As an NQT mentor I feel it is important that we are able to support our mentees in their development. I was excited when this course was offered by the Trust as I felt it would be an excellent way to build on my mentoring skills and learn how to use coaching as an improvement tool for teaching and learning.
The course consisted of 5 sessions. The initial sessions introduced the theory of coaching and how to use the G.R.O.W. model. Following this we were given the opportunity to put our learning into practice through the use of role play which then lead to real life coaching conversations with our mentees. In the final session we reflected and fed back on our experiences.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the course was the opportunity to share and collaborate with a diverse group of teachers.
Chris Coe and Kate Wragg, experienced MLT and SLT staff from across the Trust, led the sessions and were able to pass on their expertise whilst delivering, but also when having one on one conversations with us throughout the sessions.
The first session introduced the idea that there are scales of support for an NQT ranging from directive, to mentor, to coach. The second session then introduced the G.R.O.W model of coaching:
Goal Reality Options Will
The ‘Goal’ is what the NQT wants to achieve through having a coaching conversation. The ‘Reality’ is attaining an in-depth insight into the scenario the NQT needs help with and using questioning to direct the NQT’s thought process. ‘Options’ is when the NQT suggests methods that would aid them in achieving their goal and finally ‘Will’ is when both the NQT and the NQT mentor have the ‘will’ and enthusiasm to put these methods into practice.
The role play scenario was a fantastic opportunity to rehearse the types of questions that would need to be asked as part of a coaching conversation. Initially, I found it very difficult to spend sufficient time on the ‘Reality’ questions as I think we tend to assume a situation rather than try to get to the deep roots of an issue. Our observer, Kate Wragg, a Deputy Headteacher who works across the Trust, gave my pretend NQT and myself some great pointers, and advised us on the questions she would ask to decipher the true ‘reality’.
During the next week I had two coaching conversations with my NQT. I decided it would be a good opportunity to be open with them and held the prompt questions we had practised with in front of me, not hiding the fact that I was a coach in training.
I found that my first conversation went well, as the questions I was asking prompted my NQT to speak and it was easier to maintain the 20:80 mentor to mentee speaking ratio. This meant I was encouraged to listen more and was prevented from jumping in and immediately offering solutions. At times, I felt that my NQT did not always fully understand the suggested questions as there was repetition in their answers. I realised that this was possibly due to me not asking the right questions or not providing my NQT with enough time to really think about their response.
The second conversation went similarly to this however, I was less reliant on my question prompt sheet and I found that there were less awkward pauses – only thinking time for my NQT. I felt that the conversation flowed more naturally and by asking the right types of questions I was able to encourage my NQT to be more self-reflective and devise their own solutions to a problem relating to behaviour management in their year 9 classroom. We then jointly decided on three solutions such as the use of scented stickers for positive praise to implement in the classroom with a predicted time scale of when we might see a positive impact of this. Because the option was developed by the NQT I felt they naturally had more will and enthusiasm to try out the new ideas and thus improve their teaching practice.
I feel that I am still at the early stages of coaching but I am sure that like riding a bike, the more practice I have, the better my coaching conversations will become and the more my NQT will shift from being a mentee to a coachee. One of the most enjoyable parts of the course was the opportunity to share and collaborate with a diverse group of teachers with a range of experience and specialisms from across the Trust. I’m sure there will be more opportunities in the future to share good practice between the schools and I look forward to them.