Each post on my blog is inspired by some book, article, or conversation. This particular post was inspired by the book Evocative Coaching by Bob and Megan Tschannen-Moran. It was recommended to me by Mary Stewart, one of the most powerful coaches I have had the pleasure to work with.
Good educational leaders do not force initiatives but weave them into practice. The following is a quote from the book Evocative Coaching that has resonated with my core. ” Good coaches hold teachers feet to the fire and make it feel like a massage.” What a powerful statement. This takes years of practice and patience to be able to do well. It takes a lot of listening, suspending judgement and temptation to insert opinion, and forces us to truly look at where a teacher is at a in regards to the growth spectrum. (the belief that our ability and knowledge is not fixed but fluid) It is about evoking good practice rather than simply demanding it. To demand is fairly easy initially but makes the work arduous in the aftermath. To evoke takes so much work at the outset but makes it gratifying and powerful after inception.
I know I may be getting a little bit idealistic here…but bear with me. We as a profession should study the science behind teaching. Scientific knowledge behind teaching is a critical aspect of our work. What strategies and approaches can a teacher use to maximize student learning? But, as we all know, that with even the most perfect science, humans can screw it up. It when you have a balance of science and passion that the work becomes real. Evoking passion is as much a part of our work as coaching science. When our work aligns with our ideals we enter of state of gratification. The science behind design now is married to the delivery of design.
When we have this marriage, our work is as much spiritual as it is scientific. As a leader, we can mandate a teacher to do anything. It does not mean the teacher will understand it. They may follow the mandate but once the energy dies around it, so will the practice. Yet, if a teacher sees the power in it, if it connects to what they are doing, if it aligns with their passion , then you have true embodiment. That is when you have improved practice. This takes time and patience. The picture that the political create for education paints a dismal urgency on our work. This in turns causes our profession to lose patience with this spirituality and call for immediate change. I do not believe that immediate change will work. True change takes time because our actions are only as permanent as our belief systems.
Put simply, every teacher is somewhere on a journey. A good leader pinpoints where the teacher is in that journey and guides them forward. The only way to do this is to “evoke” that spirit that makes them want to move forward. Think about what happens in the brain when passion is ignited. It becomes consuming. It takes our thoughts and aligns them into a single energy source that radiates from our core. It aligns our inner being and focuses it on the center of that passion. The opposite happens when the brain is put in a power struggle or feels devalued. The energy becomes dispersed about the body. The focus steals our energy rather than channel it. The adrenaline created by that anger works against growth and causes something in us to regress to a self protective mode. In this state, it is hard to see intent, positive frames, and common ground. Change is halted.
I have been intrigued by the four modalities Evocative coaching embraces. My plan is to post further on these four modalities as my journey moves forward. I will briefly touch upon them here. I ask the question “What if?” a lot. For this post, I will “make the committment” to do the following:
- Listen to the Story. Listening is a huge part of my work. I will give myself permission to temporarily suspend my belief system and truly listen to the people I am coaching. I will hone in on the person’s purpose, intent, and attempt to find the core of the conversation. I will understand.
- Express genuine empathy. Do not mistake this for sympathy. Empathy here means that I will align spiritually to the other person’s journey. It means that I will find some common ground with this person and truly understand them and their beliefs. (You cannot fake this)
- Genuine Inquiry. Once I have aligned the passions, we will become a partnership. We will question what lies beneath. These questions will act as oxygen to fire. The purpose of these questions will act as something that ignites passion rather than dampens it. They will cause us to explore rather than defend.
- Genuine Design. Only after these first three states will we be able to truly design change and our growth. This will happen when we both hit a critical mass in our energy and it is able to be channeled into positive direction.
If our work takes away energy rather than creates it, then we are doing something wrong. We must create the conditions to foster passion. The above four principles are difficult to navigate through. Yet, in the end will cause permanent change in practice. By simply demanding is to avoid this spectrum. It may cause temporary change but it will not likely be permanent. I only know the above ideas to hold truth because it is the way that I have been coached. Idealistic as it may be, I truly believe that this is how we can embrace the chaos of change.