Posts Tagged ‘Michael Fullan’

Should Instructional Coaching be Confidential?

Friday, May 17th, 2013


This is an excerpt from my book, Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction.

In instructional coaching the practice of coaching occurs within confidential relationships. There are at least three reasons for this.  

First, when coaches deal with what matters to teachers, they are privileged to see and hear information most others will not see and hear.  To share that private information with others is a violation of a person’s privacy. Second, coaching is much more productive when collaborating teachers are open about their ideas, thoughts, and fears. For many teachers, knowing that instructional coaching conversations are confidential makes it easier for them to talk about what really matters.  Third, when we ensure that instructional coaching is confidential, we increase the chances that teachers will choose to work with a coach.

However, not everything a coach does, can or should be confidential. For example, instructional coaches need to keep principals informed of whom they are working with and what they are working on. Instructional coaches working with the Kansas Coaching Project discriminate between what should and should not be shared by saying that coaches do not share data or evaluative information. We communicate clearly to teachers that instructional coaching is nonjudgmental.  Coaches are partners helping teachers learn new practices, not evaluators. Indeed, in most cases instructional coaches have no administrative training on how to evaluate teachers, so it would not be appropriate for them to evaluate teachers anyway.

In some schools confidentiality is not an issue.  In especially positive, safe settings, teachers may be more than comfortable having their coach share any information.  Indeed, Michael Fullan (2008) identifies transparency as one of his six secrets of change, stating that “when transparency is consistently evident, it creates an aura of ‘positive pressure’ – pressure that is experienced as fair and reasonable, pressure that is actionable in that it points to solutions, and pressure that ultimately is inescapable” (p. 14).

To create settings where such transparency is possible may require baby steps.  In a culture where there is not a great deal of trust, confidential instructional coaching can be the default mode, but over time, if teachers agree, more information can be shared. The greater the lack of trust initially, the more important confidentiality usually is.  What is most important is that principals and coaches clearly delineate what they will and will not discuss, communicate that policy across the school, act consistently with the policy. Perceived betrayal of trust can severely damage an instructional coaching relationship. For example, when a teacher says something to a coach that she think will be kept privately by the coach, and then discovers that what she said was shared with others, it may be impossible for the coach to ever win back the teacher’s trust.

Steve Jobs, Radical Learner: the Power of Personal Vision

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Steve has an incredible ability to rally people towards some common cause by painting an incredibly glorious cosmic objective. One of his favorite statements is “Let’s make a dent in the universe. We’ll make it so important that it will make a dent in the universe.”

Trip Hawkins, Former Apple V.P. Strategy & Marketing

According to Carmine Gallo, author of the Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, Steve had such a dramatic impact on your life and mine because he passionately held and communicated an incredibly compelling vision. Gallo writes: “Nobody would have joined Jobs without being inspired by his vision.”

Sharon Aby, who worked at Apple from 1983 to 1996, told Gallo, “Our vision was to change the world by putting computers into the hands of everyday people… We felt like David fighting Goliath.” And Trip Hawkins—quoted above—echoes Aby:

Steve has a power of vision that is almost frightening. When Steve believes in something, the power of that vision can literally sweep aside any objections or problems. They just cease to exist.

Michael Fullan recognized this in 1993 in Change Forces, when he wrote:

Personal vision and purpose are the starting agenda. It comes from within, it gives meaning to work, and it exists independent of the organization or group… Personal purpose in teaching should be pushed and pushed until it makes a connection to social betterment in society.

Meaningful personal vision involves at least two things: (a) a clear understanding of how our actions can make the world a better place, and (b) a deep, fierce commitment to that understanding.

A powerful personal vision like Jobs’, gives us the energy to do the important but difficult knowledge work of teaching by connecting what we do to something highly energizing: making a difference. Vision gives focus to our actions by providing a clear destination. And vision guides our decisions by providing an ethical foundation for what we do.

In Change Forces, Michael offers seven questions as a starting point for vision:

1. Do I have a personal vision?
2. What are the essential elements of my personal vision?
3. What can I do to make my vision coherent and legitimate?
4. What kind of school would I like my children to attend?
5. What kind of school would I like to teach in?
6. What would happen if I made my personal vision public?
7. How does my vision compare with my current school and my personal teaching practices?

By answering these questions, and others of our choosing, we can find our vision and act to make that vision become real.

Teaching is the perfect profession for “making a dent in the universe.” Every day, every student presents that opportunity. Personal vision is one way to increase the chances that we might do that.