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Coaching: what it's not, what it is & why it's important

By Caroline O'Regan Assistant Head, The Polesworth School

Growing Great People is an exciting new initiative & a real opportunity for all staff, teaching and non-teaching, to take ownership of their professional growth.

I have always felt strongly about the effectiveness of coaching as a tool when working with colleagues and students alike. Since training as a facilitator for the OLEVI Power of Coaching Programme 2017, I truly

believe in, pardon the pun, the ‘power of coaching’ when carried out effectively.

But what actually is coaching? As important as it is to understand what coaching is, it is equally important to understand what coaching is not. Whatever form coaching is taking in your schools, be it pairs, triads, peer to peer, it is crucial that there is a shared understanding of coaching and the language used in all coaching conversations.

Depending on past experience, coaching can have many different interpretations. One view may be created from memories of Sunday morning training sessions and their coaches who inspired them to want to be the sports personality of the year. Some tainted by bad experiences, as one colleague described their former rugby coach as an ‘egotistical, power craved fascist’(I don’t think it was a good relationship!) Others may be influenced by past school coaching experiences, that were really mentoring or worse ‘capability’ in disguise. For others, they have had a very positive experience being coached, some have trained in coaching and have been coaching colleagues for years. In the current pedagogical world there are different forms or understanding of coaching, e.g. Sherrington & Caviglioli’s Instructional coaching, as described in their Walkthru series.

Coaching for the Community Academies Trust is solution focussed coaching. Coaching isn’t about instruction or having all of the answers, it is not about being the expert. Nor is it counselling or therapy. It is not a collaborative process, where each bring their ‘issue’ and talk through how they are going to work through this together. And a bugbear of mine is the assumption that there is always an ‘issue’ that needs to be addressed. What are you currently pretty good at and want to become even better at? What is the area of your job that if you focus on and develop yourself further, you will be able to share that learning with other colleagues and impact positively on your whole team? Coaching is about listening and responding with pertinent questions to further the thinking and reflections of the coachee, assisting their own achievable goal setting based upon personal reflection and positive +1 next steps.

Coaching is a real opportunity for colleagues to support and challenge each other to develop ourselves professionally. As Chris Moyse puts it ‘a coach is a vehicle that takes a person from point a to point b…helping people to flourish, learn and grow.’ As we embark on Growing Great People across the Community Academies Trust we all must have the shared understanding that coaching can be hugely successful in developing motivation, reflection, learning and most importantly professional growth.

Find out more about Chris Moyse and his approach to coaching: Improve not prove - from his blog which you can find here

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