Principal Coaching: Why It Works
“Being a principal can feel like an island. And no leader should feel alone right now,” reflects Mary Weston, a former principal and New Leaders principal coach. No doubt, school leaders have been stretched thin as we move into the soon-to-be third year of the pandemic. At New Leaders, we invest in education leaders. Our new virtual coaching services are here to support you, right now, in this moment and the next.
Every day, we hear from education leaders across the country, and they tell us they want the same things they wanted before the pandemic ever happened. They want the opportunity to grow their leadership. Deepen their impact in their school communities. Create school cultures that are free from bias and limitation. And prioritize the success of all students.
We know individualized, on-the-job coaching works for experienced and novice leaders alike. It is relevant, timely, and essential for your growth. We spoke with four of our New Leaders leadership coaches—all former school and district leaders—to unpack the value of one-on-one virtual coaching. We also explored the ways in which New Leaders can support individual principals and assistant principals, like you, as you lead your teams through this turbulent year.
Impactful. Empowering. Evolving.
“There are tons of opportunities to hear over and over again how bad things are, but in coaching, you have the opportunity to be pushed beyond the barriers you perceive are there,” Weston observes. In her work with principals in Tennessee, she grounds the coaching conversation first in their well-being—Did you eat lunch today (and not feel guilty about it)? What are you doing for yourself this weekend?—and then pushes their thinking on the deeper issues:
- Looking at student data and unpacking the story behind the numbers
- Examining student work as a leverage point to drive instructional change
- Identifying the strengths of team members to scale best practices throughout the school
- Honing in on personal leadership skills that get results for all students
“New Leaders programming is tailored to our communities, to our schools, and to our students.”
Director of Innovation, Edgecombe County Public Schools
Inquiry. Barriers. Transformation.
“I coach principals on the thing that is preventing them from being an optimal leader,” notes Dr. Chauna Wiggins. “We work on goals and action plans, but until we can excavate the barrier to your leadership, we can’t really get to the goal.” In her coaching conversations with leaders in North Carolina, she makes room to transform mindsets and beliefs and then identify how to move forward with actions that benefit students and the whole school community. Her coaching support centers on:
- Transforming beliefs and mindsets that interfere with achieving goals
- Deepening self-reflection to advance equity-focused personal leadership
- Strengthening instructional leadership to drive change in classroom practices
- Disrupting inequitable practices and creating new systems that support all students
Reflective. Personalized. Trusting.
“From the coachee perspective, coaching doesn’t feel like I’m adding something to their plates. It feels like I’m supporting them with what they’re already doing,” offers Janelle Styons. Styons emphasizes two immediate needs: the first, to support principals in navigating the pressures of the world right now, and the second, to hold principals to what they know about good teaching and learning so they can keep their students at the core of their decision making. In her virtual coaching sessions, principals in Tennessee can name what they need and zero in on:
- Leading effective instructional leadership team (ILT) meetings
- Using student data to advance equitable instructional practices
- Implementing a rigorous curriculum despite pressure to lower expectations
- Shifting teacher mindsets and raising expectations for children to achieve at high levels
“New Leaders provides the best professional development—hands down.”
Principal, New Leaders Participant
Therapeutic. Reflective. Growth-inducing.
“Having that trusted safe space where you can present a problem of practice and get immediate feedback from someone who is invested in your growth as a leader, that is the biggest benefit of coaching,” explains Courtney Torres. Torres, who coaches school leaders in California, helps them to drive toward solutions. Amid teacher shortages, labor strikes, and potential school closures, Torres encourages principals to tap into what is already inside of them and apply their expertise to what is right now and what matters most:
- Prioritizing instruction and honing instructional leadership practices
- Creating systems to provide consistent observation and feedback to teachers
- Building the capacity of other leaders in the school to leverage distributed leadership
- Planning for the immediate crisis and for the rest of the school year
Be Seen. Heard. Valued.
We know great school principals build great schools. And we know you are not meant to do that on your own. The isolation, alone, is leading to increased risks for burnout. Effective leaders work to bring out the best in everyone on your team and in your school community. Leadership coaching allows you to do the same for YOU.
“Right now, school leaders really want to feel seen, heard, and valued,” adds Weston. Whatever challenges you are facing, New Leaders stands with you—championing investments in school leadership and offering a helping hand. Our leadership coaches are ready to support you. Start your coaching journey today.