8

A New Job

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I’ve spent the last few days moving into my new office. Loved ones have shown up (thank you Kurt, Sean and Denise) to help. Each file folder, shelf, book and cupboard has been full of decisions. Did I use it? Is it still relevant? Is there someone who needs it more than me? Will I need it in my new position?

Director of English Language Arts, Social Studies and Library Programs K-12 is my new title for the coming school year. It’s a big job and it was a hard choice to make a move because I love my job as an instructional coach. But someone challenged me, “What if you love your work as an administrator just as much? And what if you are able to put legs on your vision of literacy and coaching for the district you care about?”

What if?

So what does that mean for the blog? I’m not entirely sure. A year ago I quietly launched this project and hoped I’d have a handful of people who would read and comment.

Why I Started the Coach to Coach Blog

My goal of at least 100 followers within the year was achieved in the first four months. From there I was blown away by the interest, the sincere emails, collaboration and opportunities to meet new coaches and teams. It seems like with every post I became more grounded in my beliefs and 254 comments later I’ve learned so much from all of you. Thank you.

I know I’ll probably post less in the coming year because I have a steep learning curve ahead of me and I want to give it my all. My commitment to posting an average of twice a week last year will likely change to once a week this year. I will also bring a new perspective on coaching. I’ll be mentoring the person taking my position and others in coaching. Along with the coaching team, we’ll be figuring out how directors will be participating and collaborating in the Friday Coaches’ meeting. I’ve always been an advocate for coaching and this position provides me with more opportunities to celebrate the good work that is happening across our progressive district.

I’m excited. And scared. One moment I think, “I can so do this” and the next moment I think, “I am so lost.” Which is funny because that’s how I felt when I transitioned from teaching to coaching. That’s how change is.

Happy Independence Day to all!

8

My Sorry State

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If you haven’t seen this video already, watch it before you read on.

Not Sorry Video

No, really. Go ahead. It’s about a minute. I’ll wait. I want you to have context for what I’m about to write.

After thinking about being “not sorry” the last few days, I’ve been noticing how much I apologize for things I’m not really sorry for. My ten-year-old daughter has been listening to herself too.

I seem to be the one to move in hallway stand-offs. “Sorry.”

I apologize for facts. “I’m sorry, but I have a commitment that day.”

I say “sorry” for winning games. Which is funny since one of those games is actually called Sorry.

I even apologize for my needs. “Sorry about this, but that pizza isn’t gluten free like I ordered.”

And here’s the funny thing–I didn’t think I said it that much. Is it possible that “sorry” for me has become a habitual response like “fine” after someone asks, “How are you?”

I’m not a meek, submissive or passive person. I speak my truth and stand up for what I believe. My friend Dixie recently said, “You may be tiny, but I wouldn’t want to scare you in a dark alley.” So perhaps I’ve used the word sorry when I really meant something else. Maybe it’s been the stand-in for “excuse me” or “thank you” or silence. Lately I’m noticing I can just be silent instead of saying sorry because I want sorry to mean something. I want it to be as powerful as the word love in my life, because I have many legitimate apologies.

“I’m sorry I forgot the tent pole–the gold one that holds up the entire frame.” (Yes, it happened.)

“I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings. That was never my intention.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you fully when you had something important to say.”

These are the statements worthy of my sorries.

This summer I am considering my sorry state in my personal life and next fall I’m going to see how that transfers to my professional one. The truth is, I’m not sorry we bumped into each other in hall. We have bodies. Those things happen. I’m not sorry that I have plans and can’t attend a candle party. (I’m also not sorry that there are fifty million other things I’d rather be doing than attending a candle party. That’s just me.) I’m not sorry I beat you at Monopoly or Wii Just Dance and I’m especially not sorry about Sorry because you kicked me back to the start one too many times. And I’m not sorry when my needs impact other people. That’s what happens in a community when we are all trying to make it work.

My daughter Ahna and I are catching each other when we use sorry. She told me a story of how she made cupcakes for her sewing camp friends and one girl told her she didn’t like them. “I said sorry,” Ahna admitted. “But then I realized I didn’t mean it. At all.”

Apologizing is a pure and powerful gift for all parties involved. I don’t want to be the girl-who-called-sorry too many times. I’ll be saving my sorries for when I need them.

1

Gambits

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Two working parents plus three active kids equals five people in need of healthy dinners every evening at our house. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking meals, but I don’t love getting home at 5:45 after facilitating a workshop and trying to get a nutritious, timely dinner on the table. A couple weeks ago I realized how much dinners were getting me down and I was starting to sound like a nag.

“I’ve asked you twice now to set the table.”

“Can’t you just chop up some carrots? Is that really too much to ask?”

Ugh.

I thought about what I really wanted from my family. When I got clear, it was simple. I wanted them to stop what they were doing and offer to help even for a few minutes during the dinner rush. If one person chops the salad veggies while another sautés the onions and garlic, we can take the many-hands-light-work approach to dinner. So I posted a sign, which I’m famous for doing (my kids still remind me of the wipe-til-it’s-clean sign in the bathroom when they were young).

The sign is the lead image you see on my kitchen cabinet: Between the hours of 5:30 and 7:00, you are welcome to ask, ‘How can I help?’ These four words have been known to increase happiness for all.

So far it’s working. It’s explicit about the time of day, has a gambit for what to say and ends with a purpose statement (if mama happy, everyone happy). My family walks in the kitchen, sees the sign and remembers to offer, How can I help?

I connect my home leadership experiments to work often and vice versa. I learned the word ‘gambit’ when I did my cooperative learning training with Kagan. It means something done or said to get a desired result. While I have many examples of success with gambits in the classroom, it also applies to leadership work. When I was working with an elementary PLC, I noticed they had parallel talk about instructional strategies but rarely interacted and questioned each other. In our second meeting together, I brought an 8 1/2 x 11 paper that read, “What do you mean by that?”

I said, “We throw around many terms in education like direct instruction, guided reading, shared writing, formative assessment, but if we don’t take the time to understand what another person means, it’s more difficult to collaborate. At some point in today’s meeting I want us to try saying, ‘What do you mean by that?’ to a colleague. It may feel a little awkward and stilted this time, but let’s give it a go.”

Terry was the first to try it after Kara said, “Let’s tie in the social skills” when he asked, “What do you mean by that?” Kara paused and then articulated how she teaches her students to thank each other after sharing their ideas to build community. After the meeting, the team agreed it had been a very productive hour.

While you may not be in a position to request gambits of others, you certainly can build your own gambit list. These are statements and questions I find myself repeating:

*Say more about that.

*What do you mean by that?

*What can I do to make your life more wonderful? (I learned this one from the father of Compassionate Communication, Marshall Rosenberg.)

*What if…

*And of course, How can I help?

0

Good Women

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Last August I was in a restroom that had this quote above the door. I copied it down and it’s been a marvelous mantra for me.

Here’s to good women
May we know them
May we be them
May we raise them

Have a wonderful weekend.

0

Desire

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
E. B. White

I’ve been working on The Joy Diet by Martha Beck for a few months now. Not a chapter a week and not every day, but with a consistency that’s worked for me. Nothing and Truth were the first menu items that I wrote about in these posts:

Do Nothing Post

Moment of Truth Post

The third step is Desire. Martha Beck writes, “Menu Item #3 requires that, each day, you identify, articulate and explore at least one thing you really want.” Easy, right? Not so much. At least for me.

As a mother, wife, friend and coach, I spend a lot of my time anticipating others’ wants and needs. While it’s a great gift to bring to a relationship, I sometimes forget to anticipate my own desires. Within the chapter on Desire, Martha helps her readers explore “desire-defining.”

“Possibly because of our discomfort with desire in general, most people are at least somewhat confused about how to distinguish their true desires from unhealthy impulses.” She offers a t-chart of false desires vs. true desires. For example, false desires may feel like grasping and withholding while true desires feel like releasing and generosity. So eating all of that dark chocolate in the drawer is probably a false desire for me. The after-effects of true desires are increasing inner peace, while false desires will be marked by a sense of hollowness and increasing despair.

“What is it that I want?” are six little words I’ve been asking myself lately. At Trader Joe’s yesterday I realized my answer was micro greens on my tacos. Delicious. Later it was to rest for ten minutes before starting dinner. Heavenly. This morning I realized it was a patterned shirt with bright aquamarine colors and telling the truth when someone asked me how my day was. Then I dug into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Core Ice Cream (thank you, Sean). Do you know about this stuff?

Ben and Jerry Core Ice Cream Indulgence

The jury is out on whether this is a false desire or true desire for me. I mean, Karamel Sutra? Come on…

I’m reminded that no one put an anti-desire squad in my head and this work of determining my true desires on a daily basis is my own. My assignment on my spring vacation is to consider “What is it that I want?”

What is it that YOU want?

I look forward to working on new blog posts via pen and paper the next 12 days and taking a break from media. Check back after April 15th for new Coach to Coach posts.

4

Divergence

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Months ago I read the book Divergent by Veronica Roth with my book club and it ignited great discussion. Monday night I had the opportunity to see the movie with my book club girls. I have to say, I’m a fan. I’m not one of those people who gets upset if the book and movie don’t match. Different versions of an interesting story are fine with me.

With the debut of the movie came fun social media promotions. According to the first survey I took, I should belong to the Amity faction. Then I found a different set of questions and got Abnegation. Apparently my test results are inconclusive.

Click here for the quiz if you are interested:

Divergent Quiz

Still I have to agree with Four,”I don’t want to be just one thing. I can’t be. I want to be brave, and I want to be selfless, intelligent, and honest and kind. Well, I’m still working on kind.”

Bravery, selflessness, intelligence, honesty and kindness are a recipe for a good coach. One of the things I love about this job is that every day is different. Thursday called on my selflessness and kindness. Today required bravery and honesty.

I’m curious what you think. What other factions contribute to a good coach? How do we acquire the attributes of another faction?

Here are a few other quotes that connect Divergent to our work:

“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”

“But I will find new habits, new thoughts, new rules. I will become something else.”

“A brave (person) acknowledges the strength of others.”

“Politeness is deception in pretty packaging.”

“We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.”

“Sometimes crying or laughing are the only options left, and laughing feels better right now.”

4

Brave

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
— “Brave” Written by Sara Bareillis and Jack Antonoff

I worked with a remarkably brave student this week. I’ll call him Marcos. In Marcos’s classroom they are working on essays with strong messages. He’s decided he’s going to write about his dad. On the day he told me this, he burst into tears and pinched the bridge of his nose to try to stay in control. I told him I’d give him space because I could tell it was a very emotional topic. A little later he sidled up to me while I was working with a small group on the carpet.

Quietly I told him the story about a student in another class who had recently decided that writing about her mother was too painful and she decided to write about an older cousin because it was easier. I wanted to give him an out.

“I want to do this,” he assured me.

“Tell me about your dad,” I encouraged.

“Well, he left when I was three months old. So I don’t know where he lives, what kind of car he drives or whether he’s an outdoor person like me.”

“Wow,” I said. “That must leave you wondering–”

“About everything. All the time,” he said.

“When I was a kindergartener I figured out that my stepdad wasn’t my real dad because he’s white like my mom and not Hispanic. So I asked my mom, ‘Who is my real dad?’ and she said, ‘Don’t ask those questions,'” he continued.

When I’m graced with conversations like these, I tread carefully. I treat him gently; he’s a writer on thin emotional ice.

“How will you start?” I asked.

“I want to start with my mom telling me, ‘Don’t ask those questions.’ And then I want to write all the questions I have. I want to write that people can tell you not to ask questions out loud, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have them inside. You know?”

I nodded. I did. That sounded like an incredibly powerful thesis.

He went back to his spot and I collected myself. I had questions of my own. Why did he trust me with that story? How long had he been waiting for an invitation to write it? What would it become? And mostly, how can he be so brave?

1

Unexpected

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Not long ago I used the book “!” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal in my training. I heard one young man talk explicitly about how he’d use it with his students. “I need this book tomorrow!” he joked with his group. Opening the book, I wrote an inscription and gifted him with my book (using several exclamation marks for effect).

He was surprised. “Why me?”

There’d been no drawing; no mention of a giveaway.

“Because you need it tomorrow.” I said.

People I know buy coffee for the person behind them in line. A friend with young kids had an anonymous person pick up their dinner tab. Inspired by these unexpected gestures, I began gifting books to random recipients. When I heard a fifth-grade teacher talking about her search for a new read aloud, I knew she needed Wonder by RJ Palacio. The Plot Chickens by Mary Jane and Herm Auch went to a fourth-grade teacher who said her students were struggling to keep their story lines simple and clear. Another colleague was chastised for being too positive (I know, can you imagine?) and I knew he needed Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea. My shelves ebb and flow as I find recipients for “just the right book.”

Garrison Keillor said, “A book is a gift you can open again and again.” I feel like a detective sleuthing for the next opportune time to gift the right book at the right time to the right person–when they most need it and least expect it.

2

Moment of Truth

“If you did nothing but pursue the truth about yourself for the rest of your life, you would never run out of fresh discoveries.” -Martha Beck

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On December 21st, I posted Do Nothing as the first step in the Joy Diet I was following.

Do Nothing

While I had a stretch of days and weeks of consistent nothingness, I haven’t “done nothing” all week–and I can tell. Today provided me the opportunity to renew my commitment to the Joy Diet and enjoy the next entrees. The second menu item is Truth. Martha Beck writes that she spends time in locations like What If, Should Be, I Wonder When and If Only instead of Here and Now. One of my best strategies to center myself in Here and Now is to tell the truth about as many things, as often as possible. The Joy Diet prescribes that after Doing Nothing for 15 minutes, you take time to give yourself a “moment of truth.” I’ve created a visual reminder of these questions alongside an open hand so that I work through this series of questions at least once a day:

What am I feeling?
What hurts?
What is the painful story I’m telling?
Can I be sure my painful story is true?
Is my painful story working?
Can I think of another story that might work better?

This Saturday morning after my nothing, I paused for my moment of truth. When I listened in, this is what I heard:

What am I feeling? Distracted.
What hurts? My stomach hurts a little, maybe I’m hungry.
What is the painful story I’m telling? I’m thinking I’m not going to get everything done today.
Can I be sure my painful story is true? No, likely it’s not.
Is my painful story working? Nope. It just makes me feel more distracted and less focused.
Can I think of another story that might work better? Another story comes from my meditation: There is no place to be; there is nothing to do; there is no one to be. That brings me much more peace.

Right after the moment of truth, Beck requests that you offer yourself compassion. I do a little self-hug by wrapping my hands to grab the opposite shoulder and remind myself that I, like everyone else, am worthy of love. Join me on a moment of truth if it brings you joy to do so. Here’s to Saturday…

Picture Credit: Artist Liliana Porter, Untitled (Hand).

3

What I Thought

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A young woman, new to teaching, sat in the back of the training. If she had a smile, I never saw it. Her look said, “Bored. Bored. Bored.” A loud yawn escaped her mouth after lunch. A few teachers turned at the sound. She texted under the lip of the table.

At the end of the day, the training was well-received. Educators wrote actionable goals for themselves. They said they were inspired. The young woman moved up toward me and left a note by my computer.

After packing up, I read it.

“Thank you for this day. I’ve felt so lost teaching writing. Nobody really tells you how to do it, they just think you should know. So I’ve been doing a prompt a day on worksheets. Now I’m putting that crap away. You’ve given me hope of doing it differently.”

I was stunned. Stunned. How could this be the same person? Could it have been that her bored demeanor was actually discomfort? Could the yawn have been acceptance that now that she knew better, she’d do better?

Have. Positive. Presuppositions.

I believe I learned this first from Art Costa. What the phrase means to me in coaching is that I must believe that everyone is bringing their best selves to the table. That their intentions are for good. That there is always more to their story than meets the eyes and ears.

But she’d really stumped me. I was sure she hadn’t learned anything, that she was disappointed and that her evaluation would be the one that read, “waste of time.”

And I was wrong. Why? Because I hadn’t had positive presuppositions. If I had I would’ve seen the bored expression and considered, maybe she’s thinking deeply. I would’ve heard the yawn and thought, she must need more sleep because she’s a hardworking new teacher. Her texts might have been notes to herself about what she wanted to remember to do when she got back to the classroom.

Have positive presuppositions is the first norm for our coaching team. It’s the destination we strive to go. “Positive Presuppositionland” is a place where I don’t take things personally. I trust myself and others. Everywhere I look I see glasses half full. It’s a fine place to visit and an even better place to live.