As we begin a new year and the start of new coaching programs, two of Gowrie’s consulting team, Leanne Grogan and Julie London, reflect with two of the services they coached through the DET School Readiness Funding program in 2021 – Tracey Bone from West Wimmera Shire Council and Rongjuan Han from Dickory Docks, Melton.
Coaching is a shared conversation related to learning and developing ways forward. It includes active listening, questioning, clarifying and goal setting.
At Gowrie Victoria, coaching is a part of our culture. It is an approach that is core to our values and operating model. We support managers and leaders through training, information and tools to encourage reflective practice and adopt a coaching approach in a wide variety of formal and informal interactions to develop and sustain this culture.
Coaching helps unlock individuals’ potential through raising awareness and supporting them to identify their own goals, articulate their current reality, explore options for development, take action and form habits.
Gowrie Coaching as a part of the DET School Readiness Funding program begins as the coach initiates a discussion to understand professional goals. These may relate to a number of specific areas such as pedagogical practice, team communication and engagement, maintaining partnerships with families/communities, developing engaging learning spaces indoors/outdoors, and supporting the educational leadership role.
Once goals are identified, a plan will be developed combining a number of sessions – online sessions, onsite visits for observation, demonstration and feedback, and group workshops.
In between sessions, a coach will source relevant readings, recommend resources and share contemporary practice examples that relate directly to achieving a particular goal. And because it is over a period of months, the process enables ongoing reflection and review and to really consolidate and embed what someone is learning.
Tracey sees the value of the ongoing relationship with the same coach for the continuity of strategies and towards embedding practice change. The feedback from her educators is that a coach needs to be relatable. She sees that an effective coach builds professional, trusting relationships and this is what enables them to support teams to identify goals and help guide them towards quality improvements
She believes it’s important that the process does support their staff to formulate a plan which they own. It means the team are clear what they are planning to improve, how it looks in the program and what the outcomes will look like for children and families.
Han felt it was important that as they formulated their plan, that Julie as their coach always understood their context and goals. Julie brought a lot of experience and a strong understanding of the early childhood profession, but she also enabled them to develop specific strategies to meet their specific needs.
For Han, the value of the coaching program was having an external perspective and that the process was tailored to meet their specific needs. It was not a one-size-fits-all approach but considered their individual needs and built on their teachers’ and educators’ existing strengths.
It’s not always an easy process. Julie explains that to achieve their goals, educators must try new strategies or approaches (often involving them being challenged and stepping out of their comfort zone). She says that a big part of the coaching role often involves clarifying what the situation actually is and seeing things from a different perspective – a classic example of sometimes “not being able to see the wood for the trees” – a Gowrie coach can support this clarification.
“A great example of changes in practice was when I finally visited a service after months of online sessions and workshops online due to COVID restrictions, I asked them where the children with the incredibly challenging behaviours were – and thought they must have been absent. The team proudly pointed out these children and we were jointly able to celebrate how effective the strategies and support had been and how settled these children now were within the group”
Leanne adds “in a recent onsite coaching session, I worked alongside the educators to re-set the outdoor space, offering suggestions and trialing different configurations of the equipment, together we observed the children fully engaging in the space and embracing the new challenges provided, we reflected on the changes and planned to develop active supervision and intentional teaching strategies to further support the educational program outdoors. I enjoy supporting educators to view their philosophy as an active, intentional statement to underpin their pedagogical work and to provide provocations for their critical reflection practice.”
What do the coaches themselves enjoy about the process?
“I find coaching very rewarding and satisfying” says Julie. “I don’t necessarily provide all the answers but can support the service in clarifying the situation and how best to proceed, as well as looking at things from a different perspective sometimes. Being a practising EC teacher currently as well as Gowrie coach, I genuinely understand the challenges of the teams I work with and find it is a great balance with the two roles – one supports the other in a really satisfying way. There are some fabulous EC teams out there – sometimes they just need someone to be impartial and help them see they are doing some amazing work”.
Leanne agrees “I love getting to know educators and their professional contexts and I value the opportunity to provide a renewed lens to view their current practice and to encourage them to consider other ways of viewing their professional work”.
“Participating in Gowrie coaching has been an incredible journey for our small team” Han.
“I have witnessed educators being re-invigorated by re-connecting with their vision and finding the motivation to create change and further embed improved practice within their organisations” Leanne