Listening IS important

Listening IS important

So I’m jazzed.  I’m spending the year learning about coaching and specifically did not write into my development plan anything about initiating coaching relationships.  As my AP said, it’s ok to give yourself time to learn.  But I couldn’t wait.  (Big shock, I know, for anyone who knows me.)  I’ve been reading and learning so much I wanted to try it out.  So I found some super generous volunteers who were willing to work with me in a coaching relationship to test out my new skills.

My first victim volunteer is a second grade teacher and today was our initial meeting. My main goal for this meeting was to ask questions and listen as much as possible.  I have found that as an ITF I am more often than not a last-minute source of ideas.  Sometimes, teachers want a cool “dessert project” and ask me to come the last couple days of the unit to teach their kids how to use a presentation tool.  Or they want ideas for a good app to teach or practice specific skills.  There is nothing wrong with any of this.  However, if this is all we’re asking our kids to do with technology, we have a real problem.

So most of the time I am viewed as an “expert” (your words, not mine) who is there to give a solution.  It is very much a role I have fallen into and even secretly enjoy (I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t like looking knowledgeable).  Plus, I am a problem solver and impulsive by nature.  I can only handle so much discussion before I want to come up with a solution and implement it then and there (ask my husband about our house renovations….).  Don’t get me wrong.  As an ITF, there is definitely a time to be a source of ideas and an “expert”.  But this is not who I want to be when acting as a coach.

Talking is a hard habit to break.  Especially when you’re a nervous talker and like to fill silence.

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. - EpictetusSource BrainyQuote

I knew I needed to be prepared or I would ramble.  I came in with the following questions:

  1. How would you describe your class?  What are their characteristics, areas of strength, areas for growth?
  2. What are some areas you’ve had a lot of success?  Why do you think that is?
  3. What are two areas you want to improve?  What do you think is preventing your students from being successful in these areas
  4. What are you hoping to accomplish with our partnership?
  5. What is your understanding of what coaching is?
  6. How do you feel you learn best?  What should I know about you to make our work as effective as possible?

Some of these are my own, some are from this article.  As we spoke, I focused on being present and actually listening to her answers.  Though I haven’t formally read or studied Stephen Covey, I am aware of his work.

“The habit to “seek first to understand” involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”-Stephen Covey

This quote has always resonated with me and I really took it to heart for this meeting.  What it allowed me to do was repeat her ideas back to her to check for understanding.  It allowed me to think of additional questions to further our conversation and deepen my understanding of her needs.  Most importantly, it allowed us to come to a place where we are working on her goals and wants rather than what I feel is important.

In the end, we decided to work together to plan her next social studies unit.  She wants her kids to be more engaged and excited.  I’m so looking forward to meeting with her next week to look at the objectives and start setting up a plan!  I’m also looking forward to the initial meeting for my second volunteer.  I’m looking forward to not just getting the chance to work with another teacher, but to take a completely different journey with her than anyone else because we’re moving based on her needs, not my “expertise”.

 

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