I'm frequently asked, "What's your secret weapon for coaching. What's the number one tool or strategy you use?" I think people want a response such as, "It's active listening," or "I always plan for coaching conversations," something concrete and replicable. After some reflection, I've identified my secret coaching weapon. It's compassion.
One of the most frequent questions I get from coaches is about how to coach teachers in the Common Core (CCSS). While there's some content knowledge you'll need to have about the CCSS, there are many coaching skills that apply regardless of the content.
I want to offer you five practices that I found myself talking about over and over this week, and that have emerged from the lengthy list of transformational coaching practices as ones that could be instrumental, transformational and essential in your work.
Carmen, who is beginning her first year as a coach, wrote me asking, "What does the first week for a coach look like? And how does a schedule play an important role for the coach and her principal in terms of what they're expecting?" These are great questions and timely to the start of a new year.
One of the keys to being an effective instructional coach is to be absolutely clear on your role: What is your purpose in coaching? What are you supposed to do as a coach?
Some of you may already know that I'm a loud, staunch, passionate advocate for planning--in this case, for coaches to plan their coaching sessions with teachers...if you plan for a coaching conversation it's almost guaranteed to be smoother, go deeper, be more strategic, and result in transformational learning than had you just showed up and jumped in.
The end of the school year can feel like a mad dash for the finish line as we wrap up projects, PD strands and coaching cycles. I want to encourage you--strongly and enthusiastically--to carve out some time for yourself during this period to reflect on your work this year: on the impact you had on individuals, teams, organizations, the learning you experienced, and the growth you made.
In case you'd like a more visually entertaining argument for active listening, watch this video, "It's Not About the Nail." http://youtu.be/-4EDhdAHrOg
I'm just about ready to declare that active listening is the highest priority skill for a coach to master and that it must be mastered prior to success using any other strategy. This is because I have seen and experienced innumerable instances where a coaching conversation either results in deep insight and big changes as a result of the coach's skill in using active listening or because a conversation has struggled because a coach didn't use active listening.
Coaches spend a lot of time thinking about communication--about how we listen and ask questions. We know that coaching happens in conversations and that we need to pay acute attention to the words we use. I am a big believer in planning coaching conversations, in scripting them out ahead of time--I know this results in conversations that tend to be more intentional and strategic. In this post I want to offer a few suggestions for how changing a few words we use can be transformational in coaching conversations.