A coaching culture in all our schools: teachers

Building capacity though recognising and energising the power of your whole team. 

We know that three things motivate professionals : Purpose, Mastery and Autonomy (Pink D. 2009) Unfortunately, the system and the present context has created an environment where in many schools and communities, these three tenets are at risk.

Most teachers came to do this job with a real sense of purpose and mission. One could say that now is exactly the time when teachers can make the biggest difference. And yet, having worked through this pandemic many teachers and leaders are exhausted by the constant ambiguity and changes in policy; changes that have been delivered externally to their school and their professional instinct. 

Over the last two decades the knowledge and skill level of teachers has risen dramatically with the increasing amount of research. Teachers are now masters of learning in ways they never might have thought 20 years ago. Yet the shift to remote and hybrid learning has demanded different ways of working and going forward a need to re-think how we do that job and build motivation and get the very best of and learning from our students. Many teachers will feel more vulnerable having to rethink what they have trusted as great practice. 

And finally, autonomy has always been a challenge. Our accountability system encourages conformity and can lead to a narrowing of teacher repertoire. Autonomy thrives through distributed leadership and encouraging  teacher efficacy. This demands a particular type of instructional leadership and a relational culture.

If this is a moment for transformation in our schools, and a transformation that is needed to equip our young people for a very different future, then it will demand a sensitive and participative approach to high quality professional development.

We need all teachers to feel that they are part of the solution and at the heart of this change; that they are listened to and invested in. Many other professions such as nursing or social work have clinical supervision by right – an opportunity to share their practice and discuss their decisions – a sort of coaching. It is obvious that teachers need that. It is by supporting them and making them the heart of the change, that we will re-instil the   purpose that will repair the loss, recover the disadvantage gap, and restore some equity to the system. 

But going back to where we were should not be an option. Not just because we have new challenges and have discovered new ways of working but because we were not preparing our young people effectively for the new future previously. We should be dubious about the claims that our system is delivering better outcomes for our young people (Coe R. 2013)

Global SpiritEd embrace’s coaching as a critical part of that new purpose, but it must be aligned to a clarity of purpose at an institutional level. There is a value to building coaching into any school but if it is to impact on our young people it must align with that development agenda in the school. To illustrate this, we can turn to Pasi Sahlberg (2020) who identified the alternative for school leaders as shown below…

Many schools may take scenarios 1 or 3 in an attempt to maintain what they know and can control. The contention is that schools need to take scenario 2 to live their purpose. So, they must support, equip, and enable their staff for that change and uncertainty. 

It is not the purpose of this paper to go into detail about the school improvement cycle we are proposing, but to recognise that the two aspects must be aligned. Rather I want to focus on how we can create a coaching environment for our school professionals.

Gavin Drake (from Mindspan), identified that it is crucial that we think about our SELF, our LIFE and the WORLDaround us every day. To fulfil our potential, he argues that it is important we develop various competencies: Focus, Belief, Responsibility, Attitude, Purpose, Clarity, Emotion, Empathy, and Influence.  The core purpose of a school leader is to achieve the very best for all learners in the school, but they can only achieve this with the full support of his/her colleagues each able to give of their best. Change is messy and impacts on every teacher differently. As such the leader needs to be adaptive and needs to understand the different mindsets across the school. If they do not take account of these mindsets and the wellbeing of the team the outcomes will be lessened. 

This is not just a treatise for our time. It is a recommendation for all times.  But just as with students, the pandemic will have impacted not just on the professional but also the personal life of all staff in schools. It will have undermined confidences and it will have made people re assess the balance in their lives. Setting new personal and professional goals in a supportive and focused way will give us chance to establish the motivation – rediscovering the purpose, recognising the investment in the craft and repertoire of teaching, and given the trust and confidence to bring that skill to one’s own work in one’s own way will release in enormous creativity in the profession.

We aim to work with our schools to:

  1. Create a coaching expert in each school backed by a professional qualification.
  2. Build a set of tools for all schools to work with their staff to re-establish their motivation.
  3. Give all staff a chance for personal reflection on their self and life, and how this can be mobilised to maximise their professional effectiveness. This being delivered in a personalised way.
  4. Create space and time for everyone to establish a comprehensive set of goals that is much more than the targets. 
  5. Bring institutional clarity to the changes schools plan to make, so everyone can align their professional goals to a collective effort.
  6. Identify how schools can create the space and time for effective coaching.
  7. Through the creation of coaching triads and a systematic approach to improved teaching and learning, build teacher efficacy so that it drives a ‘bottom-up approach’ to school improvement and the best of outcomes for young people.