This conversation was prompted by a question in our #coachbetter Facebook group: “How can I move my school from just “having coaches” to “building a coaching culture”? We talk through the difference between just “having coaches” as compared to a “coaching culture” as well as a 5 step process for taking your school from one to the other!

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Show Notes

Exploring the difference between having coaches and building a coaching culture

Maggie: Building a coaching culture has more people who have been trained in and understand the benefits of being coached. Middle level leaders are trained in coaching, so they appreciate why the school has brought coaching in, they’re using skills and techniques in meetings they’re leading. They’re open themselves to being coached. Winning the hearts and minds of the middle level leaders is an important element in building a coaching culture.

Tim: when it’s part of your culture it’s embedded in the whole institution. Helping school leaders become comfortable having coaching conversations. Once top level leaders are comfortable with that, they will ask middle level leaders to do the same.

Marcello: Having coaches in place without having a coaching culture is a waste of resources. Those coaches will end up working with the same teachers because there isn’t an understanding of what coaching means.

Maggie:  All coaches at ASB were also full time teachers, coaching skills were more important than actual knowledge. Coaches were assigned to teachers so it was expected that teachers would be coached. Onus was on the coach to reach out, have an initial meeting to talk through goals, and later in the year check in again. Some teachers wanted this more frequently than others.

Diana: The role of the coach, being clear about that, others perception of the role. The culture is there, it’s already established. When coaches don’t feel like their role is defined, they define it based on what they’re comfortable with. Middle level leaders really need to think about WHY we have coaches. How are we going to use them to help us meet goals.

Marcello: At a certain point, I thought to myself “I’m a coach now! And I went out and coached.” But there’s not a coaching culture. Being coached by a peer involves a lot of vulnerability. It’s a fairly refined place to get to. It has to be modeled at all levels that you can learn from everyone around you.

Tim: If you don’t have a coaching culture, it’s almost impossible to build one, unless you have other people in the building understand what it means. The goal is to set the stage to build something bigger, that comes when you work with the administrators that will be having coaching conversations as part of their work too. 

If you haven’t made time for it, as a school, the subtle message is, it’s not important. When people feel like they don’t have the time to engage in learning because of the pressure or pace of the school, you will never have a coaching culture.

Diana: Coaching is not always called coaching, we do things like peer observation or leading meetings. Where can find those opportunities to demonstrate what coaching is – including things that other teachers do as part of their regular practice.

Maggie: Teachers often struggle to coach students. Feedforward. As a coach you might have to give up the expectation that you will see the outcome of the conversation

Marcello: It’s a mindset shift that school leaders have to make.

Maggie: One of the attractions for school leaders could be goal setting. Every year, teachers are asked to set goals. In schools where there’s no coaching culture, the only time goals get revisited is at the end of the year. It’s important to be aware that goals can be short and long term, multiple short term goals can build into something amazing, and if they’re not being coached they might stop after the first achievement.

Tim: ASCD: Adventures in Teacher Leadership. Chapter 2 talks about different types of coaching.

Diana: start by getting perceptions out on the table. Talk about “What is coaching?
How do people perceive this job? Having some kind of context to put it in, like a book or external text. What is coaching at our school? What are some things that are happening? Where could we improve?

Marcello: my impression is that teachers would love to be coached, but they don’t know what they don’t know. If they don’t know what coaching is, they’re not going to take a risk to try.

Maggie: Drop in time for coaching is a great way to spread the positive word about coaching to others. No pressure, easy for teachers to have success in a coaching experience. PLC about coaching, practice coaching skills with people who were not coaches. Getting the word out there about what coaching. 

Tim: Start tying things together, what growth goal are you working towards. 

Diana: Having and articulating a coaching model as a framework for building understanding of coaching.

Kim: So, we came up with 5 steps to move from “having coaches” to “building a coaching culture”:

  1. Get leadership on board (coach up, read a book together, build understanding of value and purpose through actually doing a coaching cycle)
  2. Define coaching at the school – with teachers (everyone comes with a background / biased view of coaching, what does it mean HERE in this school in this context) (we all do things that are “coaching” so we all know a little bit about it and can relate to it)
  3. Provide “opt-in” coaching opportunities (like open after school support, or a professional learning opportunity to learn about how to have a coaching conversation)
  4. Determine / Develop and share a coaching model or framework for the school so everyone is on the same page and they know how they fit within the structure. Start working through more formal coaching cycles with teachers so they can share the great things that are happening through the coaching process.
  5. Explicitly share how coaching can help teachers reach their annual professional goals. Explain how coaching is non-evaluative but can support you in your growth & how that weaves together with the evaluation process.

Level Up Your Coaching with The Coach!

If you are ready to dive deep into your coaching practice, to help you #coachbetter and build a thriving coaching culture in your school, please join us for our next cohort of The Coach!

Wherever you are in building a coaching culture in your school, The Coach will give you the strategies, skills and tools you need to make coaching a success and will empower you to confidently apply instructional coaching strategies in any situation – from building a coaching program, to having coaching conversations, to being a leader in your school community. We facilitate only one cohort each academic year so we can offer individualized support for each participant.

Coaches of all levels are welcome: you’ll start the program with a self-assessment to determine exactly what the next steps are for you!

Registration for our next global cohort opens once a year – check the website for details!