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What does coaching in schools really do?
31 Oct 2018
I would like to think that there is consensus in the 'business' of educating young people that the most impactful thing we can all work towards is improving teacher quality. In fact 'The quality of education in England depends on the quality of the teachers in our schools' according to the National Audit Office, Training New Teachers, HC (2015–16) 798
Working with and coaching so many talented and hard working teachers in our schools: I do not know of any teachers that are not striving to improve on their own teaching qualities: many for self preservation; to be better organised and to be able to manage the vast numbers of children they manage every day.. but mostly because teachers like learning; they are curious about learning and find it stimulating and want to carry the young people along with them on this. We also know that sometimes improving teacher quality is not about gaining new knowledge but sometimes about getting the old knowledge out. This is where coaching can really have an impact.
Working with over 100 teachers and wider educational staff in Norfolk schools, one of many key outcomes of their 1:2:1 coaching from an external and independent coach was that 69 of them noted in freely given feedback that they had pro-actively tried out new strategies to improve their teaching and learning of students. Now, that is quite staggering when you realise that these strategies were all unique to their students, their classes, their schools. Real distributed leadership in action. And the relevance of the visual? Old dogs and new tricks comes to mind. Part One of Eight.
Recognition. So vital and so important. One of the most powerful incidental outcomes of coaching teachers and wider educational staff is that they feel personally and professionally recognised for who they are and what they do. Why do I think that Coach for School Improvement will win the Rural Business Award 2018/9 , for best Educational Business in the East of England? Well, teachers are a backbone and a life force of our rural communities. Teachers inspire children every day to value their environment, their relationships, their community. Coach for School Improvement celebrates these vital contributions made by those serving our rural communities, those who are helping our next generations care for their surroundings. We need to value them and nurture them and challenge them co-constructively. This is what we do.
Rural Business is a lonely path. Founding and establishing and then growing a business to support a rural existence is perhaps not as easy as it used to be. Retail is on a downward trend. Professional services and meaningful connections are on the up. This award, sponsored by Amazon, has the immense ability to help grow this business; by offering a badge of credibility, to pique further interest, to self validate my work. But most importantly it triumphs the everyday of the teacher. It sends a message that rural schools can be as relevant and dynamic as the lure of the urban and it supports the structure for teachers from all areas to connect with and learn from each other. It values them. And, from a business perspective, the supposed 20% + increase in productivity for being valued for who you are, in addition to what you do, cannot be disregarded. (Need to now dig out that research from the Hass Business School, Berkeley, California.) #coaching#schools#ruralbusinessawards#ruralbusiness
It's a tightrope, a mine-field, a fine line, that is so often a topic in coaching. Many times, I have discussed with school staff at what point on that line is it necessary to challenge.
"Well, it's just that he is like that, it's their personality, their character" and so not wanting to rock a boat or confront an issue the unhelpful behaviours continue and results in inaction and a cognitive dissonance that can hinder a team's collective efficacy. Indeed it is the personality that is the identity of the person, but their character is their learned behaviour. Is it okay to let a member of the 'team' continue in a fashion that is 'just a dis-organised' person that can walk the walk and talk the talk for those that want to hear it" but is actually functioning at quite a cost to their fellow team members?
Yes, we all do it. In fact, as a system, we know as educational professionals that homework at primary school has no significant impact at all, yet we also know that some parents like it and perhaps expect it, but are we brave enough collectively to challenge this?
Yes, we know that Teaching Assistants are also a high cost, low impact intervention but we also know that staff, pupils and parents value them highly. Where do you and your organisation stand on that line?
I find many teachers and educational professionals too scared to have the difficult conversation. In fact, many a time in structured, professional dialogue, we look at the positive and embracing manner in which we can successfully challenge others. What difficult conversation are you avoiding?
It is harder than you think. Whilst working with a group of 4 teachers in a local primary school, implementing their own in-house coaching team, their natural and very normal reticence on how it was going to work was a valid one.
Thinking that you need to be able to give a fellow teacher some level of expertise or answer or solution is a common pitfall when starting to coach others. What will one think if I am less experienced in teaching years than them? What happens if I have no experience of teaching in year 2? What if they start talking about the real difficulties of teaching? Their life? What can I possibly give them?
This pause for thought enabled a founding principle of coaching to be re-visited and re-examined. Yes, one needs credibility but also one is not taking the role of teacher to pupil- or indeed as Karpmann would see it as rescuer to victim. What one is creating is an arena for professional, structured dialogue that requires expert skills in listening, questioning and being absolutely present to their situation. It is not a natural state for teachers. It takes a leap, and is an assumed and very different role to everyday teaching life.
So, here I am, with a new revised website with resources to download, and a platform for teachers and wider educational staff and schools, and federations, and academies, to practise and support each other and to really take coaching from a transactional format to a transformational mode.
And this is where I am looking for a leg up. It takes me back to this incredible picture of a team working together, who trust each other implicitly and the fact that we can only do this with the honest and trusting faith of another. All retweets and shares and normal social media practice to give each other a leg up welcomed and gratefully received.
Does anyone still have a cd player in their car? The car is feeling quite decrepit already and only just over ten years old. The rear passenger electric window is broken and will cost more to fix than the value of the car. Still, it gets me places I need to go and more importantly the radio/ cd player fills me with joy.
One of the greatest myths about coaching in schools still presents itself to me regularly, despite coaching with schools for school improvement since 2012. During the process of professional dialogue, we discuss what the experience has been like among many other things..
"It really is like a magic key turning..(laughter) .. thank you.. you really have given me such great advice! "
There it is. The moment. The myth.
An esteemed colleague recently shared this quote from a headteacher who was feeling flummoxed about which companies, experts, charities and academy trusts that they 'ought to' be working with right now. The 'ought to' is the interesting part for me but I will come back to that another time.
What exactly are you listening to? Who are you really listening to? I am not too sure why I remain so shocked as to the general competency level of most people to be really good listeners. In fact most of the time it is pretty shocking. A teacher I am working with recently acknowledged that in fact he just can't stop "listening to fix". He is always trying to find the solution; move on the issue; work out what he can do to help.