About five stones and 20 years ago I was a keen sportsman. I spent years training to perfect my technique, to condition my body, often in solitude, sometimes with a partner, always under my own direction. Until one day, I was deemed promising enough to deserve a coach. I drove each week for 3 hours to meet with him, to hang on a few crumbs of questions from him which would inspire the next week of effort until we met up again to review my progress. Nothing, but nothing would prevent me from meeting up with my coach, because with his questioning I got better, and always as a result of my own effort. It felt great.
Nowadays in education it seems hard to have a conversation with someone without it being referred to as coaching. “Got a problem with behaviour management? You need some coaching.” “Not sure how to teach gym? I could coach you.” You know the score. But so much of what we do in educational coaching is actually mentoring: advice and guidance to improve what we do. Not that there is anything wrong with that, in fact far from it, it really helps us to fast track to become the learners and teachers we would like to be. But coaching is different. True coaching is about questioning, drawing out of us the people that we hardly dare to believe we could ever be. Not pushing us to excellence but pulling us up to the realisation of brilliance.
This is what I learnt today, listening to a brilliant and highly skilled coach talk to a gathering of motivated and innovative headteachers and educators. But as excited as I was about the possibilities for coaching adults in my school, I couldn’t help wondering why we don’t do this with children? Do we want to advise and guide our pupils? Probably most of us do. Or do we want to empower them to develop their thinking through insightful and skilled questioning? I would love to do that, afterall, I am sold on coaching as a skill for life, so why not start young? But if I’m honest, I probably spend 95% of my time advising and guiding children, mentoring not coaching. I believe and have experienced the power of coaching over and above mentoring. I think the time has come for me to think of extending that to my teaching. What do you think?