What are the Roles of a Coach, Mentor, and Supervisor?

A coach talks with a teacher.

In the world of school leadership, there’s a dance we do. It’s the dance along the continuum of supervising, mentoring, and coaching. This is a good thing. With our ability to shift our dance moves from one of these to another, we serve our teachers, right where they are. Sometimes, we blend these roles, or move in and out of them in one short conversation. But, the purpose, message, and sound of each are different. Let’s take a closer look:

What is coaching?

Coaching is a supportive relationship in which the coach serves as a thinking partner to the coachee. Through powerful questioning, and a focus on the client’s skills & knowledge, the coach guides the coachee to solution-oriented and action-driven outcomes.

When to use:

  • To debrief or plan a lesson or situation
  • To process a dilemma
  • To set goals

Key elements:

  • Strengths based
  • Open-ended questioning generates thinking
  • Allows for assessment of current reality
  • Options are generated by the coachee and sometimes, the coach
  • Future and action oriented

Sounds like:

  • What went well?
  • What do you want?
  • What is next?

Gain other strategies on how to best coach your teachers with our Leadership Coaching sessions!

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a supportive and advising relationship, often between two people who are in the same career field. The experienced mentor trains, teaches, and advises the less experienced mentee.

When to use:

  • To learn and tweak skills
  • To observe methods & actions
  • To get advice
  • To gain knowledge
  • To assist in goal setting
  • To hear feedback

Key elements:

  • Mentor is experienced & knowledgeable in the field
  • Advice is sought by mentee
  • Answers, guidance, wisdom, and support are given by mentor

Sounds like:

  • Let me share with you the process I used to develop my record keeping system
  • In that situation, I would __________
  • Here is a tool I used to organize my student data

What is supervising?

Supervising is a relationship between a boss and his/her employee. The boss may direct the actions of the employee based on their skills and areas of improvement and the alignment of those skills/improvement areas with the organization’s vision, mission, and goals.

When to use:

  • To ensure organizational goals are met
  • To ensure growth in individual performance
  • To evaluate performance
  • To set goals
  • To ensure accountability

Key elements:

  • Most often is a supervisor to subordinate relationship
  • Supervisor is concerned about the organization’s goals and the individual’s performance as it relates to those goals
  • Supervisor gives instructions and directions
  • Employee acts upon directives, which drives results of their evaluation
  • To ensure accountability

Sounds like:

  • Here is my feedback on your observation
  • Make sure you are making four parent contacts per week, per our communication plan
  • I expect to see your lessons plans in our shared folder by Friday afternoon each week

All in all, it certainly takes some skill and practice to perfect these “dance moves!” But being aware of them and their differences is a good first step. And, ultimately, your teachers benefit.

Learn more about how to transition between these roles with our Leadership Coaching sessions!

Anna Warren is the Associate Director of Leadership Initiatives here at Region 13.

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