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?

8 thoughts on “Reflections of a Connected Coach

  1. Dawn, As usual your beautiful writing and clear thought process has given me much to think about and helped me find a path through all the swirling in my head.
    This community we are part of is such a strong foundation for all that we are learning together. The ability to know that there is a group where I can share my honest thoughts and feelings is so inspiring.

    Realizing that as coaches we do not have to have the “right” answer or necessarily any answer at the moment is eye opening for me. I always want to try and fix things for those I am responsible for or responsible to. I am having to learn that it is not about me and my life experiences but totally about the coachee/s. I panic when I don’t think I have the right answer and I need to just relax.

    I do not have any answers for your final two questions but am really interested in answers others may provide.

    Heather

    • Dawn Imada Chan says:

      Hi Heather,
      Thanks for your comments. Your stories and ideas have always pushed my thinking in the course and helped me to clarify my thoughts, so I am happy to hear that I could return the favor. 🙂 Our shared thoughts on the importance of our learning community and the positive experiences we have had is the driving force behind thinking of ways that we can bring this same gift to our colleagues/colearners. For now, I have decided to start small just be being present and open to the needs of those I work alongside with.

      I think for a long time in education, educators have been expected to have the “right answer”. I too have wrestled/struggled with that in learning the coaching process. I love that as coaches we almost have permission to let go so that we can elevate others.

  2. Dawn,
    Such a powerful reflection! Thank you for taking time to articulately and transparently think on Connected Coaching.

    This in particular spoke to me:

    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.

    for I think you’ve captured an important element that sets Connected Coaching apart from other coaching models.

    Really appreciating your questions throughout your post– opening thoughts for so many possibilities. And wondering on your own thoughts on this one:

    How can we shift the stereotype of coaching from deficit to strength-based?

    My best wishes,
    Lani

  3. Dawn Imada Chan says:

    Hi Lani,
    Thanks for reading and your comments. My response to that very question is still very much a work in progress, but what is to follow will explain what I have come up with so far. Moving from deficit to strength based is such a huge mindset shift, not just in education, but in our society. Therefore, as coaches and educators in schools we must work to create the conditions for such a mindset to exist. So what conditions, might you ask? I think it starts with adopting a commitment and mindset to learning no matter where we are at as an educator (and not just when we are struggling).

    It also means then that we must support coaches in their roles in schools/education. In some settings, coaches are held accountable for evaluating other educators which completely confuses the issue. If educators feel that they will be judged during coaching, it is hard to adopt a “learning and risk taking” mindset. We should give coaches permission to do the important work of exploration and finding possibilities. In settings where a learning/risk taking culture is well in place, it is still beneficial to be transparent with school staff as to the role and expectations of the coaches. We cannot forget that each educator comes to us with different experiences. A negative experience with this in a previous setting could influence their perceptions no matter how supportive and open the current setting is.

    Finally, what one of the things i have valued in the Connected Coaching course is coming to a deeper understanding of the values, beliefs and mindset and attitudes of such a coach. I think there may always be skeptics, so the best way we can shift from deficit to strengths based is by modeling the approach and mindset. Although it may not all be our default, I think individuals are drawn to the positive and seeing a coach work in this fashion could be influential in spreading this shift.

    This is where my thinking is thus far. Would you have any to add? Looking forward to learning more from others.

  4. Dawn,
    Reflection can be one of the most valuable tools in your Connected Coaches Toolkit. I put it right up there with Active Listening. I developed both these skills when I took the CC course over two years ago. These skills helped me help the teams I coached in PLP and at the same time become a better school leader and teacher.

    I find myself listening more intently. It was hard for me to accept not having the right answer while at the same time rewarding as I asked the questions to get the team to develop the right answer. As my listening and questioning skills got better, my students and peers reaped the benefits as well.

    When you get to work with your teams they become your children. Their problems are your problems. Their success are your success. Enjoy the celebration of those successes. Be a proud Connected Coach as your teams build on their small success and overcome their setbacks. You are helping build change agents who will change the face of education one school at a time.

    Congratulations on completing the course and good luck!

    Gene Carboni

    • Dawn Imada Chan says:

      Hi Gene,

      Thank you for connecting and more importantly for your inspiring and supportive words! It’s been an interesting journey as an evolving coach. I found myself nodding my head to many of your points. I’ve always valued relationships and I feel like I am a better partner/colleague/team member/contributor. I do find myself listening more deeply, which has been a real gift. I slow down much more, enjoy my time with others (even in the challenging moments) and connect more with others because of it. I also consider it a huge growth for me to be able to “let go”. Its been a real joy for me to see the teams I work with thrive because of it. It is wonderful to hear how your Connected Coaching experience has influenced your work. I hope the same for mine and am really looking forward to the possibilities because of my new learning.

      You mentioned reflection being an essential part of your coaching. What strategies/tools have you found most effective in your context? We have been learning a lot in the course and am curious as to what you have found works best. Many thanks again for taking the time to write!

  5. Dawn,
    Your thought around shifting the stereotype, of moving to a strength base mindset resonate deeply with me– alot. A learning stance, modeling, and roles for coaching that exclude any evaluation would be a big step in moving this commitment forward.
    You mentioned educators and I’m wondering if you are intentionally being inclusive with that as it seems to me that leaders can play a huge role in this shift too?
    So grateful for this conversation,
    Lani

    • Dawn Imada Chan says:

      Hi Lani,

      Thank you for continuing the conversation-I am grateful to have the opportunity to think “out loud” with you.

      Yes, I intentionally used educators because I do believe leaders whether identified formally or not, play such a critical role. To what I responded to above, I do see traditionally identified leaders (school and district based) as key contributors in setting the tone for a learning culture and supporting coaches in non-evaluative roles. This said, contributing to a learning culture and modeling best coaching practices can come from all levels and parts of a school environment. All educators can be leaders and the more we believe this ourselves and approach our work in this manner, I am confident we can create the change that we want to see for students. Thanks again for your contributions to this conversation.

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