Leadership is intrinsic to teaching, as I know from personal experience. Our daughter is a teacher who early on recognized the importance of excellent leadership qualities in educators. Her school has recognized how her leadership potential benefits students, and she has taken on opportunities to grow, like working with mentors, gaining feedback from in-class observers, and volunteering for after-school programs.
A teacher may be teaching a toddler a nursery rhyme or leading a high school student through the reasoning behind trigonometry, but either way that teacher is a leader. They can be tremendously effective role models when administration supports their efforts. Fortunately, that is often the case, and leadership coaching for teachers is gaining recognition as a powerful career development tool that benefits teachers, students, and schools.
The New Teacher and The Mentor
Teachers face unexpected challenges on practically a daily basis. Many school systems, therefore, make a concentrated effort to help newly qualified teachers adjust to the reality of the classroom every day by starting mentoring programs that match them with experienced teachers. Mentor teachers help by drawing on knowledge and tips that can only be gained with experience in order to help new teachers reach their potential. Mentor programs can be vital for school systems, because they can help reduce teacher turnover rates.
Leadership Coaching for More Experienced Teachers
It’s easy to conclude that once a teacher has enough years of classroom experience, they’ve seen and done it all. But even the most experienced teachers encounter new realities and can continue to learn more about effective teaching. Think about it. Whatever career you pursue, is there ever a point when you’ve learned everything there is to know about it? Of course not.
Leadership coaching for experienced teachers hasn’t been formally studied that much, but the studies that have been done indicate that mid-career teachers of mathematics and social studies can make a measurable positive difference in classroom effectiveness by engaging in leadership coaching. It would stand to reason that leadership coaching would benefit other teachers as well.
Coaching Isn’t the Same as Mentoring
Coaching and mentoring differ, but both have an important role in helping people develop their careers. Mentoring is typically career-specific. In other words, experienced teachers mentor less experienced teachers, just as journeyman plumbers mentor apprentices. Mentoring is a longer-term process than coaching too, often lasting for years.
Coaching is more structured and skill-specific, and it tends to go on for a period of weeks to months. With coaching, the client focuses on specific developmental issues and pursues specific performance goals. Suppose a teacher works with a leadership coach with the goal of keeping perfectionism in check. A leadership coach can address this particular issue, meeting regularly with the teacher to chart progress, run through role-play scenarios, and recognize setbacks so they can be overcome.
The Purpose of Coaching Is to Maximize Performance
Leadership coaching helps good teachers become exceptional teachers by addressing behaviors that hold back teachers’ performance. In fact, sometimes teachers recognize that something is holding them back from the next level of excellence, but can’t articulate what that something is. The leadership coach offers something similar to the tennis coach analyzing a player’s swing, observing and learning which techniques and behaviors lead to success and which hold the person back.
The outside perspective that the leadership coach offers is enormously valuable, particularly when coupled with the insider perspective offered by a mentor teacher. What’s more, the improvements that come about from leadership coaching can improve the mentoring relationship at the same time.
Teachers are leaders, and the expectations placed on them are great. Training is essential, of course, and many schools also implement formal mentoring programs to assist new teachers as they make the transition from student teacher to full-time educator. Leadership coaching has an important role in helping teachers develop excellence too, by recognizing strengths and weaknesses and helping teachers address them in practical, sustainable ways. The studies that have been done on leadership coaching for teachers have already had promising results.
As an executive and leadership coach, I have worked with a range of professionals, helping them unlock their full leadership potential. If you are interested in leadership coaching to turn good teachers into exceptional teachers, I invite you to check on my speaking availability and contact me if you have questions. I would love to help you develop a leadership coaching initiative to help your teachers fulfill the great potential we know they have.