Good evening, I hope this find you well. It has been a very busy and tiring week—and I don’t even work in a school. My heart goes out to the educators who are working their tails off all day, many of them with their own small children at home, and then are working many additional hours in the evening, between getting dinner on the table and doing the laundry. It’s a lot, I know.
The last Coaching Letter generated a lot of responses—I am pretty sure that I replied to all of them, and if I didn’t, I’m sorry, I meant to. My favorite thing about writing the Coaching Letter is that, while it the product of a lot of thinking and writing, it is also the genesis of more conversation, and I am deeply appreciative of the folks who take the time to respond to me. It is wonderful.
So, via the Coaching Letter or some other means, I ended up having several related conversations this week—with central office and building administrators, with coaches/teacher leaders, and culminating today with 200 teachers on the topic of social-emotional learning, although it ended up being mostly about educator self-care, which we clearly need more of at the moment.
I’m not sure I have a cogent throughline for this Coaching Letter, but I do have resources to share.
Here is the list of foundational books/TED talks/podcast on emotions that I put together for a presentation:
With RULER being so big in Connecticut, I am sure many of you have already read Permission to Feel (and perhaps you are enrolled in the SEL course being offered for free to Connecticut educators); if so, take a look at the resources on the list by or about Lisa Feldman Barrett (I added asterisks to those). I think How Emotions are Made is fascinating. Her new book, Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain, is out soon.
Then a couple of evenings ago, I spent an hour or two with a deputy superintendent deconstructing the idea of providing support. One of the things I wrote about in Coaching Letter #127 was the idea that you shouldn’t make assumptions about support: when you bring a problem to the attention of someone in power, you shouldn’t make the assumption that she knows what you want her to do about it. Likewise, if someone brings an issue to you, you shouldn’t assume that he is looking to you to solve his problem. We talk a lot about how people need more support, but that could look many different ways, and so spending time at the beginning of a conversation reaching an understanding of the desired outcome of that conversation is more than worth the time.
Oh, can I just mention, these are the kinds of skills we use in coaching? Not too late to sign up for the Introduction to Coaching virtual workshop, and it is the perfect time to sign up for Coaching Power Hour because the free preview is next week. I understand that I am a self-serving broken record on this topic, but I do believe that developing coaching skills would serve educators of all stripes very well—not just the ones that have Coach in their job title.
Back to layers of support. Here is what we came up with, arranged roughly in order from least to most taxing on the part of the supporter:
- Checking in—are you OK, is there anything you need, just checking in—everyone appreciates this—the basic ingredient of trust is benevolence.
- Providing direction—here’s where we’re going with this, here’s the plan, this is what it means for you, this is what I expect—confusion is stressful and clarity is a relief, but you also have to make sure that this is not a retreat to a top-down approach, and that is embedded in rather than replacing a collaborative approach.
- Reframing goals—don’t worry about making it perfect, just focus on moving on the right direction and learning along the way—I won’t judge you.
- A coaching conversation—starting with, of course, asking what the other person wants to get out of the conversation—you don’t need to be a coach, you just need to take a coaching stance.
- Taking something off your plate—let me take the lead on that, would you like me to make those copies, do you want me to write that for you—a bit more complicated, because you don’t want to imply that you think the other person is incapable or needs rescuing.
- Building capacity—helping the person develop knowledge and skills, which could also be a coaching relationship, or something different—and build perceived self-efficacy.
- Building resilience—helping someone reflect on what they have learned, reframe failure, consolidate their skills, and build perceived self-efficacy.
- Communicating more—I know this seems like it should be on the less taxing end, but what I know from how hard people are working at the moment, I think finding time to communicate more is possibly the most challenging. But it also has the potential to have the greatest payoff.
I am not sure that this is a comprehensive list, so I would be grateful if you have feedback. But I reckon it’s a good starting place for having conversations about what people mean when they say educators need more support.
So, is there anything you need? Are you doing OK? Is there anything I can do for you? Just checking in. Best, Isobel
Isobel Stevenson, PhD PCC
Connecticut Center for School Change
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