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Laying the foundations for coaching and mentoring

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Principal Kevin Choromanski turned to the work of Professor Jan Robertson to lift achievement at Pomaria School. Professor Robertson has helped the school to develop a coaching and mentoring programme that sees everyone as a leader and a learner. This film is one of a series, designed to provide support and inspiration to schools that are in the process of reviewing their own school curriculum.

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

In this video, Jan Robertson states that:

"So often in the past our learning relationships have been very one-sided in terms of the work, and I think the power of coaching and mentoring is being able to seek that space of new knowledge, new learning that we get when we’re open to what our learning partner brings in the situation as well."

  • Consider this statement in your own school context. As a school, where are your learning relationships at now? How could you get your school community to develop reciprocity of learning?
  • What would the benefits of a coaching and mentoring approach be for students and teachers at your school? Consider the changes to student and teacher roles, and to changes within the staffing structure at your school.
  • What resources and professional development may need to be implemented at your school to facilitate this kind of collaboration?

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The three Rs for coaching learning relationships
In this short article from Educational leaders, Professor Jan Robertson stresses the need for the “3 Rs” (reciprocity, relationships, and reflection-on-reality) as the basis for professional relationships and coaching about leading.


Kevin Choromanski

Our whole journey that we had started out on with coaching and mentoring dated back to when we as a school identified underachievement in literacy. And we decided as a school to implement a coaching model about the teaching of effective literacy within the classroom. I will say from that particular year it has evolved and this is where we are now where the emphasis is more around effective teaching practice within the class and getting teachers to reflect around their practice. We’ve done this through looking at Jan Robertson’s work and doing a few adjustments and modifications to her research, and bringing it in at a classroom level with teachers and looking at how we’ve actually gone about building those relationships between what we term our mentors and our mentees within the whole model. What we’ve actually found is that as a result of the whole building of this trust model, teachers have become more reflective and more open around their practice within their class with their mentors. They are now quite willing to share not just their strengths but their weaknesses as well, and this in turn has helped us to design the professional development and support that people need around their practice within the class.

Professor Jan Robertson

The importance of partnership and relationship. That although these teachers, and Kevin, each has their own mentor, who is their learning partner, it’s actually a philosophy that runs throughout the school.  They see their teachers, and their colleagues now , all of them, as learning partners in that process.

The notion of partnership and the reciprocity of learning – teacher as learner, learner as teacher, principal as leader, leader as learner, in that process - that when we’re able to enter that relationship it’s how we relate with parents and the community, where we know that there’s this space in between us, where the innovation is, where the learning is. If we’re willing to recognise that reciprocity in the process of learning, that people bring themselves, as Donna said, to that learning situation, and so often in the past our learning relationships have been very one-sided in terms of the work, and I think the power of coaching and mentoring is being able to seek that space of new knowledge, new learning that we get when we’re open to what our learning partner brings in the situation as well – whether that is a parent, a child, a kuia, a principal, a teacher – in that process.

Donna Nee

It’s all about learning together, learning the skills together, and being able to, I guess, have that support in this journey. So, for example, Kevin’s mentor is one of our teachers, so they’ll have that relationship.  So it’s got nothing to do with where you are sitting in terms of responsibility, and that’s the beauty of the learning partnerships that have been created.  Those walls have come down. We’re here for the same purpose, which is lifting student achievement we’re also here as well, to continue our own learning journey, to become capable, effective practitioners,

Professor Jan Robertson

The model was always developed on the premise of building the person’s potential in terms of their practice. So, coaching leadership is the model, coaching leadership is the book, coaching leadership is about not somebody saying, “this is what you should do, and this is how you should do it and then I’ll come in and tell you how well you’ve done it”, this is about actually acknowledging what people have in terms of their potential.  Where people are challenged to do the thinking, where people are challenged to to step up in their efficacy, that “I can make a difference”, where we have a belief in the professionalism of teachers, and their willingness to want to learn and develop. That’s why, as Donna said, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a third-year teacher mentoring a principal, or a teacher working with a seven-year-old student, it’s how do we work with someone that really helps to enable that person to develop the agency that, “I can do this.  I know where I need to go to get the answers that I need, I know I can put these into practice”, and that’s the important part.  

Kevin Choromanski

The ultimate hope that I have is that when we talk about things like goal setting and so forth, the very similar process that we’ve worked through as mentors and mentees within the school will now filter down to children, and eventually those children become coaches within their own homes, with the community and the family that they are in. So we have this commonality around the language that we speak across the school, but the commonality in the sense that we’re all working towards one common goal – and that is to get our children to achieve the best that they can do. So leadership for me is not from the top down, but rather from the children up.

Published on: 30 Nov 2014