Connected Coaching Is…

Haiku_Deck_Slide_1

As the final days of our course approaches, I wanted to take some time to reflect on my Connected Coaching learning experience. We are finalizing our group projects (the creation of Connected Coaching Toolkits) and having the time to revisit concepts has made me realize how much I have learned as a Connected Coach.

I have often been asked, “What is Connected Coaching?” So the Haiku Deck slides you see below is a brief visual response to that question. The remainder of my post will expand on the concept introduced in the slides.

Haiku_Deck_Slide_2_Trust

If there is one key take away from this course, it is the reminder of how important trust is in our work as educators. Time and time again, I was reminded of this in both my own reflections and those of my co-learners. As Connected Coaches, we help educators to connect with one another both in synchronous and asynchronous formats. We foster a learning community by what we do and say, all the while, helping others to build collegial relationships with one another.

Haiku_Deck_SLide_3_Learner

One of the biggest stereotypes of coaching is the notion that coaches “fix”, a theme I have explored previously. Connected Coaching bucks this stereotype because it is about starting where the individual is at. As the coach, I am a co-learner and explorer along with my coachee. As connected coaches, we start to do this by being seekers of stories and facilitators of the Appreciative Inquiry model.

Haiku_Deck_Slide_4_Mindful

An educator’s daily work flies by at a hectic pace, which further drives home the need for mindfulness in our work. Connected Coaches must be present and listen deeply as stories are shared. We embrace not having to be the “expert” and refrain from telling and/or judging. As a Connected Coach, it is so important that I am fully aware of my own assumptions and perceptions, as well as how they influence my responses and actions.

Haiku_Deck_Slide_5_Paths

As someone who truly wants to support educators, this was perhaps one of the easiest areas for me to understand, but much harder to put into practice. As educators, we have often been trained to have the “correct answers”. I now see coaching as a journey and have let go of this need to have all the answers. This is because Connected Coaches help educators to uncover their strengths. This is key for individuals to reach their goals and new opportunities. We uncover strengths and opportunities by asking powerful questions, offering tools and support when needed, and leveraging technology in meaningful ways. We relish playing with ideas and thereby encourage, engage in, and support other educators in their own experimentation.

Haiku_Deck_Slide_6_Elevating

Educators are fantastic at constantly giving to their students and communities and less so to themselves. We can invest in educators by providing them with the environment, time, and tools to reflect, aspire and learn. When we invest in educators, we create vibrant and innovative learning spaces for our school communities.

Embracing the Connected Coaching mindset, utilizing our path markers and offering the most effective means of support is no easy task, but in doing so, we are able to help educators connect as a community of learners. As these connections grow over time, so will individuals, who will be inspired to act within their own communities. At its core, Connected Coaching is truly all about elevating educators and their students.

Haiku_Deck_Slide_7_Thanks

Special thanks to all my PLP co-learners and our instructor, Lani Ritter Hall, who have provided me with such rich discussions and experiences. These new insights will continue to stay with me in my own evolution as a Connected Coach.

 

 

 

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?

How Do You Build Trust in an Online Community?

Currently I am taking a graduate course on Connected Coaching from Powerful Learning Practice. In the past year I have been exploring my general interest in coaching. I also have an interest in better understanding how we develop cultures of learning and risk taking in our schools. I do believe that engaging in the coaching process can support the continuous learning and reflection of teachers, staff and administrators alike. This commitment to continuous learning and reflection of practices are essential components to creating change in our profession.

From now through December, I will periodically post about my learning and reflections on my Connected Coaching experiences.   

Creating the environment to build relationships

We are about to embark on week four, but I have been really mulling over this idea of building trust, one of the first topics we explored in the course. My head is swimming with thoughts and ideas, some of which have yet to fully form, so this topic is clearly a work in progress. As I reflect upon our time spent on that concept, I start with the question of: how does one structure the online environment so that trust forms between members?

When I think back to the first week, while the topic was an introduction to trust building, we actually didn’t spend time talking about specific strategies (though that perhaps inadvertently came out in discussions). In fact, the whole time was spent in giving us space and time to share, getting to know one another, and engage in discussions around our stories about learning or coaching. Even in the second week, while the topic of trust was not the explicit focus, this idea was really extended into having us share our values and beliefs about coaching. In essence, we were really sharing values and beliefs that were important to us as individuals, an activity that required a little more risk taking as we revealed a bit more of whom we were as individuals. At the same time, we were building community as we discussed these values and how they resonated with us relative to coaching.

In the third week, our own values were used as a starting point to talk about coaching dispositions. Building on the values we identified allowed us to create our own models of understanding of the coaching content. By valuing our experiences, our instructor was modeling trust. I should add that this was further emphasized in how discussion questions were reframed back to us, asking for further reflection upon past experiences and to share these stories. In essence, we were being trusted to be sources of expertise.

Thoughtful Technology Use

I am starting to see first-hand that as a facilitator in online spaces, one must be just as reflective about the tech tools used to carry out these activities. This is because the use of a variety of tools is important for engagement. Also, given individuals’ varying experiences with technology, ease of use of these tools is critical. A tool that is difficult to use decreases accessibility and the means for the group to build on their work.

Perhaps most importantly, technology cannot be used for the sake of doing so.  I can see a clear purpose for why we are using the tools we do. For example, one of our assignments included having to compare ISTE and IAC coaching standards with the Connected Coaching standards, as well as further insights. We were asked to share these ideas on Voxopop. (For those not familiar, Voxopop is like a message board, but all done through recorded voice messages.) I’m sure I could have done this activity in a simple comparison chart and posted it, but the act of being able to speak to and hear from my co-learners around the world really focused my thinking and led to some unexpected insights. Tech tools are not just about engaging the individual, but must absolutely be about deeper learning.

My take away thoughts on building the foundations for trust in online spaces:

  • Building trust means giving space for it to happen.
  • As a facilitator, a balance is required between the need for structured activities (so individuals feel safe to share and discussions remain on the learning at hand) and flexibility to let individuals express themselves.
  • Identifying the pre-existing values and beliefs of a group is critical to both building trust and identifying a path forward for one’s work together.
  • Valuing and building upon the experiences and voices of others emphasizes trust in the individual and models trust for the group as a whole.
  • In online spaces, take the time to ensure you have selected tools that are engaging, accessible and promote deeper learning. All three qualities will be needed to further entrench group trust.

What have I missed? What other ideas or insights do you have on building trust in online spaces?