There’s No ‘I’ In Coach

I’m a few months into the realm of connected coaching with the PLP Network!  We are officially doing a little bit of real-life coaching in starting to get to know our groups,  but we are also enjoying the continued discussion and practice of our new skills in the online Ning space. It’s been a real treat getting to know this team of coaches and following the amazing modeling of our mentors Lani Ritter-Hall and Dean Shareski.

When we first began, I thought that my biggest challenge would be in developing my questioning skills in order to deepen the thinking of the coachees.  That is still huge, but since that time, I’ve come to realize the need to first understand the complexity of other elements of coaching such as:

  • trusting one another
  • attentive listening
  • affirmation
  • paraphrasing
  • working from a strengths based approach

In unpacking these things,  it’s given me time to go deeper in my communication skills for the first time in my 24 years of teaching! I find it pretty shocking that it’s taken all that time in a profession that relies so much on effective communication…something is definitely wrong with that picture! Every teacher should have this opportunity.

It’s so easy to fall into the pattern of sharing OUR experiences and OUR stories in kind of a show and tell, back and forth kind of format.  I wrote about this in an earlier blog post when our curriculum leaders were exploring networked learning communities.   Granted, connection is important, and we must connect with our colleagues on a personal level to build a relationship,  but I’m trying to remember that coaching is not about us so much…it’s about those whom we coach.  I’ve been thinking about how many times I go into classrooms to help a teacher learn something new about technology and my visit turns into me doing the modeling, showing, doing, talking.  This is fine, but I think of the times when people have challenged me to think of something differently, to ask questions that get me thinking, or shake me up (in a good way!) with a little dissonance.  I’m not sure I’ve been leaving that kind of residue behind, and I’d like to work on that.

Another a-ha moment for me is the fact that networks and communities might not be synonymous as I once thought they were – I used to use these two words interchangeably.   Through the PLP Network,  I’m learning that perhaps places like my Twitter network are just that – a network for sharing information among a diverse group of people.

Community, on the other hand,  is a place of collaborative action that requires a different kind of relationship – one that makes us feel safe and our ideas valued,  while encouraging the risk-taking and sharing of diverse opinions that will, in the end, make our collaborative ventures deeper and more meaningful.

I’m loving this chance to get to know people and to connect with what they all bring to the team:  their strengths, their experiences and their plans for themselves as they continue to learn.