Change. The life of a teacher is filled with it. Change in curriculum and instructional resources available to teachers. Change in student demographics and the learning needs they bring to the classroom. Change in the colleagues teachers partner and collaborate with from year-to-year.
Perhaps more than any other word, ‘change’ best captures the experience of being a teacher.
A coach can be an invaluable support in the midst of this change, helping teachers navigate the highs and lows of a year filled with newness. Or they can be one more challenge piled on top of the ever-full plate of an educator. It all depends on the coach’s approach.
One approach to helping teachers navigate change is Differentiated Coaching. Based on Jane Kise’s work with Myers-Briggs personality type and coaching, Differentiated Coaching is about understanding what people need during change based on their personality type. You might remember your college advisor talking to you about your Myers-Briggs type, telling you what careers might be a good fit for you based on where you landed on four pairs of components (Introversion-Extroversion, Sensing-Intuition, Thinking-Feeling, and Judging-Perceiving). Understanding yourself in terms of personality type can help you understand how you function most effectively at school or work, what helps you recharge after a long day, even who might be the right person for you to marry.
In other words, your personality type drives decisions you make and shapes the ways your needs are best met. That’s where Differentiated Coaching comes in. Kise advocates for coaches to learn about teachers’ types, to understand what approaches will support those types in times of change, and to target coaching to the specific needs of each teacher as they work through change.
“Times of change” might be a great way to sum up the day-to-day work of teaching. It has been a constant theme for the teachers I have worked with. Changes in learning environment, planning for instruction, assessment practices, team dynamics, parent expectations, and on and on. Differentiated Coaching has been a vital tool in enabling me to be responsive to the needs of teachers during these times of change. Some teachers are looking for a coach to play the role of resource-gatherer, collecting and sharing strategies and ideas that help the teacher envision moving forward. Other teachers want what Kise calls an “encouraging sage” to advise them as they travel down a new path. Still other teachers need a mentor, someone who has been there before and can model the process for them as they work through change.
In the coaching partnerships I have had over the past two years I have found myself playing each of these roles with different teachers of different personality types. Somebody once told me that a coach must be a chameleon. Never does that feel more true than when I think about teachers’ types and the Differentiated Coaching stance that I take on to support teachers’ personalities.
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