My journey started in January 2015 and it has been a fascinating one. I've had the chance to meet an amazing array of people from all walks of life and it has been great to exchange stories and share the successes along the way.
My journey started in January 2015 and it has been a fascinating one. I’ve had the chance to meet an amazing array of people from all walks of life and it has been great to exchange stories and share the successes along the way.
The positivity and enthusiasm for learning and acquiring a new set of skills and putting them to such good use has been an inspiration to me every step of the way. Perhaps the most surprising thing is the new relationship I now have with myself.
All those positive, life affirming slogans which in other circumstances seemed to be mere clichés have suddenly come to life. When I was a head-teacher anticipating the dreaded Ofsted call ‘there’s no such thing as failure’ just didn’t ring true; as a consequence one of the things I love to do in my role as Education Coach is to help former colleagues deal with the pressures and cynicism that often seem to ‘come with the territory’, as they say.
So, what is it about the world of education (despite the huge amount of goodwill, desire to help others, genuine liking for young people, and so on) that generates such toxic feelings about the job? And how can coaching help to re-address this balance to put the smile back on the faces of children, teachers and leaders? Surely, learning should be a joyous thing?
In my experience, over the years, the focus in the sector has been on ‘standards’ and an ever-increasing level of expectation in every part of the system. The increase in both pressure and demand for achievement, has led to a rise in social issues and mental health problems alongside stress, overwhelm and cynicism. Is there any wonder people are looking for ways to get out?
So, where can coaching help?
Well, coaching for me is about raising clients’ awareness of the choices they have in front of them and giving them responsibility for choosing what they want to achieve and how they are going to go about it. In a nutshell, this is about allowing people to take control over those aspects of their lives which it is possible for them to do.
In highly stressful working situations such as the one alluded to above any amount of control that can be ceded back to teachers and senior leaders has to be a good thing. From my own experience I know that the simple realisation that there are things which can be brought under one’s own control can be life-changing. The high walls start to crumble and small glimmers of light find their way through to brighten up even your darkest night (as James Taylor and others have put it).
My own enlightenment started with a two-hour session from a colleague. The effect, however, was to be long lasting and profound. Not only did it help to clear my mind and at least alert myself to the limiting beliefs that dogged me, but it also made me think that maybe this is a line of work that I would enjoy and could do on retirement.
I am currently still in training so to speak. I put it like this as I actually believe we will always be ‘in training’ as long as we accept that no matter how long, or how well, we do something there is always more to be learnt. And if we don’t accept this premise then I don’t actually believe we will reach our own potential, let alone help others to realise theirs.
Education has a lot in common with coaching and at its best includes many of those elements we recognise as being essential to personal development as well as that of the groups to which we belong.
Carefully thought-out smart-type targets, growth mind-set, metacognitive learning, empathy, rapport, mindfulness, all are common currency in the conversations which take place in classrooms and staffrooms up and down the country. When allowed freedom to work in ways that they know are right for their schools, British teachers and leaders are some of the most dedicated and creative anywhere on the planet and I have been incredibly impressed by the crop of young teachers I have had the privilege to know and work with over recent years.
If I, even in a small way, can help teachers and their leaders find and use the freedoms that maybe they cannot see, then my switch from teaching to coaching will have been worth it.
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