As a teacher I have been appraised and ‘coached’ by senior colleagues, always focusing on improving performance and neglecting the human inside the teacher. Conversations would be framed by the feedback/compliment sandwich; a positive comment, followed by some next steps, and concluded with another positive comment leaving little room for the teacher to reflect on how the human inside the teacher is showing up within the classroom for their colleagues and students. Senior leadership would, at times, take on the role of a consultant, offering a solutions based approach to create forward action for my teaching practice. This would be done by observing me in action and providing feedback to plug any gaps as a means to ensure I was able to hit the markers according to the New Zealand Teachers Council, and inturn achieve my registered teacher status. Alternatively, I would be trained by my senior leadership team – Team Leaders and Menor Teachers – where I would be instructed or taught what skills I should adopt, including behaviour management, questioning skills and other best practice pedagogy that would set out to improve quality teaching and learning for myself and my students. While this type of coaching worked well during my early years of teaching, as I became a competent and experienced teacher with effective systems in place, appraisal conversations did little to help me grow as a teacher and instead became a bi-yearly box ticking exercise.
Transformative coaching uncovers a deeper layer which can help a teacher understand how and why they are showing up the way they are in the classroom, and the wider school, by heightening their awareness of the situation at hand. Teachers have a stressful job with hundreds of interactions each day; teachers are making more minute to minute decisions than a surgeon in the operating theater and this can greatly impact a teacher’s mental and emotional capacity causing job dissatisfaction, exhaustion and even teacher burnout. According to the Post-Primary Teachers’ Association, over fifty percent of teachers leave the profession within their first five years of teaching citing burnout as the leading cause. Transformative coaching can give teachers the opportunity to develop not just as teachers, but as human beings as they uncover their operating systems, thus improving their performance and heightening their awareness to understand their behaviour, including their stress cycles and gaining clarity of their role when dealing with things like challenging relationships with colleagues and students. The Awareness, Clarity, Choice conversation (ACC) provides a space for teachers to reflect deeply, not just on their pedagogy and delivery of lessons but also on their communication skills, relationships with colleagues and students, examine how strengths and weaknesses are being used within the classroom and as a staff member, as well as set goals for career progression and professional development. Fiona Moir, senior lecturer at Auckland University, outlines awareness as being key to managing stress and preventing burnout; therefore with teachers leaving the profession in droves, to prevent this teachers should be provided with the opportunity and space to uncover what gives their lives and careers meaning, purpose and value, both as a teacher and as a human being; transformative coaching provides a platform for teachers to gain awareness of any given situation impacting them within the school gates in order to gain clarity and design next steps for accountability and progress. This unique spin on coaching can not only help teachers uncover their way of being but support the teacher to make positive and sustainable change to their teaching practices, relationships and wellbeing; the transformative ACC framework uncovers who they are, how they feel about things, including their beliefs and mindset in order to create a sustainable change that is long lasting and overall has a positive impact on students as well as improve school culture.
Finally, Biswas-Diener and Dean support the idea that coaching is not only effective for the high-flying corporate manager, but also “a powerful force for transformation” for a myriad of professions, including “school teachers”. Biswas-Diener and Dean go on to discuss that, “coaching is about harnessing the best in people and inspiring them to live out their potential,” therefore a powerful tool to use within schools to help bring the best out of their teachers. Not only will coaching provide a space to transform teachers and support them to become the best they can be, a school will also have happier teachers who have control over their personal wellbeing and how they show up in the classroom for their students, reducing staff turn around and teacher burnout and improving relationships between all stakeholders.
Transformative coaching has, for me personally, given me the space to feel heard, without judgment or unwarranted advice given, and in turn, allowed me to take back control of my personal well being as well as uncover how my values and strengths are impacting or supporting my classroom practise. This has not only improved and helped develop my understanding of how I operate in the classroom, it has greatly positively enhanced my relationships with students, staff members and even helped me navigate situations I find uncomfortable, such as challenging conversations with parents and challenging student behaviours. The learning I have done so far has been deep, transformative and sustainable; During these conversations, I am able to see myself and others through a different lense and this has had a positive impact on my colleagues, students and even my family.
In conclusion, I appreciate how transformative coaching can support teachers by harnessing their potential and provide a space for teachers to take control over their own wellbeing and overall presence in the classroom, including classroom behaviour management, pedagogy and relationships with students. Coaching is a powerful tool that should be used more readily in Educational environments. Teachers need the time and the space to be heard, without judgement and guidance to uncover who they are not only as a teacher, but also a human being in order to become the best possible versions of themself inside and outside the classroom.
Are you in need of a little teacher transformation? Book in a 30 minute discover call with me to see how coaching can help you become the best teacher you can be, and the teacher you want to be! https://calendly.com/aimeenicole/30min
Biswas-Diener, R., & Dean, B. (2007). Positive psychology coaching: Putting the science of happiness to work for your clients. John Wiley & Sons.
Franks, J. (2019, May 29). Teachers’ strike: Burnt out, depressed, disillusioned – the staff quitting the classroom. Stuff.co.nz. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/113074836/teachers-strike-burnt-out-depressed-disillusioned–the-staff-quitting-the-classroom
Green, S., & Palmer, S. (2019). Positive psychology coaching in practice. Routledge.
Moir, F., Dr (Presenter). (2020, July 27). Optimising Wellbeing: Strategies to Manage Stress and Prevent Burnout. Address presented at Improving Wellbeing, Mental Health & Resilience in Education, Ellerslie Race Course; Auckland, New Zealand.