Tr. Nancy (Head Teacher-Blessed Heart)-right, Tr. Maxwel- center, Tr. Esther (Deputy Head teacher) left. (Tr. Esther had observed Tr Maxwell in class and were having a coaching conversation, Tr. Nancy was listening in on the coaching conversation to provide feedback to Esther).

“This Ustadi program cannot work in this school.” Tr. Esther Wanyama (Deputy Head Teacher) of Blessed Heart told me during my first coaching visit at their school as Tr. Nancy (Head Teacher) who was besides her nodded in agreement. “Tell me more.” I said as we all took our seats. For teachers at Blessed Heart, collaboration was a foreign concept. Teachers worked independently and waited to receive directives from their school leader. This challenge is not unique to Blessed Heart, other partner schools have also struggled with collaboration and delegation before they joined our training program.

“We have leadership positions but no power at all, we cannot make any decisions at this school, the director does everything and if she has to delegate duties, she does this with teachers who have no leadership positions but are related to her. This has made us to lose respect at the school. Having the other teachers listen to us and make them work as a team, is not possible.”

During my coaching session, we had a discussion with the teachers to brainstorm on how we can make the Ustadi program work at their school. The most important decision was to have a conversation with the school director and discuss the roles and responsibilities of all teachers in the school.Tr. Nancy and Tr. Esther boldly wore their leadership hats and initiated conversations with the school director and teachers separately. The goal of these meetings was to highlight the challenges and propose solutions to improve collaboration, communication and delegation at the school. Nancy and Esther also shared other goals they had for the school, programs they wanted to implement and systems they wanted to introduce. They invited other teachers during these meetings so they can involve the whole team in the decision-making process. They were determined to ensure students are learning and are in a safe and conducive environment that will allow them to thrive. But this was only going to be possible if they started collaborating with all teachers and the administration.

If educators are empowered, they will become leaders who will transform opportunities for the next generation.

Four months into our partnership, the two school leaders were able to unite the staff members at Blessed Heart and they now hold monthly debriefs where they get to share their learnings after attending Ustadi Monthly professional development workshops. The meeting agenda is shared in advance to allow staff to prepare and participate during the meetings. They also conduct classroom observations and support the teachers through coaching. During this season, the school created the first strategic plan for the school. Since its founding, Blessed Heart has never had a strategic plan, this is the first time to have a document that guides their growth which is a big achievement. With this new plan, there in more clarity on what needs to be done so delegation is also beginning to work across the school. The school director began to adopt the concept of collaboration and he is continuing to trust the team with more responsibilities. As a school leader, it is important to embrace the power of the whole team. Leaders know that they can not achieve all goals alone, they must include and empower other to drive change.

In a period of six months, we have been able to coach Blessed Heart and support their learning process. During our partnership with schools, we observe that schools show sustained improvement in school governance, collective leadership, pedagogy, and school culture.

The Ustadi School Leadership Institute is a one-year Leadership Institute exclusively for Head teachers and their Deputies. The program is developed and run in partnership with Global School Leaders. We the provide targeted professional development to improve instructional leadership and student learning outcomes. We know that effective school leadership affects student learning outcomes. The Ustadi program in currently run in Dandora and Laikipia.

Contributor: Samantha Nyabola, Senior Leardership Coach