Coaching Letter #112

Hello, I hope you are well. We at the Center are working hard to be helpful in these difficult times. You should have received a set of resources from us on Thursday, plus a survey so that we have a better idea of what you need. Everyone on staff would be more than happy to help you if you need a thought partner—here is our staff list. You can email our people directly from that web page, and all my contact information is at the bottom of every email and Coaching Letter I send out—although I’m going to be changing that on the next newsletter, to be a bit more useful.

I have had several emails since I sent #110 and #111, so I have a new level of understanding of how much stress educators are under right now. There were a couple of things I forgot to include in my last Coaching Letter. One was an old Coaching Letter about self-care, which also linked to a great newsletter by Laura Jacobson. Then last week I received an email from ASCD telling me that an article that I had written for them a couple of months ago is now live on their website; it’s part of a collection on—don’t laugh—stress-busting strategies for educators. Here’s the link. I am not a particular expert on stress, exactly, but I did learn pretty early in my career that leaders and coaches have a powerful role to play in relieving and/or creating stress and anxiety—in times exactly like these, but also in the everyday work of education, which is stressful at the best of times. See also this post from the wonderful people at KQED about safeguarding the mental health of teachers.

My hope is that, once we are past the initial stress of just getting our heads around what’s going on, we will be able to see this as an action research project. We are being forced to try things that we might not otherwise have the time or inclination to do: this is a gift. I would encourage you to write about what you learn, what you can do now that you couldn’t do before, and what the experience has been like. I know that superintendents and principals have been sending out messages, by email and video, to their staffs, saying:

  1. Thank you for all you do—we always knew it was extraordinary and now the rest of the world is waking up to that;
  2. Don’t worry about implementing something new, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, try it and learn from it, it’ll be fine, we’ll all be better on the other side of this because you learned new things;
  3. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, that’s more important now than ever;
  4. I’ll do whatever I can to support you—please let me know how I’m doing, I need the feedback.

This is exactly the right message. It communicates support for innovation without explicitly calling it that, and it reduces barriers to innovation by communicating that you will not be judged by your early attempts. I would go even further and say, I hope some things you try fail, because you will learn more from that, and then you get to model how to learn by doing, and how to try something else. See Coaching Letter #103, which includes an excerpt from Toyota Kata: Managing people for improvement, adaptiveness and superior results. (It is a great book and I have been recommending it more and more lately. It is about the process of improvement at Toyota, and has profound ramifications for leaders and coaches.) The excerpt emphasizes the stance that coaches (and leaders) should take towards trying new things: We already know it’s going to fail, that’s not the question. The question is, what will it take to make it work? Except he says it better.

If you want to read about other disasters or near disasters, medical or otherwise, I started a list here. You may also want to read about disruptive innovation—I’m not sure that what’s happening now meets the authors’ definition, but it’s still a useful read. You may also want to take a look at Switch, by the Heath Brothers, especially the part about positive outliers—the people who, just as with disruptive innovation, manage to do more with less.

I am very aware of my own privilege at this time (I don’t have child-care issues, I don’t have employees to worry about, I don’t have to shift my whole life online, I am not one paycheck away from insolvency), so I am finding ways to donate the money I’m saving from all those skipped trips to Starbucks. And baking. And if there is anything I can do for you, big or small, please let me know. And here is the message I choose to end with:

  1. Thank you for all you do—we always knew it was extraordinary and now the rest of the world is waking up to that;
  2. Don’t worry about implementing something new, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, try it and learn from it, it’ll be fine, we’ll all be better on the other side of this because you learned new things, I hope some things you try fail, because you will learn more from that, and then you get to model how to learn by doing, and how to try something else;
  3. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, that’s more important now than ever;
  4. I’ll do whatever I can to support you—please let me know how I’m doing, I need the feedback.

Best, Isobel

Isobel Stevenson, PhD PCC
Connecticut Center for School Change
151 New Park Ave
Hartford, CT 06106
Email: istevenson@ctschoolchange.org
Cell: 860-576-9410
Twitter: @IsobelTX
Website: http://ctschoolchange.org/
Coaching Letter: StevensonCoachingLetter.org

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2020-03-23T12:21:36+00:00