Our teachers have a powerful effect on our lives. Some of the best teachers that I had when I was a student in the South of England during the 1970s, were the ones who were prepared to interact with me as a real person. Not the spotty teenager that I appeared to be, but the responsible adult that I was to become. When I trained to become a teacher it was because I wanted to be like the teachers who had been good for me. The PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) teacher training course at Sussex University, was experiential, a kind of ‘sink or swim’ strategy where theory was immediately put into practice in the classroom. I wish I had had a coach to support me through the challenges I was experiencing. Not an Instructional coach, I had the Deputy Head and Head of Maths for that, but a Life Coach, whose support would have helped me keep my balance and direction.
When I worked as a coach for teachers in Sweden as part of an EU-funded project, I saw first hand how a coaching approach, refraining from giving advice about how to teach, and asking a few well chosen open-ended questions about focus and attention had a powerful restorative and inspirational effect on the teachers that I was coaching.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all educators had a life and wellness coach?
When the EU funding ran out I knew that I wanted to continue coaching educators as best I could. And the best way was to offer them the experience of being coached by professional coaches who had never been educators. I reached out to the global coach community and asked for volunteers to coach educators for free. Within a short space of time we had a roster of more than twenty professional, certified coaches from America and Europe whose time C4E would offer to educators worldwide via a website.
During 2019 and 2020, the roster expanded to include seventy coaches, and C4E connected over a hundred educators in coaching relationships with coaches. Geographically, most of the coaches were in America and Europe, some were from Asia and Australia. Most of the educators were located in South America, Africa and India as well as parts of Europe and North America. At the end of the coaching experience which lasted for up to four hours of individual coaching, each educator was asked to give feedback or a testimonial. What we received blew our socks off. Again and again their testimonials confirmed that even a few hours of Life and Wellness coaching had a tremendous beneficial effect. Not only were the educators re-energised and clearer about their work, they were also bringing a coaching approach into their classrooms and using open-ended questions with their staff and students.
Challenges and rewards of directing C4E
As founder and director of C4E, my voluntary work included posting on social media, connecting with and interviewing hundreds of educators to offer them the experience of being coached, whilst connecting with and interviewing coaches describing how they could impact educators and thereby improve the education system.
Then I would read profiles and applications to match the educator with the right coach.
Conversing with coaches about the impact they want to have in the world, and being the founder of the platform that makes it possible for them to volunteer makes me feel proud.
Chatting with educators before they receive coaching, easing their fears about being told what to do, judged or criticized by a coach (we don’t) and chatting again after their coaching sessions, talking about their experience and testimonials, gave me a sense of being an awesome change-maker. I was making educators aware of how powerful they are in being the one who makes a difference for their staff and students; and enabling them to become stable, determined, joyful and even more powerful.
However, I soon found the workload exceeded my physical capacity. In my efforts to have a hand in connecting every educator with the right coach I was actually standing in the way of a more rapid global expansion of the service.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if educators could choose and connect with their preferred coach via a website
Partnering with the non-profit i.bmee
C4E needed a new and powerful website that was capable of semi-automating the process of matching educators and coaches.
We needed someone to post on social media about what C4E could offer. We needed to delegate the onboarding meetings with educators and the orientation meetings with coaches and for that we needed more resources and staff.
Up until 2021, C4E had been funded by the small business that I owned. I was about to retire and close the company. What was needed now was a different way of funding and staffing C4E.
One key aspect of partnering with the non-profit i.b.mee. was that C4E would no longer be considered a business. We were not in it for the money. We were in it, as volunteers for the common good, that is embedded in the way we prepare young people for their future.
Another key aspect of partnering with the non-profit ibmee was their decades of research into how the education system could be evolved. They had distilled this research into a small number of foundational principles which could be interpreted and applied locally in appropriate and unique ways.
The i.b.mee. Founder and Executive Director, Dr Meg Hanshaw and I had been in conversation about this idea for many years and we realised that the research could be turned into online training programs where the educators could also receive life and wellness support from C4E coaches.
The partnership agreement was signed at the beginning of 2021. It connects coaches and educators in coaching relationships during training adventures that will bring about an evolutionary change in the education system. We are re-educating educators and giving them the experience of being coached. Educators will then have the opportunity to be certified as a coach in the classroom.
Coaches and educators know that the way we hold and communicate with other people has a powerful effect on their lives.
Our vision is to have a coach in every classroom, potentially thousands of educators who begin their coaching journey reaching out to the roster of hundreds of volunteer professional coaches. I can imagine the conversations that will be had in those coaching relationships in the coming years. I tremble with excitement at the knowledge of the benefits those conversations can bring to educators, staff, students and the education system itself worldwide.
Martin Richards – C4E Director