The benefits of teacher coaching and how to access it

Female teacher sits and listens to a teacher coach share advice

Thank you for your application. I regret to tell you that on this occasion you were not successful, and I wish you every success in the future.

Job application blues

We have all received at least one of these polite rejections. The cold reminder that we just weren’t right for the job. I got rejection after rejection at the application stage when trying to get into senior management. It was soul-destroying! So much time and effort reading up on the school, filling out the forms, customising the letter then then waiting and wondering, only to get a brief brush off. My promotion plans were going the same way as what the Chinese called Lingchi – a lingering, humiliating torture of a thousand cuts.

The turning point

Looking back, I felt very alone throughout the process. During a particularly low ebb the Deputy Head called me in to ask how my search was going. It all flooded out – feelings of rejection, uncertainty, my dwindling self-confidence and the many unanswered questions. He asked me to show him my cv and letter and come back in for a chat in a few days. The times I spent with him after this were some of the most useful PD sessions of my career.

He talked about my application from the selector’s perspective and I started to see the process through a new lens. I had been so busy thinking about promotion from my angle that I was forgetting who would be reviewing my application and what they would be looking for. I redrafted my paperwork based on his observations, we caught up from time to time as I continued the process and I started to feel a whole lot better about what I was doing. There was somebody on my side encouraging me, I had someone to talk to and I had a new focus.

Your best teacher coach could be your colleague

We didn’t give this process a name but basically its coaching and I only wish we did more of it in school. I am convinced that some of the best coaching for teachers is hiding in plain sight. We are all trained, experienced teachers, we spend our lives helping other people improve and have a range of skills in getting the best out of other people, yet we don’t always use these skills to help each other. Your best coach could be working alongside you. You might just be the best coach for a colleague. Sometimes all it takes is the mutual commitment to give it a go.

The coaching business is booming at the moment but a lot of it feels like a pre-packaged, automated, commercial approach to helping. These menu-driven, off the shelf techniques have research behind them but might be of no help to a teacher in the here and now looking for support. There are other ways. Asking a colleague for coaching or offering help after a conversation might just be the start of something amazing.

About the author

Peter Hogan has been head of four schools in the UK and overseas. He has taught at and led schools in the state and independent sectors, spent a decade as a schools' inspector and acted as education adviser for organizations including The Financial Times, HSBC and a number of international charities. He has also served as a school and a university governor.

Follow Peter on Teacheroo

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