This guest blog is by Russell Irving, Deputy Head of Post-19 at BeyondAutism. Russell has been working with young people with autism for over ten years, developing from TA and tutor to Deputy Head across a range of providers. Here, Russell speaks about his experience with the Natspec coaching service.
Coaching may not be something everyone has experienced, though maybe that’s exactly why it might be invaluable for you.
The Natspec coaching service has been a very positive experience for me over the past academic year. Overall I had 8 sessions over a 6 month period with a few weeks between each. Going into the coaching sessions I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as it wasn’t something I had done before. However I soon found that in some ways that was in fact more beneficial to getting the most out of the sessions.
At the outset we discussed what my goals might be for the sessions as a whole which helped me reflect on areas of growth. As the sessions developed and the ebb and flow of work shifted my focus, the sessions moved with that which was incredibly helpful.
Reflecting now on my sessions I can see how my way of thinking about certain problems and solutions has adapted as I’ve gained understanding of different lenses through which to view them. My coach had a wealth of knowledge, experience and of models, theories and approaches which have been utilised to great success which we then applied to the situations that arose for me. The spacing of the sessions also gave me space to think and reflect and apply what we discussed and to see the results of the application. For me this rhythm helped me really have time to process each session and as a result I now feel that the areas of focus we went into have become more an everyday part of my working practice.
Before I started the sessions while I thought I would benefit from them I didn’t know what I didn’t know. The sessions as a whole gave me a safe time and space to actively reflect through discussion and tease things apart and look at not just the what but the why and the how of scenarios I was facing. It was empowering to challenge my beliefs and attitudes towards certain issues and reframe them with the benefit of my coach’s insight. What felt invaluable was having someone to talk with who had the benefit of a wealth of knowledge of different models and approaches to draw on that I maybe wouldn’t otherwise have encountered myself. He was able to distill these ideas down to their essence and show me how it might apply to my situation while giving me the space to explore them for myself. One example involved looking at a task that I needed the staff team to complete as part of a new system. We looked at this through the lense of a model of motivation and skill, helping me identify why motivations may differ and who may need what type of support to complete the task. This also helped me identify staff who I could empower to help achieve the end goal.
Above all else, I’ve gained a different perspective on my day to day work and those around me and how better to help us support the students. The ideas and reflections I gained from the sessions will stay with me. Rounding off the sessions at the end of the academic year brought it all together as I reflected back on my goals at the outset. Although I’d not kept a meticulous track of my goals through the year, I was confidently able to say that I had in fact overcome many of the challenges or felt more confident in tackling them following coaching. I gained a great deal from the Natspec coaching service and hope that others experience the same professional growth that I gained from the experience.
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