation that we aim for.

So, in my session we’re going to look at how differentiated coaching gets that “both-and” focus going. That is, student learning and teachers’ needs can both be met during that very difficult process of changing practices in the classroom. Participants walk away with a few key ways in which they can influence teachers who just don’t think like they do. They’ll see ways of getting those teachers to embrace the practices that help students thrive.

You can learn more about Jane and the other authors at TLC by clicking here:  Teaching, Learning, Coaching

Next week’s interview: Russ Quaglia