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Coaching for Teacher Resilience during COVID-19 | Part 3: Coaching for Resilience

Teacher planning for classes.

Coaching for Resilience

Part 3 of the Coaching for Teacher Resilience during COVID-19 blog series describes the Values, Action, Self-Efficacy, and Impact (VASI) process RTI’s Center for Education Services (CES) has developed to build teacher resilience. In case you missed Part 1 and Part 2 of the series, read them to learn about Burnout and Trauma and the Power of Coaching. Although there are many ways to coach teachers through adversity, this strategy can help educators combat feelings that negatively influence their livelihood and self-efficacy, while also recognizing their values about teaching to increase resilience during hardships. By tapping into a teacher’s beliefs related to learning, coaches can empower educators to identify areas of impact in the classroom and continue making a difference in students’ lives. The VASI process is an effective technique that coaches can use in partnership with educators to mitigate burnout during this troublesome time.

Albert Ellis (1957/1962) developed an ABCDE model to explain why people react differently to negative events. This model supports a reflection process following an adverse event. In Ellis’ model each letter represents a stage of the process.

A - Activating event or adversity

B - One’s beliefs about the adversity

C - Emotional consequences resulting from the adversity

D - Disruption of negative thinking and dispelling of unrealistic beliefs about the adversity

E - Cognitive and emotional “after” effects of revised beliefs

When we are faced with a challenging situation, we often create narratives around why the event happened and what it means. Ellis argued that it is not the event itself but the way in which we interpret an event through our beliefs and create a story about that event that may be detrimental to an individual’s self-efficacy. Sometimes an individual’s response to trauma can shatter their beliefs about themselves, others and the future (Seligman, M. 2011). Coaches who have built strong relationships with teachers and who have effective coaching strategies and techniques have the opportunity to step in during times of adversity to disrupt thoughts and beliefs that negatively influence a teacher’s wellbeing and self-efficacy. Coaches can help teachers to gain confidence as they restructure their mental patterns by building teacher capacity to surface and lean on their beliefs and values about teaching and learning to find resilience.

While there are many ways to coach teachers through adversity to find resilience, we have developed a process that relies on tapping into teachers’ values, exploring their beliefs about themselves and their work, and co-designing opportunities for impact. We call this process VASI, which stands for Values, Action, Self-Efficacy, and Impact. We outline the steps of this process below.

Step 1: Explore Values Related to Teaching and Learning

Values are protective factors that teachers can rely on during difficult times. Helping teachers remember what is most important to them helps ground them and provides a strong foundation for persistence during difficult times and times of uncertainty. To begin coaching for resilience, coaches should engage teachers in conversations about what is most important to them about teaching and learning. Questions to guide this conversation might include:

  • What feels most important to you about your role right now?
  • What is most important for students during this time?
  • What do you enjoy most about your work and why?
  • What matters most to you in your classroom?
  • What brings you joy and happiness in teaching?
  • How do you support students in a virtual space while still aligning to your values about teaching and learning?

If you are using a video-conferencing platform to engage in coaching, watch your teachers light up as they remember what is most important to them. Listen for the lightness, joy, and energy in their tone. If you pay attention to these non-verbal cues, you will know when you’ve uncovered something extremely important to their work.

Step 2: Identify Potential Action

Once a coach and a teacher have uncovered a teacher’s values about teaching and learning, it is time to determine ways in which the teacher might work from those values to impact students. Aligning values and practices is important for maintaining passion and energy in the face of challenges. For example, if a teacher values creating community in her classroom and feels that continued community for her students is the most important support they need at this time, the coach might ask, “What opportunities are there for you to create community in a virtual space?”

While it may be tempting for the coach to offer suggestions as to how the teacher might build a virtual community for her students, remember that the goal of this work is to build the teacher’s self-efficacy and to empower her to make her own decisions about those things that she values. Coaches should avoid making suggestions unless a teacher gets stuck and does not have the capacity to move forward without additional direct support.

Step 3: Build Self-Efficacy (Beliefs about Self)

After uncovering a teacher’s values about teaching and learning and brainstorming potential actions for impact, the next step is to let go of those ideas outside of a teacher’s control and double-down on those ideas that may be within a teacher’s control. To be resilient, teachers need to learn how to let go of things they cannot control and build confidence in their ability to make an impact on things they can control. Coaches can help teachers do both. Part of doubling-down will include increasing a teacher’s sense of self-efficacy - that is her confidence that she has the power and opportunity as well as the control - to make a difference. Scaling questions are one tool that can be used to build self-efficacy. Used in motivational interviewing to build momentum for change, scaling questions are simple to use but powerful in result (for more on motivational interviewing, see Rollnick and Miller, 2008).

To use scaling questions to explore beliefs about self-efficacy, simply ask the teacher on a scale of 1 - 10 [with 1 being low and 10 being high], how much confidence she has that she can make an impact on a given action. For example, perhaps our teacher who would like to create community for her students despite distance has identified using an online platform for daily student check-ins as a potential action. The coach would begin by asking, “On a scale of 1 - 10 [with 1 being low and 10 being high], how confident are you that you can make this happen?”

After the teacher identifies a number, the coach follows by asking why the teacher did not identify a lower number. So, if the teacher in our scenario said she was at a 6 for confidence that she could make a daily online check in with her students happen, the coach would ask “Why not a 5?” Asking the teacher why she didn’t identify a lower number focuses the conversation on assets. In response to the question, the teacher lists all the reasons why she feels she has some control over the action and some confidence that she can make an impact. Often, this simple exercise will end in the teacher realizing that she might actually have more control and more confidence than she initially thought.

Finally, the coach asks what it would take for the teacher to move to a higher number on the scale. At this point, the coaching conversation shifts to potential actions that would increase her confidence in achieving her desired result.

Step 4: Design Impact

Goal-setting in itself is a resilience strategy. Goal-setting provides an area of focus and helps us feel a sense of control. Once teachers have identified an opportunity for impact within their control and have begun to identify steps to increase their confidence, it is time to create a time-bound and measurable goal. Once again, the coach should avoid setting this goal for the teacher and instead should ask questions to support the design of the right goal for the teacher. Goal setting can be followed by questions that support the design of a plan. These questions might include the following:

  • What will need to happen in order to successfully reach your goal?
  • What is the first step you might take in successfully reaching your goal?
  • What resources and/or supports might you need to reach your goal?
  • What do you need to consider as you design a plan for reaching your goal?

The VASI process, which occurs in partnership with teachers, taps into a teacher’s values and beliefs to engage and motivate them to dig in their heels and continue making a difference for children during an unprecedented time. The process, which is complex and occurs over time, helps teachers maintain the depths of care and compassion students need now and in the future.

Teachers make a difference in the lives of students and, because of the difference they make, we as a society must attend to and promote the health and well-being of all educators. The VASI process is a partnership between teachers and coaches that can build educator self-efficacy, help teachers recognize values related to learning, and identify actions to have a gratifying impact in the classroom. Leveraging effective coaching during the COVID-19 pandemic can pave the way for a stronger return to schools, in whatever iteration and timeline is possible, with invigorated teachers who have the capacity to support students, all of whom will have experienced trauma from COVID-19.

If you need more information on Teacher Coaching or want to request Coaching, please visit our COVID-19 Resources page and let us know!


Ellis, A. (1957). Rational Psychotherapy and Individual Psychology. Journal of Individual Psychology, 13: 38-44.

Ellis, A. (1962). Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy. New York: Stuart. Accessible via http://docshare01.docshare.tips/files/27782/277829817.pdf

Rollnick, S., Miller, W. R., & Butler, C. C. (2008). Motivational interviewing in health care: Helping patients change behavior. New York: The Guilford Press.

Seligman, M. (2011). Building Resilience. The Failure Issue. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2011/04/building-resilience

Disclaimer: This piece was written by Catherine Hart (Educational Consultant) and Fredrica Nash (Director, Center for Education Services) to share perspectives on a topic of interest. Expression of opinions within are those of the author or authors.