“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” Peter Drucker
Earlier this week, I had the privilege of listening to acclaimed academic, Jan Robertson, a highly regarded academic and expert in coaching and mentoring within an education context. She is currently a senior associate at NZ Coaching and Mentoring Centre. Jan addressed executive school leaders from ten local schools about developing a coaching culture in schools. We talked about how coaching can build capacity in others. Essentially, the deep learning relationships that are established in the coaching team can help to develop leadership skills. We had the opportunity to reflect on such experiences, both within a teaching paradigm and within the context of being part of the leadership team of the school.
I found it to be a valuable opportunity, because often as teachers, we want to problem solve every issue as it happens. The expectation, of staff is that those in leadership roles, will solve the problems or resolve issues in an instant. I learnt that there is great power in listening and asking the right questions (sounds simple but the energy expended in the process is actually quite staggering) because the person seeking the assistance often has the answer. In allowing them to come up with the answer or possible solution, you are effectively empowering that person. It can occur within a teacher-student relationship, or student-student relationship or teacher-teacher relationship.
In thinking about the day, we were prompted to consider what we wanted to achieve from it, as a team. Our executive set a goal and part of today was set aside to work with Jan and the executive. I found today’s session to be really helpful, because we got to work in our peer coaching relationships.
It was a really good exercise, to sit with another colleague and just listen to them speak for seven minutes and then to talk for seven minutes, while they spoke about their goal. I found it hard to listen, without wanting to offer suggestions or advice. Likewise, when I was speaking, I found that I had to think more deeply about what I was sharing, because my partner wasn’t able to offer suggestions, rather ask more questions. It’s interesting that we both experienced the same difficulties.
One of the things that really draws me to this practice is the potential benefit for school improvement. This is one of the things that I am attracted to most, about where I work – there is always a focus on continued improvement, a real aspiration to be the best that we can be. This is something that is encouraged in every member of the community. Our school values positive relationships as core to achieving our aims. Our students will gladly tell you when they are the best that they can be and our staff will set goals. As a relatively new member of the staff and to a College executive, I think this will be a good way to deepen my learning.
I hope to be able to develop really good questioning skills, to be able to elicit the kinds of reflection needed to allow for deep learning to take place. I want to use my blog as a way to report on my progress. I also would love to know if any other teachers have engaged in this kind of program before and if so, what you gained from the experience.
I think that being part of a PLN is a great way to develop some of these skills and I love the way that these practices of developing a coaching culture are supported by people such as Hattie, who shows a link between the capacity building of teachers and heightened student performance.