3 Coaching skills benefit all
Coaching skills are not exclusive to the school leadership role. A good coach can use their skills in other contexts and situations to help in their school community. The teacher who coaches can build self-reliance and confidence in students. Case Study 1 is an example of how coaching can even happen upwards between trusted colleagues. If you lead a coaching culture in your school, you can all benefit from the supportive atmosphere.
Case Study 1: Mr Kapur keeps a record of his school-based PLD
Mr Rawool, a school leader, is riding home on the bus with his deputy, Mrs Kapur, as they usually do. They often discuss work and this can be a time when they help each other out with questions and observations that help to define the problem and start exploring solutions.
|Mr Rawool||You know I told you about the TESS-India leadership units? Well, I’ve been studying one. It’s interesting, and the message is clear – I should be spending more time walking around the school and visiting the classrooms. I recognise the value of this, but it’s almost impossible with the size of my in-tray and the district education officer breathing down my neck. But where can I find the time to walk around the school and help teachers? I’m an administrator. I already take my own Class X mathematics class.|
|Mrs Kapur||I know that! You’re never late for the lesson, you are almost always smiling on your way to the classroom and you enjoy teaching your students almost as much as they enjoy being taught by you. Think about the impact you could have on the students if you were to spend time in the classes of other teachers.|
|Mr Rawool||Yes, but …|
|Mrs Kapur||But sir, don’t you remember talking to me about your own principal, his relationship with the boys and how he was always dropping into your classroom?|
|Mr Rawool||Times have changed. He didn’t have half my paperwork! But I’ve been thinking that I would love to spend more time in other teachers’ classrooms. I know I didn’t tell you, but when you were attending the training organised at the block level last week, I went out to find Mr Banerjee. I didn’t see him in his classroom, even though the students were there. I eventually tracked him down reading the newspaper in the staff room and sent him back to his class. That got me thinking about what it is like for our students. So I spent the next hour going in and out of classrooms. While Mrs Nagaraju was obviously pleased to see me and welcomed me into her classroom, most of the others wondered why I wasn’t in my office! I am sure if I did this regularly it would make the school better for the students. But how am I to manage it? Administration, teacher support, talking to students and visiting the classrooms!?|
|Mrs Kapur||Why don’t we talk about that on Monday? Let’s just enjoy our weekend with our families. You know I will help you!|
Activity 5: Initiating your first mentoring or coaching conversations
Following up on your initial thoughts about two of your teachers in Activity 2, you are now going to make plans to meet with them to provide some mentoring and/or coaching support.
- Find an opportunity to talk to the teachers and offer your help. Think about how you are going to explain your offer so that it does not worry them – remember, the idea of coaching and mentoring might be new to them. Look back at the summaries you made in your Learning Diary. Agree a time and place to meet.
- Now take a deep breath – it is time to be a coach or mentor. Before you begin, refresh your memory of the various tips and ideas in this unit. Perhaps write yourself some short notes to have with you in the session and maybe some of the questions you might ask.
- Record your reflections in your Learning Diary as soon as possible after you have finished the sessions. There are two key questions:
- In what ways did you either assist or hinder the coachee/mentee to find their way towards a resolution to their issue?
- What would you change next time?
- Think about how you might gather the feelings of your coachee/mentee about the usefulness of the session. Their feedback will help you improve.
It is probably easier to think of all the things you did wrong or could have done better, but do try to spend a few minutes thinking about the things you did right.
What did the coachee/mentee think? Over time you might like to ask them what was helpful and what was not helpful – this way you can adjust your style and interventions based on their feedback rather than your own impressions.
If it is the first time you have tried coaching or mentoring, the atmosphere may well have been awkward and strained. Don’t be put off. The power relationships involved are always likely to make it difficult on the first few occasions, particularly with someone who is not part of the teaching staff.
If your coachee/mentee does not avoid you over the next few days, you can be assured they have not been harmed by your conversation! If they smile at you or share their progress ahead of the next meeting, you should be very pleased.
Benefits of developing a coaching culture in your school
As a school leader, you may become adept at coaching and mentoring yourself. But by creating the space and dialogue more widely in the school, you can encourage teachers to become more reflective, more articulate about their practice and more experimental in their teaching. Such dialogue will have a positive impact on student learning as teachers will become more conscious of their teaching activities and more confident to use a wider pedagogic range of techniques. You will find (in Lofthouse et al., 2010) that coaching and mentoring will impact on planning, monitoring and improving teaching quality as teachers:
- experience and develop understanding of an integration of knowledge and skills
- gain multiple opportunities to learn and apply information
- find their beliefs challenged by evidence that is not consistent with their assumptions
- have opportunities to process new learning with others.
You may want to institute training for teachers in coaching and mentoring, and offer a dedicated time each day or week for the activity to take place. This coaching may focus on specific aspects of teaching and learning such as:
- working towards a school development priority
- supporting the teaching and learning of a specific group of students
- enabling the development of a specific teaching skill
- sharing classroom practice with a colleague.
Your own mentoring or coaching needs
You will have noted the benefits of having a mentor or coach and it is important that you as a leader can turn to other leaders to reflect on your practice, build on your strengths and address your development needs. You may already have colleagues who you speak to and share your thoughts and problems with, and with whom you generate solutions. It may be worth formalising such arrangements or seeking out others who might support you – leaders from other schools, or officers from the DIET or SCERT, for example.