Mentoring and Coaching Administrators - Steve Barkley

Mentoring and Coaching Administrators

I recently had the opportunity to provide some training and facilitation for Education Service Center Region XI in Fort Worth, Texas for their Administrator Mentoring Program. An outstanding group of retired administrators have been selected to provide support to:

Aspiring Administrators– potential administrators

First Year Administrators– who are required to be in an induction program with a mentor

Growing Administrators – those developing into strong instructional leaders

Veteran Administrators– those who may be moving from campus to central office positions

We identified how to use a backward process beginning with a definition of student achievement, then identifying student behaviors that would generate the desired student achievement and the teacher behaviors most likely to promote the desired student behaviors. This work provides the observation “look for”s for administrative walkthroughs and classroom observations.

This backward process is for planning. When it comes to implementation, action begins with the leadership. Therefore the questioning sequence an administrator coach might use is:

What patterns have emerged from your walkthrough observations?
How has your behavior changed since identifying those patterns?

Increased student achievement begins in the behavior of leaders.

We also identified the important role of staff collegiality in creating student achievement. That means that administrators need to create and support collegiality.

In The School Leader’s Guide to Learner-Centered Education: From Complexity to Simplicity, authors Barbara L. McCombs and Lynda Miller state:

Collegiality and ongoing dialogue are critical to ensure that changes are thought of in context of their interrelationships with each other and the shared vision. In addition, data collection and analysis, continual staff development and learning, and reflection are necessary components of continuous improvement.(pg25)

Mentors can help administrators identify what leadership behaviors would be required to get the necessary staff behaviors.

McCombs and Miller also point to the work of Margaret Wheatley:

….leaders need freedom to make intelligent decisions based on how well they understand the situation rather than how well they understand the policies and procedures. They need to trust that people will invent their own solutions and to expect and value the unique solutions that emerge. Compliance to one-size-fits all will no longer serve our global and local needs. Leaders need to know that they can rely on human creativity, compassion, caring, potential, and self organizing capacities. (pg 26)

Wow! That kind of leadership needs mentoring and coaching to support the kind of continual reflection and assessment that would model what the leader sought from his/her faculty.

The following diagram is one that I created after reading A Simpler Way by Wheatly and Kellner-Rogers. It illustrates the interconnection of three key elements in an organization:

The flow of information– How do we organize for information to flow throughout the system.. working for everyone to know everything.. grade to grade….department to department…school to home to school…student to teacher to leadership, etc.

Rich and diverse relationships– How do we organize for the development of relationships? How do we use staff development and faculty meeting for building relationships? Do we communicate the importance of relationships in classrooms and learning?

Common vision– How do we organize so that conversations where we connect with each other around common beliefs and the desired future continually occur?

“The work of educational leaders is to encourage local experiments, to watch for and nourish supportive beliefs and dynamics, and to sponsor faculty and staff to connect with all the kindred spirits now working in isolation. This is how we intentionally work with emergence to create the future we desire.”
How Large-Scale Change Really Happens – Working With Emergence
Margaret Wheatley Ed.D. and Deborah Frieze ©2006 The School Administrator Spring 2007

The Pay Off-When our organization has information flow, rich and diverse relationships around common vision, the pay off is creativity People create solutions and improvements. This is what we want from Professional Learning Communities…student achievement!

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