Recently our school had to close for two days due to the resurgence of COVID cases. This caused panic attacks and PTSD across the staff and student population. Even though the past year taught us well to mask our fear and anxiety, literally and metamorphically, the stress and anxiety reached new levels. This new normal has clearly led to a fragile emotional state. The only hope is that things will be back to normal soon, without realising that these chances are the new normal and things won’t be back to the same as it was before the pandemic.
We are experiencing the new normal, we are not prepared for it as the new normal is dynamic in nature. Change is the only constant in new normal therefore decisions are fluid and unpredictable. A need for an emotional anchor is essential for the sanity and mental wellbeing of staff and students. Coaching and mentoring is a great way to establish emotional resilience and moral support.
Many schools have well established coaching and mentoring programme; I have been fortunate to have worked with one such school. The coaching and mentoring programme is a framework to look after the mental wellbeing of staff and students. There is a difference between coaching and mentoring even though they are applied in conjunction, I will explain it based on my experience with coaching and mentoring and the professional development I did with Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Coaching is more suited for new staff and students to assist them with the expectations of the new environment in a structured manner. The purpose of coaching is to be school-ready within a period of time. It is usually planned and led by the coach who identifies the goal and ways to achieve it. For example, a new student coming into school in the middle of the year is assigned a teacher coach who can guide them to be at par with the rest of the class within a time frame by completing a set of tasks. Similarly, staff who are new to a particular education framework or programme are assigned a coach who guides them to identify areas of improvement and work on them.
Mentoring on the other hand is an ongoing process, where the mentor and the mentee collaborate for the professional or academic growth of the mentee. It is an informal process based on feedback and reflection. For example, every senior student is assigned a mentor who can meet with them on a mutually agreed time to evaluate academic performance and growth. Similarly, a senior leadership team member mentors potential leaders for future roles by assigning them tasks or projects to evaluate their leadership skills.
The coaching and mentoring framework should be applied in each school especially in the current situation. The benefits I have experienced reinforces my confidence in coaching and mentoring as the answer to the challenges of the new normal. Coaching and mentoring will certainly build a human bond outside the digital realm leading to healthy mental wellbeing. Other benefits include establishing trust between colleagues, peers and creating a culture of collaboration. With professional development going completely digital, coaching and mentoring is a great way to share knowledge in person with a person. The most significant benefit is a stress-free approach towards achieving professional or personal goals.
If the new normal compels us to be dynamic, then change management can be nurtured with coaching and mentoring. This will allow participants to discuss multiple perspectives and make quick decisions as well as develop resilience to change. This could open up an entire new diaspora of skills to explore by all stakeholders in education.
In summary, coaching and/or mentoring: either receive or provide.