Saturday, 13 February 2016

An Adaptable Path

I’ve commenced a new role this year as a Professional Learning Coach and started on my PhD path. I believe in mentoring new teachers and coaching experienced teachers, although I’m beginning to question this more. I’ve experienced being mentored as a beginning teacher in California, which is why I’m so passionate about mentoring. Yesterday, I spoke with my 'assigned' BTSA mentor. Coincidentally, my second mentor (personally chosen) emailed yesterday and although we only speak every 3-6 months, he is always supportive and generous with his time and knowledge. He is a STAR mentor in Seattle Public Schools. Both these relationships demonstrate that once a relationship is established and based on trust, it can endure time and distance and can adapt to suit new goals. I’ve been reading many books and articles about coaching and mentoring and it’s confronting at times for I’ve realised the more I learn, the less I know. A conversation with another coach made me realise that it’s ok to not have all answers. If we did, then where is the learning, the experience, the growth?

To be honest, I’ve been struggling with this. I’ve also inquired and learnt about the experiences of others at various schools and I was wondering which path to follow-cognitive coaching, instructional coaching, growth coaching etc. During the week I phoned an amazing educator I met at Harvard. It was a 15-minute call, but within those 15 minutes she provided the reassurance and direction I truly needed. Being out of your comfort zone is good but at times, you need support and encouragement. This is coaching! I was being coached as a PhD student. With established trust and good questioning skills, a coach can support you to leap into the stretch zone or retrieve you from the panic zone.

It’s not innovative to follow another’s path but one needs to learn from others and their experiences. How do I create an adaptable path that incorporates all teachers' professional learning needs, while aligning with my beliefs about professional development.

Professional development should be individualised, empowering & sustainable.


  1. The humility to admit you may not know everything will serve for every day in your new role. That is an amazing trait every leader should have. Also, your self-awareness and your willingness to reach out is a critical tool to your own growth as an educator, as well as your ability to lead others. Your teachers are lucky to have a coach with your ski!ls and vast network.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your very kind comments. I'm fortunate to have this opportunity and to have a supportive PLN. :)

  3. Well said, Andrea...I often think that our whole role as educators is to support others to see their potential - students, peers...believing in the capacity of another to grow, develop, learn, create can make such a difference to an individual. It's also contagious! Curious, did you settle on a model? Best wishes in your new role and in your PhD journey.

  4. Hi Andrea,
    I can relate to so much of the discomfort that you are expressing here about coaching, mentoring, PD.... and how it might all join up to match your vision for your school.
    The DW quote provides a compelling vision for teacher professional learning. You have been given license (through the creation of your new role) to take on the challenge of driving towards this vision. You are the contextual expert here and whatever path you choose (and there are many - and you are allowed to take a wrong turn here and there!) will be whatever best suits your school and staff.
    What might this ideal vision of teacher PL look, sound and feel like in your school in the short, medium and long term?

    Mentoring might appear more obvious and clear to you because of your own positive prior experience of this and the clearer expert - novice relationship with which you are familiar. Some questions about coaching:
    Do you need to choose a specific "type" of coaching?
    What is it that draws you to coaching?
    Can you identify common principles, skills and ways of being across all of your reading about coaching ?
    Where are the points of departure?
    What will a coaching approach do for your the professional development of your teachers at your school?

    For what it's worth, I think that coaching approaches provide an "adaptable path" that will enable more individualised, empowering and sustainable PD. The discomfort you are feeling sounds like a result of trying to "nut out" what all of this will translate into in practice in your particular context. Again, I've been there and I'm still on the journey...

    Hope this helps.
    All the best taking this exciting work forward. You're 100% up to the challenge!

  5. I wonder if the quote by Willem changed one word.... "Improve" to "Innovate"..... how that would go?

    As you allude Andrea, Improvement is following, innovation leads you to the adaptable path.

    Thanks for the read,

  6. Thanks for taking the time to read & respond Greg. You have me thinking about improve to innovate... wondering if that depends on individual teachers-their experience, motivation & mindset.

  7. Love when in a coaching moment I find myself asking, hang on, who's coaching whom?