Revisiting old posts: it all starts with the heart…coaching with Graydin


Coaching with Heart – The Graydin way

So after two weeks of being at my new school I have already had two full days of specialised CPD, participating in coaching training with Graydin thanks to our fabulous Assistant Headteacher, Laura Magew.

What is coaching?

Across the two days of training we all arrived at our own definitions and, for me, coaching is the empowering of others to fulfil their own personal and professional goals by connecting with the heart first, listening actively and asking great questions.

Why is the heart so important?

So the danger with the heart is that coaching can lean towards counselling if the heart is to come into play. However, our emotions are often what prevents clarity and action in meeting certain goals and therefore it is most important to acknowledge these in order to be able to move forward.

That is why coaching with Graydin always starts with the heart. Questions rooted in feelings, desires, dreams, passions, values all enable a coachee to connect with what is important to them and become aware of how in line they currently feel with these.

Questions about emotions and the above can lead to quite emotive moments within the coaching session. There was certainly a lot of emotion expressed in our coaching sessions and, at the end of the day, we were all emotionally drained.

Yet I think this is the part that would have the greatest impact on teacher performance if we were to embed coaching in schools.

This is because, currently, I think connection with the heart is the part we do least well on a day to day basis. Personally I feel that an accountability culture in education has led to the suppression of some truths and if we are to move forward in a healthy and proactive way, it is important that we give time to the expression of emotions and sit with our current states, feeling positive about acknowledging how we feel without fearing judgement. This type of being is something I feel really passionate about – teaching with heart, leading with heart and coaching with heart – and so I felt really inspired by this approach and its possibility.

Imagine the potential if coaching was embedded within a school and staff had that safe space where they could talk about how they are feeling without judgement. From experience I know that just being with an emotional state and acknowledging it and giving it that space then helps a greater sense of clarity with regard to a solution or a goal to emerge, which in turn enables a person to begin to create their plan to move from A to B.

Giving time to this is potentially the greatest thing we can do for our staff.


After the heart come the head questions. Questions that probe obstacles and barriers, different perspectives, options, responsibility and potential. The second stage of coaching focuses the coachee on creating that path to achieving their goal. It is the logical thought process that will help them find a solution or achieve their goal.

Exemplar coaching HEAD questions:

  • What options are available to you?
  • What’s stopping you?
  • What have you tried already?
  • How can you view this differently?
  • What would that look like?


And, finally, enabling people to focus down on steps they are going to take in order to meet their goal and the time frames for meeting those goals with further coaching opportunities to be agreed to check to see whether those goals have been met.

Exemplar coaching STEP questions:

  • What’s the step you are committed to taking?
  • How will you hold yourself accountable?
  • What’s the progress you want to make by taking this step?

During the two days, we also learnt that

  1. Coaching questions focus on the WHAT and the HOW (asking only WHAT and HOW questions is harder to do than you would think).
  2. The coachee should be speaking for 80% of the time.
  3. Active listening is a skill that needs developing. Mirroring words is key.
  4. Coachees arrive at their own solutions. We are definitely not there to offer our own advice…how easy it is to slip into mentoring.

We also spent time on

  1. Self-reflection
  2. Our own fulfilment wheels
  3. And the importance of our own values

What was interesting for me is that there was a real mixture of how we viewed the coaching moving forward. The majority of staff spoke of how they could use coaching to work with students. I am definitely more interested in how coaching can work with staff:

  1. To improve staff wellbeing
  2. With a focus on Teaching and Learning.

I also think our students are so incredible that student to student coaching is a real possibility and feel that our KS5 students could coach our KS4 pupils and our KS4 pupils could coach our KS3 pupils and so forth.

As a group, we are going to meet as part of our carousel sessions and continue the coaching this year in triads which is definitely something I am looking forward to.

Since the coaching session, I have become more aware of how often I coach myself. On the Saturday morning of the coaching, I ended up coaching myself to go – feeling both exhausted and ill beforehand I went through the coaching process to ensure I attended!!

The other thing I have noticed since participating is how easy now it is, during a conversation with a person, to slip into coaching! The trick is to see whether the other person notices 😉

Massive thanks to Laura, Jocelyn (from Graydin who was fabulous) and my school, St George’s (Rome) for this really useful training.


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