Animas Head of Social Impact Emma Koubayssi and the rest of the social impact team welcomed and onboarded another group of eager volunteer coaches for the onboarding session of the second wave of the Creating Space programme at the end of last month.
As a new member of the Animas team focused on writing and reporting, I was invited to attend this session to become better acquainted with the social impact arm, specifically the Creating Space initiative.
I initially wondered why the onboarding session was set to last two hours, but I quickly realised why Emma and her team structured it this way.
The onboarding session was unlike any other type of introductory volunteer orientation that I’ve ever experienced. Rather than throwing coaches straight into the deep end, they were given the opportunity to connect with one another, bond as a group, and simulate realistic teacher-coach scenarios in order to work to their fullest potential
At the start of the virtual session, I noticed that the majority of the coaches were eager to learn more about the programme and there was a real keen desire to get involved in the activities. I felt a lot of energy in the room, an excitement for what lies ahead.
One of our Animas social impact volunteers, Ore Leontas a personal growth coach, creative and game designer, developed a playful icebreaker game to open the session with. Participants were requested to prepare any question they liked to ask another member of the group in order to encourage them to get to know one another better. As more and more questions were asked, I could really tell that the coaches were starting to bond as they interacted with this like-minded community.
Despite the fact that I was only observing the session, and not actually taking part, I felt myself really warming to the coaches, as if I were also volunteering for this fascinating initiative.
After the engaging icebreaker, there was a palpable sense of trust and camaraderie among the volunteer coaches throughout the room.
Then Dr. Keith Watson, an Animas coach and educator with over 30 years of experience in the education field provided the coaches with a big picture overview of what might be going on with teachers during this time of year, by providing insights into teachers’ mindsets. He shared two views around Creating Space with the group: one from a teacher’s perspective and one from a coach’s.
I feel that this is one of the key things that distinguishes the Creating Space onboarding session from the typical orientation session – giving participants a glimpse into what the teachers are experiencing as well as the impact of the first wave of the programme. This is really beneficial in helping the coaches to evaluate what they can do as a coach to support educators during this challenging period.
The volunteer coaches were divided into breakout groups and presented case studies based on the real-life experiences of teachers. The activity required them to mind map as a team the best coaching approach they can utilise for these scenarios. When rejoining the space, it was clear that there had been lots of thought, reflection and deep discussion in the breakout rooms and there was a great energy to the space.
One particular quote that stood out for me, and that I could see really resonated with the group was from Dr. Watson as he thanked the participants for volunteering for this programme highlighting how many people will benefit from it:
This quote really enabled the scope of the project to land with me. In helping one person we can see the ripple effect of that coaching work spread much further than just the coachee. I also recognised just how much value and experience Dr. Watson brought to the space, and can clearly see why the real benefits of having him on board sharing his insights and expertise.
Tricia Jones, a coach from Wave 1, was also invited to speak during the onboarding session to share her reflections and tips on coaching teachers. This was really useful in providing some insight into what you might experience as a new volunteer on the programme. Another example of the detailed thought that went into putting together this onboarding session and how we might best share the experience of joining the programme, answer the key questions and put volunteer coaches at ease while building excitement.
Finally, to bring what was a truly galvanising and energising session to a close the participants were encouraged to ask any questions they had about Creating Space during the Q&A forum.
Some really intriguing and thought-provoking questions about the programme were thrown to the team. For example, someone inquired about how Animas matches teachers and coaches, which was something that I myself had been wondering about.
Emma provided clarity around their unique approach to the matching process, sharing that:
“One of the most important factors in matching is the chemistry between a coach and a coachee, therefore the team and I undertook what I call ‘intuitive matching,’ which required us to spend a dedicated amount of time reviewing profiles, audio and videos from volunteer coaches and teachers to get a sense of who might “match” well with who. This was underpinned with matching based on interest areas, for example if we had a teacher looking for career coaching or confidence building we’d search for our coaches who specialise in those areas. We also reviewed if our coaches had additional qualifications within wellbeing and mental health or if they had previous experience supporting people in highly stressful environments and what teachers might need that level of support, as well as matching based on availability and the level of experience required to support on a coachee’s initial presenting issues.”
She also mentioned that for wave 2, the team is considering asking teachers if they have any specific coach preferences. For instance, if they prefer a coach of the same gender.
As the session came to a close, I came to the realisation why the social impact team had organised the 2-hour onboarding session as it is — to provide a space for coaches to gain an in-depth understanding of the programme’s purpose by allowing them to interact with one another, recognise possible pain points during the span of the programme, and explore key project milestones together.
I can not just see, but feel where the social impact team has gone above and beyond to engage with the participants on a more personal level moving past small talk, which I feel has enabled them to effectively prepare for the programme and take specific positive actions to make sure it rolls out as smoothly as possible.
You will likely have heard many times that some teachers touch our lives forever. And so what better way to give back to them during this difficult time than by providing support through free coaching sessions. It’s a brilliant project, and this onboarding session was a great introduction to it.
I am really looking forward to seeing how this initiative develops.
Creating Space is Animas’ first in-house social impact programme, with the goal of improving the well-being and mental health of teachers across the UK. It is also said to be the first programme to provide a free coaching service to enhance teacher well-being across the