Tag Archives: Coaching

Mentoring is Crucial

7 Jun

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Spending time with staff pays off—not just for them, but for me and the entire school. The question of how much time can be explored in a Fast Company post, “Why Managers Should Spend Exactly 6 Hours A Week With Each Employee.”

By spending time mentoring it makes staff feel valued, calm and helps make the school more efficient and innovative.

 

What good is all of this great mentoring and coaching if it’s never applied? Advocating for employees implies action. Advocating is time not spent with employees, but for them. Effective leaders hear and discuss employees’ new ideas with them, and afterward, work to put them into action. When employees receive new training or knowledge and are eager to apply it to their jobs, advocates make that happen. Advocates inspire their employees to keep learning and contributing, as they feel like their contributions are valued and applied. Without this final investment of time, employees feel undervalued and underutilized.

A small investment of time and following up with action creates a positive, supportive school culture. Our goals this year has been to grow middle leaders. T train leaders to invest time in their team with mentoring, coaching and advocating create a healthy working environment beneficial to the employees and the success of the students.

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Solutions to Coaching Barriers

3 Apr

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Like any new project I have led in school there are barriers. Now I would like to look at the way of overcoming the barriers I talked about last time.

  • Accept this will take time   Don’t be impatient. Establishing a coaching programme may need to be in it for the long haul. Spend sufficient time gaining insight into the reality on the ground so that future visions can be specific to actual school conditions. This requires research, planning and networking. Out of this will come success
  • ‘Educate’ key individuals   You know who they are. Once you have that compelling rationale, back it up with case studies from other relevant organisations/high-profile individuals. Organise PLD, send staff to related conferences, and begin to organise coaching sessions for them with respected external coaches. A different voice saying the same message while frustrating for you is gold. Once key individuals can study, understand and experience the benefits of coaching they will be much more likely to prioritise it. ‘Educating’ key individuals is also likely to encourage the spontaneous emergence of ‘champions’ for the coaching cause. From these an individual with sufficient profile, charisma and influence can be approached to spearhead the creation of buy-in throughout the organisation.

 

  • Modification. Be prepared to change the vision. It is ok.
  • Remember, successful implementation of contextualised coaching programmes within your school takes time, determination and clear planning.  It will take a mind-shift. Interesting while this has been about coaching you could apply this to any item of leading change. What has been yours?

Barriers to Successful Coaching

2 Apr

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Coaching is an important part of what we do at school now. For it to be effective several barriers need to be addressed. Different combinations of factors may contribute to the creation of barriers. We at school therefore need to get to grips with the sheer variety of obstacles, and then to gain insight into how they combine. Only then can coordinated strategies be put in place that may have a chance of overcoming the barriers to coaching (and a coaching style) which exist in any organisational context.

Here are some barriers:

Leadership culture     The tone set by leadership is crucial. Coaching will not be valued or prioritised lower down the SLT if it isn’t valued higher up. Look out particularly for dictatorial non-supportive leaders who ‘instruct’ or manage by threat and blame. Such leaders may find it very hard to accept that more supportive, non-dictatorial behaviours bring any benefits. SLT in such a context are unlikely to believe in the coaching ‘philosophy’ either, and may even perceive it as a negative influence.

Organisational prioritisation     Which activities does your school prioritise? Those are the ones that will be fast-tracked. If coaching is not on the priority list as an activity to be implemented as part of the overall learning and development strategy, plans to introduce it won’t get very far very fast. Without prioritisation, coaching will not be viewed by SLT as a valuable process. It must be the focus of PLD and connect to the annual goals.

Lack of preparation     Yes I have seen it and you have too. Sometimes SLT is interested in establishing coaching programmes. Bazinga. But programmes can and will fail if there has been insufficient preparation to ensure their success. It’s then very easy for the programmes to take the blame rather than the lack of preparation. Expect negative attitudes to and lack of respect for coaching to be the result. Even worse, if and when anyone else tries to introduce a coaching programme, their first hurdle will be lack of cooperation, lack of resource allocation and general cynicism.

Note: The following is a major barrier to any new project:

  • Lack of a clear ‘champion’ of the process     If the push for modification of structures/schedules does not come from the top, any campaign for reallocation of resources and time will make little progress. The campaign needs an obvious and respected champion who can drive modifications through. Without such a champion momentum will not be achieved.

 

Coaching Principles

10 Mar

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When coaches and teachers interact equally as partners, good things happen.

                                                                                                                                  Jim Knight

This week our Leaders of Learning group focused on an interesting reading. In it Jim Knight outlined the partnership philosophy approach to coaching.  Through his research, practice, and reflection 7 principles are outlined. Equality, Choice, Voice, Dialogue, Reflection, Praxis, and Reciprocity. (Knight, 2007, pp. 37-54) 

Equality: Both the coach and the teacher contribute equally to the conversation.  The teacher and coach may not have equal knowledge on all topics, but both points of view are worth being heard and valued as a part of the discussion.  Respect and compassion must be infused throughout conversations.

Choice: In a coaching partnership teachers must have choice in the professional development.  Without choice it is hard to define the relationship as a partnership, thus without choice professional development is likely to fail. (Knight, 2007, p. 42) By providing quality choices the teacher can say yes and no.  When choices are taken away the teacher’s professional opinion has been neglected.  Everyone wants to be treated as a professional.

Voice: Make teachers feel seen and heard.  Their opinions and needs are heard and do matter.  Even if the coach does not necessarily agree with what the teacher’s opinions and what they have to share, the coach must put their opinions aside to listen.   Listening provides the coach with insight and provides the teacher with an engaged listener with an opportunity to share.

Dialogue: In a coaching partnership it is not about winning the conversation, but continuing conversations and bouncing ideas around in a professional way.  I like the analogy of a pinball machine to great dialogue in which it is difficult to keep track of whose ideas are who’s because the conversation is so constant.  Inquiry and innovation occurs through dialogue.

Reflection: Reflection is a practice to engage in as an IC and teacher during and after during and after implementing a new strategy or content.  Some teachers do not innately reflect on their practices, thus coaches can provided the reminders, prompts, and strategies to do so.

Praxis: When a teacher applies a new strategy or ideas and applies to their existing practice, this is praxis.  The teacher may explore, prod, stretch, and recreate a new approach into one’s own teaching practices (Knight, 2007, p. 49).  In my opinion Praxis “dove-tails” well with reflection.  As we become more reflective teachers and instructional coaches we tend to be more open-minded and connecting new strategies to practice is simplified.

Reciprocity:  The coaching relationship is one that provides both parties with learning opportunities.  Both parties have an opportunity to win.

One member of staff put a successful coaching session this way. I feel valued. I feel as though I have reflected.  I suppose staff “feel validated as teachers, as professionals, and more important, they feel validated as people.” (Knight, 2007, p. 51)

Revising Mentoring

22 Oct

Contemporary business people working in team in the office

The purpose of this week’s blog is for me to reflect on my mentoring (or read coaching if you wish) with my people this year. So, here goes.

Good mentors extinguish the problem of teacher isolation and individualism. Many problems identified specifically with ineffective teaching practices are attributed to teacher isolation. This degree of socialisation is potent and the fall-back position is always the long apprenticeship of observation undertaken as school students. Being a middle leader is hard. They needed to be supported.

Good mentors ensure high levels of teacher collaboration. Relational trust among teachers is positively related to student performance in schools, and trust is constructed through face-to-face collaborative work. In successful school’s teachers are engaged in frequent, precise talk about teaching practice by observing each other teach; plan, design, research, evaluate, and prepare teaching materials together. Such collaborative structures help to decrease teacher isolation, share successful teaching practices, increase staff morale, open the door to experimentation, and increase collective efficacy.

Good mentors encourage constructive conflict. They need to push the envelope of course where appropriate. The further up a hierarchy you go, the more people attempt to avoid the zealous debates that are indispensable to great teamwork. However, conflict is normal, inherent, and essential to community practice. Conflicts help draw out and solve problems, and opposing views can be opportunities for growth and learning. Educators often find themselves in conflict because collaboration challenges norms of isolation and autonomy, and the most common response to conflict in schools is avoidance.

Good mentors model that it is OK to make mistakes. Amy Edmondson’s brilliant work reveals the importance of psychological safety for learning through leaders providing what she terms ‘the fallibility model’.

Good mentor bring in outside help.

Good mentors challenge people to question what they take for granted. Robert Kegan argues that the confusing, changing demands of modern life may be developmentally inappropriate for most adults and while it used to be adequate for people to do as they were told, today people are needed who “understand themselves and their world at a qualitatively higher level of mental complexity.” Kegan talks about moving from a socialised mind to a self-authoring mind, not just learning more but seeing things in new ways. People tend not to develop unless they are challenged in some way to question what they take for granted and people tend to slip back into old comfortable ways of thinking. Kegan uses the metaphor of a bridge, where it is incumbent upon those over the bridge to head back onto the bridge and hold out a hand to help others take the steps to get on the bridge themselves.

So I have been doing some reading. In this conference paper, Carter & Francis: ask whether mentoring just enriches the status quo and stifles professional growth?

“High amounts of professional support, including mentoring support, may only serve to entrench the status quo and stifle professional growth. The literature suggests that this is one of the central problems associated with mentoring for beginning teachers and is a recurring aspect of several case studies investigating teachers’ induction experiences. Ballantyne et al. went as far as to suggest that mentoring sometimes constrained the learning of beginning teachers rather than facilitated reflective practice…The effectiveness of multiple mentoring relationships and voluntary mentoring relationships have also been explored in the literature suggesting that the emphasis should be less on the identification of individual mentors and more on the provision of professional environments in which mentoring relationships can emerge.”

In conclusion, I really like this article from Harvard Business Review: Get Ahead With a Mentor Who Scares You.

In 2018 I am planning to step up my efforts in this area. As I plan this will require going away to a quiet space. Watch this blog.

 

Being Relational and Empathy

16 Jul

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Empathy is so important and it something we all need to work on. Empathy is now considered one of the most important skills in the 21st Century. Teaching empathy. Learning empathy. It is something I reflect on often in my role. When interview students and staff I think about these things. I found at a recent workshop on the Law and Education that being good at these things solved so many problems.

When interviewing I practice the following:

  • Ask why. Even when you think you know the answer, ask people why they do or say things. The answers will sometimes surprise you. A conversation started from one question should go on as long as it needs.
  • Never say “usually” when asking a question. Instead, ask about a specific instance or occurrence, such as “tell me about the last time you ______.”
  • Encourage stories. Whether or not the stories people tell are true, they reveal how they think about the world. Ask questions that get people telling stories.
  • Look for inconsistencies. Sometimes what people say and what they do are different. These inconsistencies often hide interesting insights.
  • Pay attention to nonverbal cues. Be aware of body language and emotions. Have tissues handy.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence. Interviewers often feel the need to ask another question when there is a pause. If you allow for silence, a person can reflect on what they’ve just said and may reveal something deeper.
  • Don’t suggest answers to your questions. This can unintentionally get people to say things that agree with your expectations.
  • Ask questions neutrally. “What do you think about buying gifts for your spouse?” is a better question than “Don’t you think shopping is great?” because the first question doesn’t imply that there is a right answer.
  • Don’t ask binary questions. Binary questions can be answered in a word; you want to host a conversation built upon stories.

Super Coach

4 Jul

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There is no doubt that Graham Henry has a wonderful ability to bring out the best in others. Most School leaders recognize that performance management is an essential process that exists in schools for managing adult behavior. However, because the process is often seen as perfunctory, and in some cases is not seen as a significant driver to assist school improvement, a real opportunity is missed for developing potential and bringing out the best in others.   When school leaders are skilled in using the principles of coaching to assist their performance management meetings they help to create a clear path for creating a school culture where there is an organic sense of self-improvement fueled by the genuine and self-motivated desire of all individuals to make things better.

When a school’s culture is as described above, what is created is a set of common understanding and beliefs about performance management. That accepts it as a process for accelerating the achievement of school targets through:   – Creating alignment between organisational and personal objectives – Growing and developing others – Enabling others to step outside of their comfort zones – Supporting others to achieve their full potential – Inspiring confidence in other’s ability to succeed – Ensuring ownership and accountability.   When opposite beliefs and attitudes exist about the purpose and value of performance management, school cultures are created in which individuals: – Struggle to take responsibility for their own actions – Become dependent on others for solutions and place limitations on their own ability to problem solve – Lack the internal motivation and desire to succeed – Weaken their ability to take risks and learn from error. Graham Henry like many great coaches did this so well.

When coaching is placed firmly at the heart of the performance management process, teachers and other staff members experience a process in which belief in the development of human potential becomes central to the conversation.Individuals come to see more fully their unique role and the contributions they can make towards bringing about improvements in their school. Rather than seeing it as something that is done to them, they begin to understand what it means to be accountable to themselves and others and they start to own the process.

With self accountability, comes confidence and growth. With growth comes an increased sense of one’s own potential. When one has both confidence and a true sense of what could be, then a space is created for the individual to try and test out new behaviours.

Time to Reflect Again…

15 May

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By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

I love that quote by Confucius. His opinion is still valid, of course, although I’m less sure of the order in which he presents the three paths to wisdom. Perhaps imitation is the easiest, but teaching by modelling involves the use of imitation to some extent, and it is through modelling that the teacher can begin to map the routes to wisdom for the learner. If modelling and imitation come first, then the path to wisdom is broadened and made firmer under-foot through offering practical experiential learning to students. Learning from experience plays a critical part in combining information and skills in context to create knowledge, and the meaning and form that such experiences can take are as varied as the countless subjects and disciplines themselves that comprise the broad sweep of human activity.

In teaching there are many forms of reflection. Some which I am good at yes take a bow Andrew. Others not so much. This can be a reflection on teaching but also on the way you lead your Faculty.

  • Critical self-reflection – taking the time to go back over our own teaching, either from memory, or from notes taken, or increasingly today from a video of our teaching; we do this with the aim of challenging ourselves on what went well or not, and why;
  • Collaborative reflection – working with one or more colleagues who join with you in reflecting on your teaching, perhaps having observed your lesson live, whether via live video, or having watched a recorded video of your teaching after the event; of course, this can, and perhaps should, be reciprocal – collegiate reflection can be very powerful indeed;
  • Coaching and mentoring – working with either a more experienced colleague or an external expert who watches you teach (again either by classroom observation or through the use of video) and is able to offer advice – this can be done live or in retrospect, or both. Equally, working with a colleague or colleagues to mentor/coach each other can make for very effective professional reflection. Our experts sometimes come from our own community.

Meetings

17 Mar

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It has been a massive week here at school with one thing and another. As I walked away on Friday I ticked over 54 hours in school for the week. No violins please it is the job and I love it.  I thought about meetings though as I was driving home. Here are some pieces of GOLD.

PIECE OF GOLD #1: Never have a meeting run more than an hour.

Research tells us that adults need to switch up activities every 5-20 minutes to stay engaged. This will give you at least four different topics to discuss during your meeting. Your audience will not be able to mentally digest any more than this.

PIECE OF GOLD #2: Turn your meetings into work sessions.

If you ask educators what they need more of, often they will say time. Teachers need time to grade, plan, and analyse assessment data. SLT need time work on strategic plans, balance budgets, and analyse formative and summative assessments, among other tasks. Turning your meetings into work sessions to complete these essential tasks will benefit everyone. Plus, it will make everyone more productive, and more collaborative. It will also make them happier.

PIECE OF GOLD #3: Try flipping your meeting.

The flipped classroom concept has been around for years. Teachers preparing content online and letting their students work on it at their own pace instead of needless lecturing has shown to be very effective. Why not run your meetings the same way? After all, educational leaders should be modelling research-based strategies. Bringing in instructional technology will create excitement and intrigue.

PIECE OF GOLD #4: Cancel your meeting if it is not needed.

If you have nothing to meet about, please do everyone a favour and cancel the meeting. There is nothing wrong with sending out information via email.

PIECE OF GOLD #5: Prioritize Mentoring or Coaching Meetings.

These are vital for go forward.

 

 

Mentor

26 Jun

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I am currently doing a great deal of mentoring in my role as Leader of the Curriculum group.The word ‘mentor’ comes from a Hungarian word, ‘bus’, which means helping people move. Mentoring is a way of leading and learning, and a mentor is someone who takes the time to have focused conversations with others to help them maximise their capabilities. Mentoring is about creating the conditions for learning and growing. It is the process of Ako.

Teachers are used to being the authorities and possessing the answers. The role has now changed for them now to be facilitators as students can Google the answers a great deal quicker. However, if we want teachers to take ownership for their learning, the mentor cannot be the expert, as this creates learned helplessness on the part of the mentored teachers. The primary responsibility for learning must rest on the shoulders of those doing the learning, and it is the mentor’s role to facilitate the learning and to build capacity.

The danger with mentoring lies in the perceived need for the mentor to appear brilliant, to be seen to have all the answers. When mentors are focused on looking wonderfully clever, they do not listen long enough. They summarize and interpret and direct far too early in the session. Mentors need to realize that the brilliant person is the client. The mentor’s job is to help the client discover that.

Try the WIN technique this week if you are involved in mentoring. Establish and prioritize: What’s Important Now. Thank you for your feedback. Let me know if this works as well for you as it has for me.

 

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