Coaching is not about telling teachers they need to improve or how to improve. Instead, it is the process of having one-to-one conversations that focus on developing the educator’s learning through increasing self-awareness. A coach, through questioning, actively listening and challenging the coachee in a supportive and encouraging environment, facilitates self-directed learning of the teacher (van Nieuwerburgh, 2012). For me, coaching is a belief and faith in another’s ability and capacity for growth. I view coaching as a process that provides autonomy, relatedness and competence.
Place your confidence and faith in someone and you expect honesty, integrity, loyalty, and respect in return. This is trust. Keeping promises and confidences is also vital. A wise educator told me that if you lose a teacher’s trust, it is nearly impossible to regain it. Without trust, a coach has very little influence over the professional growth of a teacher, and ultimately, student achievement. When a coach works alongside a teacher, it is because they care about the teacher, their practice and their students. As a coach, your intention should be to support and guide teachers to develop or sustain their expert skills in teaching. For a teacher, it takes courage to share their thoughts and beliefs about education, let alone invite a coach into their classroom to observe student learning. Being willing to receive feedback about their professional performance, confirms their desire to improve. This demonstration of vulnerability illustrates their trust in coaching and their coach.
This opt-in approach to professional learning, provides the opportunity to receive coaching and offers teachers to self-determine their learning. Coaches understand that teachers know their students best and work in partnership with the teachers to determine goals, actions needed and also celebrate successes. Coaches question to clarify the goals of the teacher while providing additional support if needed. Trying something new and taking risks is empowering and more likely when you are learning with someone you trust. When entering into a new coaching relationship, most are likely to be a little guarded, so patience is essential. When setting up the initial meeting, expectations should be established with confidentiality being addressed as it is imperative. When building trust, being reliable is also extremely important as educators value those who are dependable.
Without trust, you may have two educators that are wasting the valued time of both, by entering into a conversation that is not authentic. While some teachers may feel they don’t have time for coaching, coaches strive to build a culture where the coaching process and goals are highly valued. Coaches encourage and support teachers to develop new skills, knowledge and abilities to achieve their goals that is determined by the coachee. Establishing trust may take time, but when you are promoting growth and building teacher capacity, it is time well spent.
We need to create environments in which all teachers embrace the idea of continuous improvement. - Dylan Wiliam
van Nieuwerburgh, C. (Ed.) (2012). Coaching in education: Getting better results for students, educators and parents. London: Karnac.