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  • The Sharp Spot

Becoming a coach

Updated: Jan 6, 2020

August 2018

I think to myself, ‘I do not know what I am doing…How do I think I can do this?'

I am sitting in my office; I’ve been agonizing over the same email for almost an hour. I take a break to clear my head and begin to walk around our new building.

It’s mid-August so my spirits are high and my attitude crisp. There are no negative experiences to sour my thought process. The building is busy with construction workers milling about, hanging drywall, blasting the last days of their inappropriate music, and teachers trying to organize their new spaces. I delight in all the commotion as it takes me out of my own self-doubt.

One week ago, my assistant superintendent gave me (as well as all the other assistant principals) a task. He wants us each to choose four teachers that fit a category: rock star teacher, a teacher new to the profession, a teacher that needs just an extra push to greatness, and someone who challenges me. We are to work with these teachers and coach them to be better. I love the core of this idea and it has got me excited. But as I sit with this email in my office, something isn’t right.

I have done this before. I have chosen teachers that fit a category, asked them if they would be willing to work with me, and we begin meeting while I observe and try to give them feedback to be better than what they are. The problem is, they don’t really know why they are chosen and why we would be working together. This wasn’t their idea; it was mine (or the sup’s more accurately). Either way, they do not see themselves as needing ‘help’ because they didn’t ask for it.

I look at my email and make a decision: I only want to work with people that want to get better. I delete what I have written and begin again. This time I decide to send it to only a dozen teachers who I have worked with closely in the past three years. They seem to trust me, know me, and believe in similar educational ideas. Plus, they all share one characteristic: the 'want' to try new things, take a risk, change.

I feel calm as I finish my email. It feels right. I tried to explain in as much detail as I could that I am taking on four teachers that are seeking continual feedback, a drive to move forward, and I ask them to trust me as it will be uncomfortable, uncharted waters for me and them. I am vulnerable and admit to them I do not know what I am doing; this will be new for me just like them. But if they are willing to try, we will make progress together.

I hover over the send button and take another drink of my coffee. I re-read it again. What if no one replies? What if these teachers do not actually trust me or want to work with me? Hell, what if the non-response reveals to me that no one even likes me? I silence my doubts and push send.

I feel proud of myself for being honest and vulnerable and for creating this task into something I truly want to do. Nonetheless, I vow to myself not to check my email until the next morning.

I am not disappointed when I turn on my computer. Two teachers replied. Yay! I had convinced myself that I was too honest and was asking teachers too much. Both teachers committed to this venture with a hell yes! Over the next week, I receive three more emails totaling five. I got five. My email had said I was only accepting four but my ego says I can do five.

A week later when the teachers return to the building for our staff day, I greet them, making small talk about summer events, feeling the excitement of the upcoming year. Throughout these conversations, six more teachers visit with me about the coaching email I sent. Some want to ask if I got anyone to take me up on the offer, others want to say they are interested but not sure they are ready, and one says he wants to do it. He is all in but had to take time to think about it. I do not turn him away as I can hear how ready he is.

Six, I have six now.

I allow myself to feel proud as I walk away from this day. My heart is full. I still don’t know what I’m actually going to do but my heart says the important part is done: that I have them anyway. My head also knows that from my own coaching work, I am not to really ‘do’ anything other than listen and question.

So this is the beginning. It is scary, exciting, unknown. I am sure others have traveled this path; maybe other administrators have done this exact same thing. Or maybe not. I am going to venture a path with six teachers, help them meet their own goals whether personal or professional, and remind them they are enough. As I remind myself that I am enough, I begin.

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