Figure 1: Elena took me to the ocean and watched as I fell in love!
The Greek philosopher Diogenes once said, “We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.” This is a great piece of advice, yet it is not always easy to follow.
My journey to attending the 2018 Art of Coaching Conference begun by listening! I met Elena, in 2016 when she traveled to Nairobi to support us at Dignitas. We’d been fascinated by Elena’s Art of Coaching book long before we knew we would one day meet her. We had formed a book club, met weekly to practice coaching frameworks (seeing, thinking, listening and responding). In less than a year of using the Art of Coaching book our coaching practice had shifted tremendously. Instead of giving advice, we began listening more and asking probing questions. We shifted from only focusing on our teachers’ instructional practices and began to support them to address the beliefs they held about their students, learning and themselves. Instead of “giving advice” we began holding spaces for our teachers to reflect on their practice. Therefore, when we heard that Elena had said yes to coming to Kenya and supporting us, to say that we were pleased would be an understatement.
As a grounding experience, Elena shadowed and observed our coaching conversations at school sites and shared her written reflections here, here, and here. Of all the incredible things I have witnessed during my 7-year adventure in coaching, one scene stands out more than almost any other- having a one on one conversation with Elena. She cared deeply, asked questions and genuinely listened! Fast forward, a strong bond between us developed and Elena funded my trip not only to attend the Art of Coaching Conference but also to be a presenter! Yes, that’s how much she believed in me.
What did I learn?
My biggest learning inquiry question at the beginning of the conference was adding more tools in my coaching tool box and to watch (and learn) how to facilitate sessions that engage my adult learners meaningfully. I wasn’t disappointed. All the tools given by the different facilitators were very useful, the materials were well organized and presented. I especially appreciated the breakouts and networking sessions that were intentionally created by the facilitators which helped me improve my engagement during the different sessions. I was familiar with some of tools introduced yet had mixed success in applying them to support my coaches and school leaders. Practicing using the tools at the Art of Coaching Conference really boosted my confidence in trying them a few more times.
I observed adult learning principals in practice. It is often assumed that great teachers make great coaches. While I believe teachers and/or school leaders can successfully make the transition, supporting adults takes months and sometimes years of intentional learning and unlearning. We were allowed to practice in duos, pairs and small groups, share experiences during breakout sessions and practice what we learned. There were multiple opportunities where the facilitators demonstrated both the process as well as the content. One participant noted during our breakout session that this is by far the most meaningful conference she has ever attended.
I am ready to change my community one conversation at a time.