Coaching Teachers

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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As an experienced teacher, have you ever had the opportunity to coach another teacher?

No doubt in countless examples, many teachers reading this will have already had the experience of coaching another colleague. This is likely to be an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) in their first year of teaching, or perhaps another teacher struggling or developing in a new school or in a new role. As any teacher will tell you, being new to teaching or working in a new school, is one of the most challenging years of your career. Therefore excellent coaching from someone else more experienced, is critical.

Critical Conversations:

Good coaching from another colleague is critical for several reasons.

If a teacher is not supported, they will start to feel disillusioned about teaching. If this becomes a habit, it will be very difficult to motivate this teacher to become resilient and confident enough to handle the most challenging of classroom environments.


Image: Shutterstock

There is no greater privilege than being in a position to coach  another colleague. The chances are it will come your way in some form or another and teachers are offered little training in this respect, often adapting their own strategies for supporting colleagues through trial and error, or avoiding some of the worst-case scenarios that they once had to endure.” (Source)

What To Do:

After 1,000s of coaching observations, this is my ‘what to do / what to avoid’ list of tips when working with another teacher:

  1. If you want to coach a colleague, make sure you are given the time to do so.
  2. If you have never coached before, ask for training. Ideally, something certified.
  3. Always refer to the Teachers’ Standards in all conversations.
  4. References to personal stories and life-skills are also useful to help ‘bring out’ the personality of the teacher.
  5. Model important lesson planning in the formative months of the relationship.
  6. Meet regularly to reflect and coach the other person. Keep feedback manageable, meaningful and motivational. Concise and precise.
  7. Asking the right questions and listening is critical. You should do less of the talking …
  8. Set realistic goals and help manage their workload. Identify what to abandon in replace of what needs tweaking.
  9. Less is more. Focus on marginal gains rather than overall performance. Keep the trainee focused on small improvements.
  10. Remember, coaching is not about ‘you’, it’s about the trainee and can work for them.

What To Avoid:

If you are doing some of the following, maybe it’s time to hang up your boots?

  1. Do not say you will observe a teacher and then not turn up!
  2. If you do turn up to observe, do NOT sit at the back of the room and mark students’ work.
  3. If you do not like what see, make sure this is just one aspect of the feedback, not the sole focus.
  4. If you fail to feedback, hang your boots up now and hang your head in shame.
  5. Do not over-burden the coached teacher with endless feedback and action points.
  6. If your coaching relationship is not working (e.g. not beneficial or developmental), say so and offer another teacher as an alternative.
  7. Do not make the relationship about you (the coach) and all of your case-study stories that have worked.
  8. Do not offer advice if a) you do not do it yourself and b) cannot model it.
  9. Do not offer pointless solutions as a ‘quick-fix’. For example, “Go and observe Mr. Jones. He’ll show you how to do it!”
  10. Don’t avoid the paperwork. If the trainee requires a ‘weekly-log’ from you regarding observations and feedback, it is your duty to support them.


Image: Shutterstock


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5 thoughts on “Coaching Teachers

  1. As a qualified and ‘certified’ coach (via the National College), I understand the process and follow the Grow Model. I know how valuable good coaching is. I currently coach aspiring head teachers on NPQH. The description of coaching here isn’t coaching as I know it, the description is of mentoring. They are two distinctly different ways of working. Coaching is about empowering an individual to find solutions through focussed and progressive questioning. Mentoring is giving advice and supporting development through that. I think that some schools have lost the meaning of coaching.

    1. Thanks Susan. I agree with you. I’ve worded the title based on fixed-term relationships, even though much of what we all do, is to mentor colleagues continually outside of appraisal and at different levels/roles. This is mentoring in my opinion. Longer term and developmental. The basis of me writing this was based upon past observations of poor PGCE coaching for a fixed term/period.

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