I’ve been learning about how my response to other people’s strong emotions has to do with my comfort with experiencing those emotions. Self-development is foundational for being a Transformational Coach and I encourage you to find support to explore your emotions.
I want to bring this idea into the classroom. Chaz (a pseudonym) was a middle school math teacher whom I coached for several years. She was successful by all measures, but often responded with what I thought was an overreaction to the behavior of some female students—the shy and timid girls. I’d observe Chaz call on them when they hadn’t volunteered and the girls would squirm in discomfort. I saw Chaz admonish them in front of the whole class. “Stand up to those boys when they try to talk over you,” she’d say. “Don’t be so passive—speak up.”
After I watched a 7th grader burst into tears in response to Chaz’s feedback, I raised this behavior. I said that I’d noticed a pattern in how she responded to her quiet female students, and then asked, “What do you think this is about?”
She said she was tired of seeing girls not asserting themselves. I attempted to get her to empathize with how the girls felt when she admonished them, but this didn’t go anywhere. I asked what she was feeling, and she spoke about wanting more for them, wanting them to be able to navigate the world—responses which weren’t about her emotions, but about her thoughts.
Then I got an inspiration. I asked, “What were you like in 7th grade in math?”
Chaz looked down at her hands. “I was like them. I loved math but the loud kids and the boys walked all over me.”
“Tell me more,” I said, using one of my favorite coaching sentence stems.
Chaz described feeling like teachers didn’t notice what was going on and recalled feeling unsafe and afraid to share. “I’m still angry about that,” she said, “I feel like I was robbed of my potential.”
When you see yourself in others, and you see a reflection of part of you that’s still raw and wounded, you’re likely to respond with fear and aversion. Sometimes those emotions manifest as anger.
Teachers are humans, and humans have emotions. This is why coaches and administrators need to learn how to coach emotions—because people experience emotions at work, and we can learn the skills to help people recognize that they’re experiencing emotions and then to explore those emotions.
Maybe you witness teachers who express a lot of anger at students, or who seem fearful of them, or who are overly critical toward children. I’m sure you’ve recognized how these teachers’ inability to engage with their own emotions creates unintended negative consequences for children.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t need to be therapists in order to coach emotions. This is a skill set that you can learn, starting in The Art of Coaching Emotions workshop.
May you find your own healing, and may you learn the skills to invite others to heal.