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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Working with New Teachers

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


October 06, 2014

We recommend the latest offering from our colleagues in Australia at Hawker-Brownlow, Transformative Talk by Gavin Grift. The book is a thoughtful sharing of ways that trainers are using Cognitive Coaching in their practice. One chapter, written by Jenny Cuneen, in Fairfax County, VA, addresses coaching new teachers. She supports the importance of holding on to the belief that new teachers have the capacity to engage in coaching conversations. Some mentors differ, believing that consulting is necessary to support new teachers. If we are to develop self-directed learners in students and in teachers, one must operate from a positive presupposition of capacity, not deficits. Consider what Jenny offers as you work with new teachers:

“When I teach mentors to default to coaching, they often respond with, ‘But I try to coach them, and they just ask me what to do.” Whether in a formal coaching conversation or a brief interchange at the copy machine, I always suggest mentors keep one phrase in the back of their mind for times when a colleague asks for their opinion on what to do:

“I’d be happy to share some ideas with you… but first, I’m interested in what you were considering doing.’ When said with an approachable voice, this question gives the person permission to explore some ideas; it contains the positive presupposition by the coach that they believe the new teacher has considered some ideas. It’s important not to drop the first half of that sentence. By saying that you are happy to share ideas with them, it alleviates anxiety and allows them to think freely knowing that more ideas are available if needed. More often than not, when the mentor encourages the mentee to share thoughts they have first, the response afterwards by the mentor ends up being, ‘You know what, that’s just what I would have done’. In that brief moment, both the self-directedness and the efficacy of the novice are raised as they realize they have some solutions within them after all.” (Grift, p. 167).

As you work to support new teachers, what is your thinking about how you make decisions about coaching versus consulting? What are some of the assumptions you might be holding about new teachers? How are the supporting you and the teachers and when might they be holding you both back?

Source: Grift, G. (2014). Transformative talk. Melbourne, AU: Hawker-Brownlow.

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