3 Signs a Staff Member Isn’t Coachable

Trust among coaches and teachers greatly increases teachers’ willingness to make changes in their instructional habits or behaviors. (Marzano)

Conga Line

As a principal, part of your job includes coaching. It might seem pessimistic to think someone isn’t coachable, but it is your job to consider your time and resources. If you notice the following characteristics in certain staff members, it might be wise to wait until they are more open to change and growth.

1. They make excuses

A primary goal of coaching is to help people improve.  Some educators feel threatened and take feedback personally. Even when feedback is sandwiched in praise and approached softly, the staff members conversation includes plenty of phrases that begin with “yeah but…”

In order to achieve greater success, the person being coached has to be open and reflective. When they are unable to evaluate their own performance, coaching will be a struggle.

These educators often point the finger at others when things do not go perfectly. When you see a pattern of passing the buck after efforts to promote reflection, your time might be more productive spent with more coachable educators.

2. They aren’t interested in growth

Change can be difficult for some and contentment might be the enemy of progress. When teachers are resistant to trying new ways of addressing educational needs, it can be a roadblock.


These educators are focused on getting through the day and ultimately getting to June. They can’t stop thinking about how much time and commitment change will take. They use the level of effort as a reason not to implement new ideas.  Their determining factor when setting goals is identifying the easiest option.

Signs that someone is not interested in improving include traditions that outweigh current research and data about what works best. If you have offered evidence, shared data, and explicitly identified possible changes, only to be faced with satisfaction to be “good enough”, your time might be more productive spent with more coachable educators.

3. They aren’t working as hard as you are

Being a coach does not mean you do the work for someone else. Instead your job is to support them by offering resources, perspective, and discussion. Sometimes the coach is more vested in the process than the person being coached. This will never result in sustainable change.

Just like in the classroom when we want students to own their learning and become independent, so it is with teachers. Be careful when you are asked to repeatedly model or do the heavy lifting without a plan to shift that load back to the individual. Taking some of the boring jobs–like making copies or processing purchase orders–can be a supportive way to partner with a teacher you are coaching. If your partner is more interested in watching you work than rolling up their own sleeves, then your time might be more productive spent with more coachable educators

Plan B: develop coachable attributes

Growth, change, and improvement are hard work. Effective and skilled coaches empower their staff members to overcome challenges and achieve success. Great coaches help build staff members who are more coachable because they:

  • face their fears head on
  • are resilient
  • identify goals
  • aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work
  • are confident
  • see problems as challenges to overcome