Thursday, March 21, 2019

Work With an Instructional Coach? Whoa...Talk About Vulnerability!

It was my seventh year teaching, but my first year as a second grade teacher.  To me,
this was just like being a brand new teacher. I was teaching in a very low socioeconomic
building in the District and the sense of urgency for me to give students a rich learning
experience was extremely high.  I had every bit of confidence that I could rise to the
occasion, but I was also realistic enough to know that if I wanted to meet the level of
expectation I set for myself, I would need to learn a whole lot more and have support in
doing so.  

I remember my first “coaching cycle” was with my literacy coach.  New to second grade,
it first real experience in teaching phonics.  I wanted support with connecting the little
understanding I had around phonics instruction and the scope and sequence within the
resource we had at the time.  I asked her questions and she asked me questions. Both
of us realizing we didn’t have all the answers, but together we would figure it out. We
looked at the resource, planned, co-taught, and through the gradual release model, she
eventually stepped back to let me do my thing.  The best part is, even though this little bird
was flying on her own, I knew that my coach was always there to be a thinking partner
with me along the way. I knew I was never truly alone in my work.
Fast forward eight years...on the other side of this story as an elementary instructional
coach. What I’ve learned is coaching and creating a culture of coaching in a school relies
heavily on relationships, trust, honesty, and a whole lot of vulnerability.  Vulnerability...very
tricky and truthfully, quite challenging.

As a coach, I have worked with teachers who don’t seem to be nervous about showing
vulnerability. They have been eager to learn as much as they possibly can for their
students. I have also been able to witness other colleagues who appear to be protecting
themselves from vulnerability. Perhaps our need to seem confident, skillful, and in control
prevents us from taking risks. In fact, Dr. Brene Brown, a research professor who has
spent two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy says, “You can’t
get to courage without walking through vulnerability.”  

The question then becomes, how can we ask our students to be vulnerable if we aren’t
modeling it ourselves? I have always been an honest person (perhaps too honest at
times). I modeled honesty and vulnerability with my students. Without a doubt, there are
limits; as educators, in the classroom we can not overshare, and we need to be sensitive
to the personal experiences of our students and colleagues. But, it is not beyond our
capability to be courageous and take risks.  The same is true in the context of being a
lifelong learner. It takes courage and vulnerability to reach out and say, “I need to learn
more about this and I think I need support in doing so.” In her Ted Talk,
Listening to Shame, Brown shares, “Vulnerability is not weakness.  It is our most accurate
measure of courage.”

Education is a very difficult profession.  The demands to deliver high quality instruction
using research based best practices, understand the continuum of learning, be diagnostic
for our students across all content areas, and so much more are simply daunting.  The
bottom line...we need each other. We need a culture of coaching. We need to know and
understand that we do not have to go it alone. The urgency is too great and the
responsibility is too high.

Twitter Tuesday Questions:
Q1:  How can you embrace vulnerability within yourself?
Q2:  How are you authentic and vulnerable with your students? Colleagues?
Q3:  What are some ways you’ve modeled vulnerability with your students?
Q4:  What are some ways you’ve been vulnerable with your colleagues or instructional
Q5:  Think about a time when you noticed someone showing vulnerability. How did you
feel during that situation? To what extent do you view them as brave or courageous?

1 comment:

  1. Yes! Vulnerability is a powerful factor in growth and learning. Let's embrace it!