I recently had the opportunity to serve as an alumni coachee at the Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute during the in-person institute held at Berkeley. When I took the certification course, it was completely online and I saw the talented and skilled faculty through my Zoom screen. When I arrived at the Berkeley Faculty Club on this very hot day in October, I saw some of the incredible faculty that taught me during my course. Benjamin was playing the piano. Jennie came over to give me a hug. I saw Doy and Praew in the distance. It felt like celebrity sightings! These were the skilled and thoughtful people who taught me so much and I was actually seeing them in real life. I was surprised by my reaction. I am an adult and know that these are real human beings even though I saw them only on Zoom.
I am sure you have heard these statements before. Recently, I was in a yoga class and the teacher said to lower your head towards the floor. Then he said, it’s not a destination, just think about how you might head that way. Hmm, I thought. This statement resonated with me.
I used to function under the premise of working by setting a goal and achieving it. Then I would set a new goal and achieve that. Almost like jumping hurdles in a track race. I moved along in my career and in parenthood like that for many years. I would go through the routine for work and home day by day, accomplishing tasks and meeting goals.
FOCUS ON THE JOURNEY
Now further along in my career and in parenting with two children over twenty, I do things a bit differently.
Who needs a coach? Some folks think that the only people who need a coach are low performers who need a boost. I do not believe this is true. Everyone benefits from working with an effective coach. The coach guides you toward seeing all the power and wisdom you hold.
Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen.Pete Carroll
A few reasons to engage a coach:
- You have a siloed job and need a person outside of the institution to connect and reflect with.
- You are at a transition phase in your career.
- You are managing change in your institution.
- You are new to your institution and you are adjusting to a new culture.
I have been exploring the role of the coach. I recently had the privilege of attending a truly transformative professional development opportunity, The Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute. This was an initial step towards my learning and developing skills to be a certified executive coach. The BECI faculty were skilled at modeling practices, building a safe space for risk-taking, and creating an engaging environment with a high level of interaction. Throughout the program, I had so many subtle and not-so-subtle shifts in my thinking.
In exploring the role of the coach, one big shift I experienced was seeing the relationship between my background as an educator and executive coaching. In Miles Downey’s book, Modern Effective Coaching, he writes: “The coach’s responsibility, therefore, is not to teach but to facilitate learning.” I argue something slightly different.
A well-formed question can tell a lot about a candidate. “Asking good questions is the path to insightful learning,” wrote Adrian Gonzalez. One of the often overlooked items in a hiring process is the questions we ask candidates. Hiring season is fast approaching in schools. It’s time to prepare. Questions can tell us a lot about a candidate. If you ask the right questions, you can learn a lot about a candidate. Your questions also reveal a lot about your institution. Questions are just one very important data-gathering point of the hiring process.
Steps to forming questions:
- Be grounded in your school’s mission and strategic vision. Keep it at the forefront of your mind while forming your questions. Form questions that will grow your community.
- Think about what qualities, skills, and understandings you are looking for in a candidate.
- Create questions that will uncover or gather data around these qualities, skills, and understandings.
I had to code-switch as a kid living in a Sri Lankan immigrant household and then going to a suburban predominantly white school in New Jersey.
On a daily basis, I switched who I was depending on where I was.
Do you have one set of values for how you show up at work and another for at home? Ideally, you should be able to be the same person at work as you are at home, with some small changes (maybe no pajamas at work). For some, this is a privilege that we do not even notice and for others, it may feel like a luxury. In fact, we all should be able to show up with one set of values that is true for us in both settings.
The Importance of Values
When I begin coaching a new client, we often work through a values exercise. We use a list of values and narrow our way through to the few values that are most meaningful for the client.
Self-care is not selfish. Growing up I learned a different message. As a child in an immigrant family, I was raised watching parents who worked tirelessly for the good of others, building and supporting our small but growing Sri Lankan community in New Jersey. My parents did not take time for haircuts, manicures, exercise, or even an indulgent moment with a hot cup of tea and a good movie was rare. When I was a young mom and teaching full time, the last thing I spent time and resources on was self-care. I hustled to do my best at my job and take care of my family. I did indulge in the occasional haircut, soaking in every moment of the luxurious hair wash and scalp massage. Although when I returned home, I worked extra hard to cook, clean, and spend time with my kids. I almost felt guilty for getting a haircut, for taking care of myself, and for having time alone.
This is a moment for reflection and restoration. This has been a challenging and complicated time in schools and this summer will be an essential time for reflection as well as for restoring energy, empathy, and compassion.
When working with students, we often ask them to reflect on their work and their process as good teaching practice. Reflection is an essential part of meaningful assessment and ultimately growth. We need to allow ourselves, as educators and leaders, the same time and space to do this vital work in order to process what we have learned, what we want to do differently or the same, and make plans to move forward in thoughtful and intentional ways.
Reflecting on our practices can deepen our understanding of ourselves. When we reflect as a team, we can make our teams stronger; deepening the connection between colleagues, building empathy and strengthening relationships.
PBL Works designed some helpful tools to use with faculty/staff for reflection.