What Kind of Coach Am I?

What is your default setting as a coach? Do you lean on giving direct advice to change the teacher’s immediate behavior? Do you tend to ask more reflective questions to help the teacher look at the bigger picture?


As coaches we develop our own unique style in the way we ask questions, how we approach conversations, and how we gently push the people we coach. Whetstone wants to help you think about your coaching style and how you can adapt your style to the needs of your teachers. For this month’s post we are going to dive into 2 different kinds of coaching styles to give you a frame of reference for your coaching so you can begin thinking about where your strengths and growth areas are.

Here’s a short story about an experience I had as a coach that helped me identify where I was as a coach:

A few years ago, an intervention coordinator (who I’ll refer to as Andy) and I were coaching a math team. Both teachers were in their first year in the classroom and Andy and I were trying to focus on small changes they could implement to improve class culture. We took a largely facilitative approach through asking a lot of overarching questions about what they want their students to get out of the class, and helped them reach a few productive changes they could implement for the next day’s classes. Week after week Andy and I would meet and discuss the lackluster progress in the classroom and discuss what we should be doing as their coaches.

Not long after, our school brought on another instructional coach. After her first session with the math teachers we had been coaching, the teachers were excited for their classes the next day and had a great game plan. After just a few weeks of sessions with her, the teachers had achieved more progress than they had all year with Andy and me. After much reflection, Andy and I realized we were not meeting the teachers where they were. We were taking a facilitative, questioning approach, when they were two first year teachers in need of clear, direct coaching. Once the instructional coach came in and met their needs, they were relieved, motivated, and immediately started growing.

Now back to you! Let’s start the conversation about our coaching identities with 2 distinct styles as defined by Elena Aguilar:


”Focuses on changing a coachee’s behavior. The coach shows up as an expert in a content or strategy and shares their expertise. They might provide resources, make suggestions, model lessons, and teach someone how to do something”


“Supports coachees to learn new ways of thinking and being through reflection, analysis, observation, and experimentation; this awareness influences their behaviors. The coach does not share expert knowledge, they work to build on the coachee’s existing skills, knowledge, and beliefs, and help the coachee to construct new skills.”


These two styles are not mutually exclusive, and as coaches we will sometimes be directive and facilitative in the same conversation. The key is to give yourself the mental space and flexibility to do both, without having a coaching identity crisis. Knowing when to be directive and when to be facilitative is part of what makes coaching such challenging work. We must not only consider our own strengths and style as a coach, but where the teacher is and how to approach them in a way that will yield the most positive results.

Until next time, we hope you think about what kind of coach you are. For our next post we will dive into more coaching identities and feature some coaches from around the country. We want to know who you are as a coach, what kind of teachers you tend to breakthrough with, and which ones you have a tougher time with. If you’d like to contribute, please email spencer@whetstoneeducation.org.

Stay sharp!

The Whetstone Team