Lessons Learned from Coaching

You can often change your circumstances by changing your attitude.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

I have been writing about coaching for a few days. I have been thinking a lot about the skill of coaching. Both for the coach and the person being coached.

One thing I learned about my personality many years ago as a young exuberant teacher, when I believe in something I can become quite passionate about it. One such learning experience happened when I was a Reading Recovery teacher. I was so excited about all that I was learning about literacy and the impact that it was having on students. I vividly remember chatting with a 1st grade teacher before school started one day and sharing some new information I had just learned the night before at monthly training about guided reading. When I finally slowed down long enough to take a breath, the classroom teacher looked up from what she was doing at her desk, (that should have been a clue that she wasn’t interested. She wasn’t even looking at while I was speaking.), and said, guided reading is your baby, not mine and went on with what she was doing at her desk. That was a humbling moment but it was also a moment emblazoned into my memory as a reminder to be careful about my level of passion and exuberance about things I am learning or interested in.

I am sure we all have those moments where a difficult situation left a bruise on our ego. I am just crazy enough to share mine. Take a moment and see if any of those times come rushing back and reflect on what your takeaway was from that situation. So how does all this tie into coaching you ask? That specific experience taught me about finesse and the importance of guiding a situation instead of pushing. Asking a guiding question is a much better technique than stating what you should do! In reflection, I believe that classroom teacher interpreted my message as you should be teaching guided reading. Which in reality I am sure that was my message, but I certainly could have gone about it in a much softer and gentler manner.

Attitude is everything in the coaching arena. During my coaching days in district schools, I was often in situations where the person I was assigned to coach was not interested or onboard. How do you break through in situations like that and show the recipient that you mean no harm and have value? I found it interesting, the people that embraced being coached and actually wanted it, were able to change their circumstances because of their positive attitude. I was able to sit back and watch them grow in their expertise as a teacher because they actually wanted to learn and grow. My job as the coach was to be another pair of eyes and ears and to guide the process incrementally. Not so much by what I thought they should do, but more through their own reflection about what they were observing about student learning, the data and their own teaching practices. Through that reflection process was the door that opened to a new level of learning, growing and understanding for the teacher. Those moments in the coaching process are so exciting and fun!

When I first started teaching the only open position was a half time Title I job. For the first 15 years of my career I was fortunate to be able to spend most of my time in other people’s classrooms working with small groups of children. The huge benefit to this was I was able to observe many master teachers and learn from their expertise in real time. Unfortunately, I also observed many negative situations and learned not to replicate that. As one teacher I coached stated, I love working with you because you have an arsenal of ideas. I attribute my arsenal to all the years I spent teaching in other people’s classrooms. What a gift that was.

Being a coach is that exciting opportunity to see the potential in someone that they often do not see in themselves. The coach must gently guide and nudge them to the next level of learning. The job of the coach is to empower the person, to do as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You MUST DO the thing you THINK you cannot do.” With the support of the coach, they will often be able to accomplish more than they imagined they could do on their own.

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Information coming soon about the FREE Learning For Life Summit Event that is taking place February 24 & 25!

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

Frederick Douglass

The joy is in the journey!

Blessings and Peace,,

Mary

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