Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Epic Fail? Nope, just a First Attempt In Learning


I know it's counter-intuitive to start an entry reflecting on appreciative inquiry by using the word, "fail", but I really love the re-thinking of the word expressed above. I've been attending a conference (re-framed as "Literacy Leadership Camp") set on the beautiful shores of Lake Simcoe and am finally having the opportunity to "flex my coaching muscle" as it were. In wrapping up my PLP Connected Coaching course this week and with another school year ramping up, I am finding myself in a very reflective place.

Over the last few days, I have repeatedly found myself in situations where I am coaching individuals. Part of it is because of the conference and the focus on leadership (it's been a fantastic experience and I will blog about it separately), but part of it is that I am actively seeking opportunities to practice the skills I have been developing. I'm a little late to the party, but hey...

My previous post,"My Journey as a Connected Coach" explored some of my thinking about the course -- and the fact that I was disappointed with my performance in it. I really didn't apply my skills, so of course I was unable to feel confident about the course or my role as a Connected Coach of appreciative inquiry.

BUT, as Steven Katz stated about two hours ago, "nothing breeds success like success". This is a basic tenet of appreciative inquiry. In acknowledging my own successes this week in coaching people I have just met and coaching via email two teachers (one of whom I have yet to meet), I am starting to feel a bit more confident in appreciative inquiry.  The feedback sheet I completed for the course is still riddled with level 2s, but I feel like I am finally working towards level 3 in a number of areas (and inching closer to level 4 in others!). I have surprised myself this week -- I didn't intend to coach people, but I find I am starting to live and enact the tenets of appreciative inquiry.

I was able to engage in deep listening, paraphrase, validate, discuss successes and passions with the coachees, and ultimately, guide them towards new actions, all while not just telling them what I think or what they should do.

I have been most challenged by the idea of starting with the successes and the positive. Too often, our system (admin, school leadership, teachers, parents, even students) are too focused on the weaknesses. We discuss the problems, the challenges, the barriers... I love the re-framing of appreciative inquiry. The idea is to coach people, often through questioning, to wonder about possibilities and move towards their achievement of their ideas.  What if? What's possible? What do you dream of for your students? For yourself? What would your life be like if you realized your best intentions? 

This last question had my mind spinning for the last week; it really resonated with me during an online session.  I think it's so full of possibility that I am having trouble articulating what I want.  I need to dream big, determine what I really stand for, and determine how to live that. Plan my actions so that I can foster this thinking in others.

If I realized my best intentions...