Keep up to date with all the latest news, advice and information from Coach for School Improvement here.
The fine line between collusion and challenge
09 Jul 2018
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.