It has been a long time since my last post and I promise it is justified! We have moved continents, shifting home and kids and landing in new climates after 7 years at our previous school. We were so excited about this move - we loved our time in South Africa and were ready for the next adventure in Vietnam. International move number six! Still, enthusiasm and experience doesn’t guarantee a smooth transition between countries; culture shock is real, no matter how much control you think you have. And a new coaching role? I felt ready for that, too - eager, in fact, to embrace the challenge, a chance to start fresh and build my context. Guess what? Enthusiasm and experience doesn’t guarantee to a smooth transition there, either. Turns out, coaching-shock is a thing, too.
I began Term 1 full of hope and excitement and efficacy. As the days rolled over, reality set in. It didn’t matter how ready I was for this challenge. I had to wait patiently for others to be ready, too.
So I worked quietly, waiting for relationships and trust to grow. As I waited, in crept some familiar worries; I considered breaking my own rules and dipping in to areas outside my role. Just while I get to know people. Just until they get to know me. I knew this isn’t a great idea, and resisting the urge was hard.
I articulated my philosophy and values with my principal, laying solid foundations for the work to come. It felt good, but I didn't yet have a forum to share these beyond the drawing board and I wasn't making much ground with teachers. I found myself saying ‘No,’ a lot, being overly careful in case I blurred lines. “Sorry, I’m not a Maths Specialist, but I’m sure we can work this out together… what are you seeing in students that has made you draw this conclusion?” “Sounds like an interesting activity. What are your hopes for student learning as a result?” Some embraced the invitation to shift the conversation from strategy or self, to student. Some seemed wary, confused, or disappointed I would not be who they hoped I would.
I started to feel misplaced. I began treading even more gently among the teachers. I began to worry that, like the new house we had moved in to, I might not be able to make the new role and new school, a home.
At the height of these feelings, I began to read again, something I’d ‘lost’ in the busyness of the move. It didn’t come a moment too soon.
As fellow coaches reassured me in print, I was heartened by Clavis B Anderson (2008) who writes of the symbiosis of coach and self - the undeniable fact that we bring our true selves to our coaching role, and no matter how we might try to stifle that self, she makes our conversations real, impassioned, vulnerable. It is a notion that marries well with Brene Brown’s writing around wholeness: “We attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness…depends on integration of all our experiences,” (2015).
Perhaps I shouldn’t be curating myself quite so harshly? Perhaps I am leaving out the very things that make me who I am and might actually make me good at my job?
I decided to give myself permission to be more whole, and I let myself in to my coaching. It was time to be more 'me'.
With Term 1 drawing to a close, I make a shift. I remain true to my values, but I also reach out to my peers. I am honest. I name worries. I share wonderings. I show my skill-set. I make missteps and talk to others about them. I articulate the understandings I am growing through what I see, hear, and experience in my new context.
I build relationships through connection and credibility. I presume the positive in myself and others. I give in, ultimately, to me.
And already, coaching is beginning to feel a lot more like home.
Anderson, C. B. (2008). One Conversation: Exploring the Role of Culture in Coaching. Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse.
Brown, B. (2015). Rising strong: How the ability to reset transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Spiegel & Grau.