Strong coaches make good teams
The Sector > Workforce > Leadership > Strong coaches make good teams: Gowrie Coach Dr Rachel Pollitt’s story

Strong coaches make good teams: Gowrie Coach Dr Rachel Pollitt’s story

by Freya Lucas

May 15, 2024

Many in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector wonder about what other opportunities are available for passionate leaders, beyond working as the leader or manager of a service, or working as an area manager. 


Recently Gowrie Victoria Coach Dr. Rachel Pollitt shared some information about her career trajectory, her experience of being an Apiary Fellow, and how coaching supports ECEC professionals at every level to grow and thrive. 


Dr. Pollitt is an expert in children’s play-based numerical understanding and completed her PhD in this field in 2018. Passionate about research in action, and practical ways to advance early childhood theory in practice, she became a Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne’s REEaCh Centre and the EDGE Study, while also coaching for Gowrie Victoria. 


The journey to coaching 


Initially, Dr Pollitt was drawn to be a Gowrie Coach because she believes “in people, their capacity to fulfil their potential, and significantly impact the lives of colleagues, children, families, and communities.”


The aspect of coaching which appeals to her the most is working alongside early childhood professionals, building trusting relationships, diving into the core of their aspirations and goals, facilitating conversations and asking powerful questions to promote inquiry and success. 


“One of the most joyous moments as a coach is celebrating successes along the way, observing tangible change, listening to brilliant ideas and exploding light bulb moments,” she said. 


“We naturally grow and develop through life experiences, how we understand and interpret these experiences, and develop new knowledge can inform our professional practices. Life-long learning is real and at times can be challenging. Unpacking challenges or barriers to growth is profoundly rewarding – and coaching is the key,” she said. 


“The joy of receiving coaching is knowing that it is confidential, your coach will create a safe space and facilitate a conversation which supports you to deeply engage in the coaching process. Coaching provides educators with agency and a framework to promote professional growth. Typically, we already have the answers within us – sometimes we just need a space, a trusting relationship with a coach, an evidence-based framework we can lean on and an open mind.”


Outcomes from working with a coach


One of the primary aspects of working with a coach such as Dr. Pollitt, either on an individual or service level, is identifying goals and ‘wrestling’ with challenges. 


A good coach can support individuals or services to recognise habits, and reflect on self-knowledge and awareness.


When participating in coaching, those on the receiving end are “being brave, identifying goals, making small yet purposeful changes toward achieving their goal and being tenacious,” she explained. 


“Coaching over time also speaks to accountability and I am privileged to have worked alongside the Corangamite team for over a year.”


Working in Corangamite


Reflecting on her experience as a Gowrie coach in Corangamite, Dr. Pollitt said the team are passionate, providing ECEC for vulnerable children and families, some in isolated and remote areas, and some running mobile programs to meet the needs of their farming communities.


Focus areas of her coaching experience have included developing and refining their Quality Improvement Plan (QIP); Leadership and coaching; Trauma Informed Practice; and growing connections with families, community, and First Nations peoples. 


“It is exciting to see the cohort’s continued growth, their community of practice and evolving connections across the Shire,” she said. 


Sharing professional knowledge 


In 2023 Dr Pollitt presented at the ECA Conference along with two others, discussing a coaching approach to leadership. 


Takeaways for attendees were the impact, success, and embeddedness of Gowrie’s GROWTH framework in action, a coaching way of being, and how cultures of coaching can promote strengths and connection across teams. 


“We discussed modelling a coaching way of being, and how it lifts the team, and by proxy the children they work with,” she explained. 


As well as sharing professional knowledge through conference platforms, Dr Pollitt is a member of the Apiary Fellowship, which convenes three times throughout the year to explore how systems leadership can support innovation and a sustained impact on shaping the future of early learning. 


“How we show up for each other, collaborate, learn, and contribute to the ‘whole’ was a key focus for me, as well as systems change theory,” she said. 


“This has been an amazing experience so far, and a great privilege to take part in this journey with such extraordinary people. We have engaged in deep thinking, learning and creative critical reflection.”


Dr Pollitt said she is “so grateful for the honesty and reciprocity of the Fellows.” 


“I hope to be part of something greater than the sum of myself when advocating for Nationwide early childhood reforms, policy change, and remuneration for the profession.”


To learn more about Gowrie Victoria’s tailored coaching support for early childhood services through the School Readiness Funding program click here


For the original coverage of this story please see here

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