A coaching program more effectively sustains and scales up when the district and its schools foster a culture of coaching. But what exactly is a “coaching culture,” and how can district leaders embed this in their everyday environment?
A coaching culture simply means that teachers have had the chance to understand and accept that there are regular reflection, practice, and feedback opportunities in their workforce that are designed only to support them in their individual learning and growth without any evaluative purpose. In other words, coaching culture is about the principle of partnership. The beauty of this coaching partnership lies in developing an environment where teachers feel supported in their growth by one another and by their coach and administrators. In such a setting, there is a focus on continuous learning through inquiry and transparency, rather than performance, judgment, and self-protection. There is regular feedback—up, down, and across the school/district—grounded in a shared commitment to helping each other improve and the shared goal of boosting students’ achievement. Such an environment, fueled first by leaders willing to model vulnerability and take personal responsibility for their shortcomings and missteps, makes teachers feel safe to try new things. Results matter in this setting, but failures and shortcomings are treated as critical opportunities for learning and improving.
Aligned with the messaging of his DLP coach, a principal in a suburban school in Texas stressed the importance of modeling trust and vulnerability. “Doctors have people observe them all the time and give them feedback,” the principal explained. “Well, it’s the same thing here. If we’re not in your classroom giving you feedback, you’re not getting better as a teacher.”
To emphasize to his teachers that they were all partners with a common goal, he offered to role swap and teach lessons while teachers observed him and took notes. “There is something deeply satisfying about watching your boss do your job and then be able to talk to you about the lesson that you put together,” said one teacher. “Asking, ‘I attempted to do this, what could I have done better?’...So it really very much is a partnership.”
This principal’s teaching exercise is an ideal example of modeling vulnerability. “I put myself out there. I was really vulnerable,” the principal admitted.