Conversations about Coaching

Expectations of success for today’s school administrator as well as the stress level for running effective schools have significantly increased. As a result, less time spent in collaborating with school administrators for support, growth, and development is taking place. This expectation and the rate of burnout reflect the need of additional support and systematic feedback for school leaders that coaching provides (Bambrick-Santoyo).

“Good Coaching Leads to Good Leadership”

Through coaching opportunities to reflect as well as develop goals for school administrator improvement benefit the school’s community for further growth and development. In the Phi Delta Kappan article “Good coaching Leads to Good Leadership”, Paul Bambrick-Santoya shares an example of coaching a new principal.

An aspiring North Star principal flubbed her first all-student assembly, which the previous principal had handled masterfully, including firing questions at students and leading them in inspirational chants. “It was a totally embarrassing experience,” the novice said afterward. A group of mentors sat with her and initially made the mistake of dissecting her missteps in great detail. But then they focused on one specific change she needed to make for the next assembly: Script and memorize the math and vocabulary questions she would ask students. Things went a little better in the second assembly, and afterward her coaches gave her a second suggestion: change the intonation of her voice to build students’ excitement. After she did that, her goal was to identify two students ahead of time to answer questions. Following that, she worked on scaffolding the thinking of a student’s incorrect answer with follow-up questions. Her performance gradually improved until she had mastered a skill that didn’t come naturally at first.

Her coaches’ suggestions were not only focused; they were actionable. They never said, Be more prepared or Show more excitement. Instead, they suggested writing a script and varying the tone of her voice. “Together, each small change made a powerful difference,” says Bambrick-Santoyo. “Yet the best coaches don’t just tell their players what to do; they guide them through it.”

Two other elements in this leader’s coaching made a difference: repeated role-plays after each assembly, and watching her actual performance with students on videotape. “Practice in this manner is relatively unfamiliar in education, let alone at the principal rank,” says Bambrick-Santoyo. “But these actions are particularly crucial to growing great leaders quickly.”

“Across the country, school leaders vary tremendously in their starting points,” he concludes. “If we believe that their skills are immutable, then this is a fact of life. But if we accept a growth mindset – and if we put it to work to get there – then we can achieve extraordinary things (Bambrick-Santoyo, Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 94, No. 4, December 2012).

This is a great success story for a new principal who received coaching from fellow colleagues. But what if the superintendent isn’t available, what if expectations for the headmaster doesn’t allow the opportunity for incremental feedback? Where can the new school administrator go for support, go to receive opportunities for reflection and guidance?