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The Last Post: Walk

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Lately many people seem to be trading New Year resolutions for their one word. This one word becomes an affirmation for the year ahead. My word for 2015 is walk. Not only do I want to team with my son to help him walk again if that’s possible, but I want to walk through the challenges ahead for our family with as much grace as I can offer the world.

When I’m sleep deprived and worried it’s easy to be frustrated and a little snappy (or snippy). It’s harder to stay quiet and set up a bath with chamomile bubbles. It’s easy to let my mind hop on a gerbil wheel of “What ifs” and harder to stop my catastrophic thinking avalanche and sit for ten minutes in silence. I hope to walk toward things this year that will bring me back into balance and toward my Better Heather.

Walk. My husband and I walk on Sunday mornings. We started by walking seven miles when we had some major life decisions to talk through. We needed those hours to really process the complexity of what was going on for us. I loved Seth Godin’s Blog about walking.

When I lived in the hospital for weeks, I got accustomed to taking my life five minutes at a time. I’d say to myself, “Heather, we don’t know what’s going to happen in an hour, but can you do the next five minutes? Yes, you can.” Now that we are home, we’ve transitioned to be able to do an hour or even a day at a time. I still know that when life calls on me to do so, I can walk through it five minutes at a time.

So Happy New Year to you. May you walk your path this coming year in the way only you can. You probably noticed that a bunch of posts came out at once today. I sorted through my draft files and wrapped up pieces that had been waiting there for you. I had many questions about whether I should keep the Coach to Coach blog as “wait and see” or finish my project that was just going to last a year. I’ve got enough “wait and see” in my life right now. We all like closure. The truth is my creative energy and advocacy is flowing in a different way right now. I’m honored to get the opportunity to support my son and my family through our healing process and that’s the true path I’m walking right now.

Thank you for all you’ve gifted me as readers. I’ve met new friends, traveled to places I only knew by map and received ideas and resources galore. Please enjoy and share the Coach to Coach archives. Ultimately, I’m grateful for your company–maybe we’ll walk again sometime.

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Invitations Matter: Right Shari? Jen? Mary? Kim? Deborah?

 

I dabble on Twitter. I log in every once in awhile. I post, favorite and retweet infrequently. Months ago I finally accepted that the 140-character tweets just weren’t quite my size, though I admire the folks who tweet artfully. So I’d never been part of a Twitter chat–at least until this fall. Why? Because someone reached out and specifically invited me.

It’s rare to find someone who doesn’t have to skim their email to keep up with it all. A few years ago I needed to send out information to a zone of three schools. I experimented with sending a message to the first staff as a whole-group email, small-group emails to grade-level teams to the second school and individual emails to the third school that began with their first names.

What did I discover? My hypothesis was correct. I heard back from the majority of the staff at the third school, half the teams at the second school and three individuals who had received the group email. So it takes more time, but as often as possible if I want folks to respond to a survey I created or give me feedback on dates or see an update, I try to send emails to individuals vs. larger groups. As we skim, we want to know that emails are meant for us in particular. Anything that starts, “Hi Heather,” is going to get my attention more than “You are receiving this email because…” That individual touch as invitation matters.

 

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Ps’ and T’s of Coaching: Plan to Forget Toolbox

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This may seem like another paradoxical statement: plan so you can forget, but it’s so true. There are so many things we juggle as educators that our brain can’t (or shouldn’t) try to keep track of it all. So I have to “plan to forget” toolbox so I can turn my work brain off in the evenings, sleep at night and have balance in my weekend.

Calendar Reminders

When I’m putting in the electronic appointment for the school board presentation, I take a moment to put another appointment in the week before to remind me that it’s coming up and carve out time to prepare. That allows me to forget that the presentation is coming up and rely on my tools to tell me when it’s time to start the preparation work.

To-Do Lists

Sitting down to start my day, I prioritize three things I need to get done that day. Then below that I add one or two other bonus things I could get done. When I finish that list I say “well done” and start another one. If I don’t get them done I add them to my list the next day. For me, knowing I just need to accomplish three things keeps me from feeling too overwhelmed with my days.

Walking Around with Sticky Notes

When I leave my office to walk down the hallway, I’ll often combine tasks like “OK, I’ll run these copies, stop and ask this coach for a resource and then pick up the envelope I need from the office professional.” As I walk out the door, someone catches me and asks me a question and we make a plan to talk more tomorrow. Then I get down to the workroom, run my copies and return to my office. Oops. I didn’t visit with the coach or pick up the envelope. Now I just travel with a sticky note that reminds me of the things I planned to do while out and about. It seemed a little silly when I started doing it, but it’s helped me use my time more efficiently and if I do forget my next task–I have a tool to back me up.

We all have ways that we plan to forget. Instead of getting frustrated with our full brains, we can build our own supports to have in place.

 

 

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P’s and T’s of Coaching: Pronouns

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A couple weeks ago I was at a meeting and a teacher asked me in front of a group of about 60 educators, “How do they–the district–define a curriculum?”

I paused and then said, “I want to address your pronoun because they–the district–is us. We are going to determine what is meant by curriculum through our work this year.”

In my work I’ve discovered just how much pronouns can include or exclude, invite or discourage, tell or teach. Pronouns are one of our big clues to consider the stances we are taking in coaching. Stances are ever-changing for me. One conversation starts in a coaching stance, moves into consulting for new curriculum territory, shifts to collaborating stance when we decide how to do the instructional work together and then closes back in heart of coaching.

“I”

“In my experience I…” and “If it were me I would…” are likely used in a consulting stance. In this stance the consultant’s experiences and ideas are the focus. Some coaches will shift to a consulting stance with beginning career teachers and educators who are brand new to a skill or strategy being taught.

“We”

“When we get ready to plan…” and “let’s reflect on how we approached…” are likely used in a collaborative stance. This is the coach-as-colleague position where a coach might be carrying an equal load of the planning, teaching or reflecting work. I used this a lot when I had a role as part of the professional learning community team.

“You”

“I heard you say…” and “what other ways are you already achieving this?” are likely used in a coaching stance. This is the place I want to start every coaching conversation. I want the person to know I believe they have the knowledge and skills within themselves to navigate whatever is in front of us. It’s also the place I want to end every conversation with that vote of confidence in my colleague that they already have–or know how to build–what they need to grow as a professional learner.

Who is I?

In my job shift, I’ve been struggling with my pronouns this year. I hear myself starting sentences like “As a teacher, I…” and then I think, but I’m not a teacher currently as I have no class to call my own; I’m an administrator now. Or “As coaches, we…” and then I wonder, is that fair to call myself a coach even though I’m not coaching like I have been in the past seven years? I picture myself as a collection of nesting dolls. Right now I have the administrator doll as my outside role, but right inside that are nested shells of coaching, teaching and at the very heart of it all–a learner. I realized it’s true to call myself a student, coach, teacher or administrator depending on the work before me.

And I never want to use the disingenuous “we.” I caught and corrected myself recently using “we” to describe a planning process when really I needed to say “you” because I wouldn’t be part of the work. I’ve seen people in leadership use that word loosely and it’s been an irritant for me. If I say “we” it means I’m contributing more than a budgetary nod. I’m advocating, I’m researching, I’m gathering support, I’m presenting. I’m rolling up my sleeves in some significant way–not a wee one– if I’m going to offer myself as part of the we.