As we get closer and closer to the 2020 Teaching Learning Coaching Conference, we continue to explore the work of our amazing lineup of presenters and keynoters! Today, we’ll be addressing coaching during uncertain times a theme that will be touched on by many of this year’s presenters.
Dr. Kim Richardson is a TLC 2020 presenter, and she is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) through the International Coaching Federation (ICF), is the chief strategic consultant for Richardson Coaching and Consulting LLC, and is currently the Organizational Development Coordinator for Hampton City Schools in Virginia.
She created the district’s instructional coaching program and was featured in Jim Knight’s book Focus on Teachers. In her current role, she coordinates and delivers professional learning for instruction, coaching, and leadership for staff at levels: administrators, coaches, specialists, and teachers. Prior, she served as elementary school principal, technology instructional specialist, and elementary classroom teacher.
In July, we spoke with her about a recent development in her work where during the spring when the pandemic shook the schools she was working with, she hosted an 8-week course on coaching during uncertain times. We wanted to highlight this work, and give a description of the key learning points she shared from leading the course.
The Brain and the SCARF Model
Dr. Kim’s course evolved organically out of a previously scheduled short-week professional development timetable that shifted from a short workshop on being a learning leader, to having the title: Coaching and Leading During Uncertain Times, and lasting 2 months!
Uncertainty has a dramatic impact on one’s brain as it is trying to figure things out, and when the brain cannot sort things out, a fight or flight response, or threat mode, can even start affecting the body physically, and one has to focus on addressing the challenges uncertainty brings. This is what the course dealt with- giving educators the tools to go through the uncertainty and finding answers to sailing through those choppy waters. Dr. Kim taught us the brain-based model from David Rock called SCARF. Every conversation between a coach and educator needs to include all components of SCARF to avoid having someone’s brain go into threat mode. Status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness are all necessary components of an interaction to make a person feel comfortable to build a meaningful partnership.
How to Cope, and Helping Others Cope
Just as on an airplane when one needs to put on their own oxygen mask before helping others, Dr. Kim teaches us that we need to learn how to cope ourselves before we help others cope. Coaches, specialists, and other educators were thrown into unfamiliar uncertainty with having to work from home, and trying to learn: “What does my job look like now?” A lot of the coaches she was working with spoke of the challenge of not having direction, and so the task was to pivot into a question about if there was no way to do work as before, “What can I do now that will be helpful, and what new direction can I craft for myself now?” Flexibility is more important than before the pandemic hit, both in allowing for a more flexible schedule, and for being flexible with how to work with others. Dr. Kim mentioned Bob Johansen’s work on leadership skills during volatile situations, and how one must meet uncertainty with understanding. Dr Kim says that after we have learned to cope, “We can help others cope a little bit better by being more understanding and flexible and thinking with the lens of empathy.”
“Optimism is not a feeling, but a mindset that can be broken down into three Ps: permanence, pervasiveness, and personalization.”
Dr. Kim saw that her coaches were very excited when optimism was clearly defined as not being an emotion. Sometimes optimism can be tied into all of the words for different feelings, and Dr. Kim says that needs to again be shifted: “Optimism is not a feeling, but a mindset that can be broken down into three Ps: permanence, pervasiveness, and personalization.” Dr. Kim’s educators learned the power of optimism in her course:
“We would take a moment in the course and say our mantra: “‘This is will not last forever,’ ‘this is not changing everything,’ and, ‘my effort can make a difference.'” Dr Kim tells us that changing outlooks for educators helps coaches gain tools to help educators become more optimistic in an authentic way. “People don’t have to feel a certain way about being optimistic,” Dr. Kim says, “Educators can decide to change their own thinking about the situation.”
As optimism is not a feeling, neither is resilience an emotion that one can feel. Dr. Kim tells us that when you are resilient, you have to be able to learn from your past experiences and you must remember how you navigated through challenges and bounced back. Dr. Kim talks about the 4 ‘S’s of one’s plan, and even created an image that incorporates the four parts of resilience. The four ‘S’ plan starts with support, and who has helped in the past? Next we ask what strategies were used to overcome challenges in the past? Then we use sagacity to remember what wisdom existed to help in the past. Finally, what were the solutions that came about from those strategies?
A Traffic Light and the Uncontrollable
As coaches and educators went through the course there became a time of transition from a focus on uncertainty, to a time of looking at autonomy- or lack thereof! Coaches felt there were more challenges in their lives that were out of their control than ever before, and this had begun to create even more tension. To deal with the challenge of loss of autonomy, or working with the uncontrollable, Dr. Kim taught us about another tool she developed: the traffic light.
When looking at perceived uncontrollable situations, Dr. Kim explained:
“We used a traffic light where a red light represents things that are out of my control… a yellow light means I might not have direct control, but I might be able to influence the decisions; and a green light means I have complete control of this situation.”
Another note Dr. Kim added was the importance of remembering that if something is out of our control, then the active choice to surrender control is something that we can decide to do- thus paradoxically gaining us some control in the process. Dr. Kim says that simply identifying what is within an educator’s control and what is not, gives that educator a certain agency and power to bring back some of the autonomy that is taken during uncertain times.
Watch Jim’s recent interview with Dr. Kim on his weekly Facebook Live Coaching Conversations!
Don’t miss Dr. Kim’s session at this year’s TLC:
Breakout Session: The Space Between Two People: The Conversation Is the Relationship
When coaches/leaders begin to engage in formal leadership roles, coaching and leadership is practiced and learned on the job. Come learn about the strategies and skills that are developed in the space between people!
TLC Theme: Coaching During Uncertain Times
No matter who you are or where you’re from, this past year has proven to be one of the most challenging in recent memory. It can sometimes feel near impossible to move forward when we don’t know what’s around the corner, but we can learn from and with each other to keep progressing and improving, even in times like these.
One of the four main themes at TLC 2020 is Coaching During Uncertain Times, and the following keynote speakers, panelists, and breakout presenters will be exploring the topic in their sessions. Be sure to catch their presentations and more at TLC!
Kristin Anderson is a consultant dedicated to unleashing the expertise and capabilities that lie within every educator. She is a longtime student of the field, a passionate educator, and an inspirational leader.
Kristin began her career as a high school English teacher for students who were kicked out of Denver Public Schools, and she has worked in multiple K–12 settings in multiple instructional and administrative roles. She has obtained advanced degrees from Sterling College, the University of Denver, and the University of Colorado. Kristin is currently earning her doctoral degree from Vanderbilt University in Leadership and Organizational Change.
She has developed professional learning programs for Edison Schools, The Leadership and Learning Center, and Corwin, and is known as the person who brought Visible Learning to North America. She has delivered keynotes, workshops and extensive professional learning on various topics in teaching, learning, and leadership in schools and districts all over the world.
She is the Founder and CEO of The Brilliance Project.
Kristin’s TLC session is titled:
Leadership Self-efficacy and the Stories We Tell Ourselves
Bill Sommers is a Marshall Goldsmith certified Stakeholder Centered Coach and has been a consultant for Cognitive Coaching, Adaptive Schools, Brain Research, Poverty, Habits of Mind, Conflict Management, and Classroom Management strategies. He was also on the Board of Trustees for five years and President of the National Staff Development Council now called Learning Forward. Dr. Sommers is the former Executive Director for Secondary Curriculum and Professional Learning for Minneapolis Public Schools, and a school administrator for over 35 years.
He has also co-authored over ten books, including The Principal’s Field Manual (2009) as well as his most recent publication, Nine Professional Conversataions to Change Our Schools (2018).
In January 2016, Bill and his colleague Skip Olsen launched the website learningomnivores.com which includes educational posts, new rules (changes in attitude and behavior we educators must exhibit to survive in our world of surprising changes), and book summaries.
Dr. Sommers’s two TLC sessions are titled:
Responding to Resistance: Leveraging Conflict to Increase Learning
Nine Professional Opinions: A Dashboard of Options
Keysha McIntyre is a Math Lead Specialist at Fulton County Schools, consultant and founder of MoldingMinds Moments, LLC where she coaches from dreams to implementation.
Keysha has been in education for 20+ years and coaching for 10+ years. She began teaching in Thomasville, Georgia before moving to Metro Atlanta Area where she taught at 3 schools, coached at 4 schools, and presently is a district coach of coaches and other instructional leaders. Keysha has worked with thousands of teachers, coaches, and leaders and has presented at conferences across the United States.
Keysha’s TLC session is titled:
Co-coaching: The Partnership Between District Support and School-Based Coaches
Alisa Simeral has guided school-based reform efforts as teacher, dean, instructional coach, professional developer, and mentor of coaches. Her focus is in the understanding of what sets apart the excellent from the mediocre, and weaving ‘reflection’ throughout the fabric of all professional growth. If how we think drives what we do, then developing and refining strong habits of thought is at the heart of all capacity-building work, and ultimately, both teacher and student success.
Alisa has turned her commitment to helping schools develop Systems of Reflective practice into a major focus of her research, writing, speaking, and teaching. She is co-author of several best-selling books: Building Teachers Capacity for Success: A Collaborative Approach for Coaches and School Leaders; Teach, Reflect, Learn: Building Your Capacity for Success in the Classroom; and The Principal Influence; A Framework for Developing Leadership Capacity in Principals.
Alisa’s TLC session is titled:
Coaching on the Continuum: Building Teacher Capacity for Distance Learning Success
Check out our conference schedule to see the complete lineup of presenters! Hope to see you next month!