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Is change as good as a holiday?

Updated: Apr 25, 2020

Tailing zebra in KwaZulu-Natal; 3-hour drives tracking wildlife can be a stretch with little kids!

Is change as good as a holiday? I guess that depends on the holiday. Most of us, though, are looking to escape from our daily grind. Cosying up with a good book for a week, fire blazing at your feet; losing your breath as you hike up mountains; exchanging that collared shirt and the train for boardies and bare feet at the beach… or, like when I had toddlers, lugging half our house along for a week of interrupted sleep patterns, over-stimulation in strange, exciting environments, and long drives in cars leading to acute mayhem in confined spaces. I’d often arrive home with someone injured and feeling like the effort was simply not worth it – things were so much easier at home, where we’d mastered our routine and everything ran smoothly. I was actually relieved to be home.

And herein lies my realisation as I start 2019...change might be as good as a holiday, but what if the holiday is awful? Like me and our then-toddlers on holiday, some of us are reluctant to embrace change because:

  • Things work already

  • It’s rarely easy; the change often requires a lot of effort for what might be unknown outcomes

  • It mucks with our sense of efficacy

…And something that has struck me as I think about holidays and escapism: change might imply that what we have going on ‘at home’ in our classrooms, isn’t good enough.


Knowing that this might be the case for the teachers we work with, what do we as coaches do, when our work is - in some way or another - about change? I’m wondering if being more intentional with these approaches in my coaching might help:

Lead change with purpose. If I always solidify the goal of the work first, and we work together to explicitly tie all ideas for change directly to that goal, then our actions will be intentional, too. Working backwards from the goal is one approach to take, or I can draw upon successful past experiences the teacher has had and use them to guide plans for future action.

Watch my language. Words are powerful, and can be loaded with connotation. Change can imply doing something instead of, or something different than. Teachers are already doing something, and they are choosing to work with me to find ways to increase their impact. Instead of ‘changing’ what's being done, we can look to ‘enhance’, ‘tweak’, ‘amplify’ and ‘boost’ in the context of goals for student learning.

Meet teachers where they are. Then, I can put the focus on progress from that start-point. I don’t expect all students to start at the same place in their learning; the same should stand for teachers. This also means I can’t allow my recent professional reading, PD, or experiences with other teachers in coaching cycles, no matter how exciting, to drive the planning, either.

Looking back on those holidays with toddler in tow, I can't deny that no matter how exhausted and frazzled we were at the end, our family returned from those trips a little more grown and a little more capable than when we left; the change in our daily grind had resulted in enhanced and evolved versions of our former selves. And maybe this is ultimately what we should be aiming for as coaches: to highlight how change is more about what happens on the journey, rather than the destination itself.

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