You Can’t Tell Them What to Do (Part 3)

We’ve made it through five of the seven partnership principles thus far (check out Part 1 and Part 2). In this article, we will hit praxis and reciprocity. Hopefully, by now you are beginning to see a pattern of how to be a great partner in the instructional coaching process. Like the other principles, praxis and reciprocity empower the instructional coach to learn alongside their teaching partner instead of telling them what to do. As we have learned so far, if you tell teachers what to do, you are done for. 

Let’s get to it.


Reflection, learning, and action are the backbone of praxis. More simply, it is the act of applying an idea to a real-life situation. In instructional coaching, it means you and your client are getting your hands dirty, learning from one another, and applying newly learned knowledge. In essence, praxis is an essential part of humanity, and it is an integral part of the coaching process. 

So what does praxis look like for you and your partner teacher? 

Let’s say your teacher has identified their goal as asking better questions during a lesson. As an instructional coach, you can find resources to help the teacher learn about better questioning techniques. The teacher can then choose what resonates with them most and choose to use their new knowledge how they see fit. This little offering of support empowers the teacher to think deeply about their current questioning strategies and to make necessary adjustments to improve. Being a support system for teachers, not a know-it-all, will go a long way in your coaching.

Your goal as an instructional coach is to ensure that teachers don’t turn their brains off when they walk into the building.


“When one teaches, two learn”. Jim Knight states that in every coaching moment, there is an opportunity for both people to learn. In order to believe that you have something to learn, you must view yourself and your partner as both learners and teachers. Strip away all your credentials, and embrace the opportunity to learn from each other. After each coaching session, try writing down something you learned from your partner. If you want to grow teachers, you have to believe that the teacher can make a positive change. If you don’t believe in them, who will?

Ask yourself: Am I learning or judging?

“Reflection, dialogue, and praxis increase the chances that we’ll learn from our colleagues because we’re engaged in work focused on real-life situations and we share ideas about that work. Partnership is about shared learning as much as it is about shared power”.

If you liked this series and read all the parts, what’s holding you back from acting on these principles? Take the risk and see what positive changes come your way. I guarantee you will have more authentic coaching clients, you will listen better, you will learn, you will ask questions with an inquisitive mind, you will offer meaningful feedback, and you will see success in your partner. 

Until next time, New School Leaders!

If you are interested in learning more about Jim Knight’s work, I highly recommend his newest book: The Definitive Guide to Instructional Coaching: Seven Factors for Success. All of us here at the New School Leader absolutely love Jim Knight and all of his work around instructional coaching. If you want to grow as an instructional coach, or if you are thinking about becoming an instructional coach, Jim Knight is the GOAT. You have to check out his stuff.

If you are interested in more tips and strategies to help you take the next step in your leadership journey, subscribe to the New School Leader Newsletter right here:

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