Two Small Coaching Questions

This year has been a huge shift in learning. I had got to learn how to implement new programs, learn from new interactions, and learn how to adjust to new work environments. There have been a lot of major changes throughout each of these experiences, but recently, I’ve been enjoying reflecting back on the small shifts in my practice to find practical strategies I can continue to implement and improve my work as an instructional specialist and coach. Below are two simple, seemingly small, questions that have made a large impact on my work recently.

“Why don’t you?” A few weeks ago, I was talking with a colleague, Bekah Kmieciak, sharing something I had been wishing I could do, but blaming the pandemic for not being able to it. After my mini complaint session, I expected her to tell me something empathetic like, “yeah, I know, it’s so hard right now” or “life will get back to normal one day,” but instead, she simply said, “why don’t you?” Her response caught me a bit off guard. I tried to come up with excuses, but before I even started talking again, I realized it was me that was in my own way. That night, I took it upon myself to text the two leaders I had in mind, shared my desires and got an overwhelming “YES” from both of them. Now 3 weeks into my plan, I am so rejuvenated and starting to see the impact of its implementation. I share this story, without my specific wish, to say if there is something you’ve been wanting to do, dreaming to do, do it! While I was waiting around thinking someone else would make my goals happen, I realized I was the only one who could make it happen. I plan to ask this of others more and instead of simply being empathetic, I will respond with empathy and then compassionately, yet boldly challenge others in their desires with “why don’t you?”

“What’s one success you’ve had this week?” This is the second small, yet impactful question I have been asking recently. Every week, I join an instructional coaching Twitter chat (#educoach) and the chat always starts with introduce yourself and share one success you’ve had this week. Expecting this prompt each week causes me to reflect on the good that I experienced and then, reading other responses allows me to celebrate and learn from others. Realizing the impact of this simple question, I took it to the campuses I support. Usually, I walk the halls after school ends and try to chat with teachers I didn’t have the opportunity to work with during the day. Our conversations are great, but sometimes surface level, simply asking how they are and how the day was. From these questions I get typical responses like “tiring…good…how are you?” I respond, small talk, and move on to the next teacher. A few weeks ago, I changed the dynamic by simply saying, “hey _______ how are you? What’s one success you’ve had this week?” Most teachers paused for a second with a slightly confused face, but then lit up as they started to share their success with me. Their answers included things like a virtual program that they used with success, the excitement for more students engaging in lessons that week, and their own confidence level increasing with implementing a certain strategy. Hearing these responses gave me to new insight, new follow-up questions, and more ideas for supporting the teachers in what they saw that week. It was so fun to talk longer and more in depth about each teacher’s practice. Additionally, I felt closer to them with that small interaction as they shared their successes and it allowed me to learn a lot. It was also interesting to see them a bit confused at first after asking and it made me realize we don’t stop often enough to truly converse with each other on what is important to our work. I plan to ask this each week so it becomes an expected question and perhaps teachers will share their successes one day without me even asking!

I’m finding that catching others off guard in a good way allows us to dive deeper in conversation and action. I look forward to continuing these conversations and finding even more small changes to make big impacts. Let me know if you’ve had success with other seemingly small questions like these.

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