With this coaching relationship, hierarchy doesn’t matter—it’s all about school leader colleagues supporting each other for professional growth.
School leadership is challenging. As the complexity and the demands on school administrators grow, leading a school can be an isolating job at times. Navigating staff and student issues, assessment pressures, and community expectations while maintaining a healthy social and emotional school culture are just a few of the challenges that school leaders face.
To support our school leaders, districts need to encourage and facilitate opportunities for them to participate in a collegial coaching partnership. The issues they encounter are too large and complex for any individual school leader to navigate and solve alone.
How collegial coaching is different
Collegial coaching is a peer-based relationship in which school leader colleagues work together for a specific, predetermined purpose: to support their professional growth. What’s new about this model is that it creates coaching partnerships that are mixed-role and mixed-district in nature. Coaching partnerships are made up of mixed pairings from school district roles such as assistant superintendent, principal, assistant principal, district director, instructional coordinator/innovator, and department chair.
The level of expertise among both the coach and the coachee doesn’t create a hierarchical relationship in which the coach is viewed as more advanced in their leadership skills compared with the coachee. For example, one current partnership consists of an assistant principal whose coaching partner is an assistant superintendent.
From a title perspective, it would appear that there’s a hierarchy, so that the assistant superintendent is “coaching” the assistant principal. This isn’t the case, though, as both partners may switch roles and/or work together within the coaching partnership to coach one another on particular goals or issues.
For instance, within this partnership, they’ve shared resources and tackled building district programming for multilingual learners, along with advancing equity work within their districts. Throughout this work, they both move in and out of the coach and coachee roles based on their experience and level of expertise with their coaching focus.
For these types of partnerships, being grounded in the same values, building trust, and asking effective questions are just a few of the characteristics that make coaching relationships strong. School leaders voluntarily participate; it’s not a district requirement or expectation. At its core are educators who are committed to their partnership to achieve their goals and grow professionally.