Reflections of a Connected Coach

As the weeks rapidly draw to a close and my mind still swimming with putting all that we have learned into practice, I reflect on several of the Connected Coaching Standards:

  • Persevere in exploring ideas and concepts, rethinking, revising, and continual repacking and unpacking as they build upon and assist in uncovering strengths of those they coach.
  • Engage in discussions on difficult or messy topics from an appreciative inquiry perspective to increase confidence and self-efficacy.
  • Use activities to create a connection to the content and context, to oneself, and to those who are part of the learning community at school and online.
  • Collectively review and analyze with an open mind and without judgment all and many perspectives on coaching.

While I am still learning and reflecting how I can translate these new ideas into my various contexts, there are some definite themes that have stuck with me to date.

The Importance of Community in Coaching

Prior to taking this course, I often thought of coaching as more of a one-to-one activity. When I think about how much I have grown in my learning and capacity as a coach, it strikes me that the growth was only possible by being a part of a larger community. In this online community, I met a wonderful group of passionate, interesting and encouraging group of educational leaders. We were physically located in all parts of the world, serving students (children and adults alike) in varied ways through our professional roles and each one of us from such diverse personal backgrounds. I felt welcomed and encouraged to share my ideas by all. There was consistent and thoughtful application of tools used by our facilitator that enhanced our discussions. Over time, I found myself eagerly looking forward to our weekly synchronous chats, both to learn something new and hear what was going on in the worlds of my fellow co-learners.

Connected Coaching does not provide one linear answer. I didn’t mind the “messiness” of our learning process. The beauty of a coaching community is that we learned through modeling from our instructor and benefited from the unique questions and ideas that each of us brought to our space. I gained an appreciation of other perspectives I had not yet thought of and more questions to challenge my thinking. We interchanged roles continuously from coach/coachee in our interactions and as a result, our learning has been deep and rich.

Having been a school administrator, I have often wondered throughout this course about the value of providing educators with either the option of online learning communities to support face to face coaching or access to an online space for coaching, if none was available. What might happen if all educators had access to such supportive online communities? How could we transform experiences for our students when consistently engaged in robust coaching discussions?

Coaching is About Others AND an Awareness of Self

Unfortunately, education is not a profession immune from judgment. What if we were able to suspend judgment (both conscious and unconscious)–what might we be able to accomplish together?

A large part of the community feel established in our course space was because I did not feel I would be judged by my co-learners. As a coach, I have learned to become even more mindful of the role assumptions and judgments play in how they filter and influence perceptions, and our resulting interactions with others. I have also learned that asking powerful questions can bring these assumptions to the surface so that we can grow and learn as opposed to maintaining status quo. Most importantly, I embrace being fully aware of others, as well as my own thinking and emotions in coaching. Being self-aware allows me to be present in those interactions, as well as mindful of my resulting inquiries and actions as a coach.

Coaching Redefined

Another theme I have been thinking about is that we often associate coaching with the negative. Too often, in educational environments we “coach” when something is wrong or when we want individuals to buy-in with a certain idea/initiative. I myself have been guilty of this at times as an educator. Having seen and experienced the power of a coaching community, I’d like to see us as educators reframe coaching. Coaching should be about strengths, exploration, curiosity and refining -the natural process of learning and growing as an educator.

An online community is the part that makes this learning accessible for busy educators. I envision these online coaching spaces as almost a 24-7 online support center. I should be clear that these are not spaces where one logs in and would expect to walk away with immediate answers (though that may happen on occasion). These are spaces where we dare to ask questions, and share the challenges that preceded them. We can expect to receive support through careful listening, paraphrasing and inquiring questions. We will also experience and use various tools that will help us to refine our thoughts, stimulate thinking and give us the push we need to find the answer that is going to work best for our context. Connected Coaching is not about having the “right” answer. Connected Coaches provide opportunities and  tools, as well as create an environment for individuals to reflect and devise their own pathways for possible solutions.

How can we shift the stereotype of coaching from deficit to strength-based? How do you see Connected Coaches supporting your work and schools?

Risk Taking as Acts of Trust

Trust by Ibrahim lujaz (CC BY)

Trust by Ibrahim lujaz (CC BY)

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am currently completing course work on Connected Coaching. Our recent conversations have been around building trust in online spaces and a colleague shared an interesting TED video by Amanda Palmer on The Art of Asking. While her talk is framed in the context of her work as a musician, one theme in particular stuck with me that seems very relevant in education circles, taking risks and trust.

In the TED video, Amanda notes that what some consider risks on her part, she views as acts of trust. As I thought about this point in the context of education, risk taking and trust work in parallel. There is the trust that we must have in others in our community. I am sure we have all experienced environments in our lives where our willingness to step beyond our comfort zone was made much easier because of a high level of trust in that setting. There is also the experience in which one could be a part of a highly functioning community and not engage in any risk taking at all. It seems then, that risk taking is also rooted in the act of trusting in one’s self.

Can our schools and communities benefit from thinking of risk taking as acts of trust? I have only begun to scratch the surface, so I am left wondering:

  • In schools, what would it take to shift our perspective of risking taking to acts of trust?
  • How can this shift allow us to create deeper relationships and more creative, inclusive, and energizing learning/teaching spaces?
  • What do our schools look, sound and feel like when we there is a high degree of trust and risk taking?

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts and stories.