By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

I recently watched “The Lion Guard” with my three grandsons. It’s amazing how many life lessons you can learn by watching or reading children’s literature and movies. One of my grandsons asked a great question, “How can you listen to the quiet so you can hear? If it’s quiet, there’s nothing to hear.” So, I began to explain how listening to your thoughts rather than hearing yourself talk allows a person the opportunity to think without interruption and to make reasonable decisions.

Noise from words often results in an emotional reaction rather than a thoughtful, deliberate response. I asked him what happens when he stops and thinks about what he plans to do instead of just jumping into the action. Of course, he said that when he does something without thinking, it usually results in getting a “time out” because he didn’t think about the consequences, like jumping into a pool over his younger brother who is drifting on a raft. That immediately gets him an “out of the pool” pass for a bit!

Perhaps contrary to what we want to do, coaching is about listening to the quiet and giving permission to our colleagues to just think about the “what, why, and how.”  It’s about getting “out of the way” so our teaching colleagues can make decisions that are rooted in student needs and not influenced by our ego and the “right way” to do things.

The start of the new school year brings opportunities to build on the previous year’s successes and to begin building new ones. Continue to ask questions and LISTEN to the answers. Listen to what is not only said but what is NOT said. Remember to foster collaboration, collective problem-solving, critical thinking, and community. Individual and collective growth are vital to continued school wide improvement so make every effort to plan time for both. Think about the skill set and knowledge base of the teachers you coach… where do they need support; how will you continue to move their practices forward; and what do you need to nourish your own professional growth? Coaching is not a cookie cutter model; be deliberate, planful, and flexible in your work with your teaching colleagues.

What are some ways you will “listen to the quiet” and plan your work as the new school year begins?

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