Thanks to the Marshall Memo, I often read articles connected to teaching and learning that might not otherwise cross my desk. This recent article from Psychology Today got me to thinking about my work as a coach. It provided some reminders as we move into this last part of the year. So — Life Lessons for coaching the end of the school year:
Understand that not everything that happens to you is about you. We are all essentially ego-centric. The default position for human beings is to believe that something we have said or done has caused, or at least influenced, the current happening. Remember: this is how medieval and ancient humans ended up with some of the theories about the universe that we now consider ridiculous. Lots of things happen in schools this time of the year. Teachers cancel coaching meetings. Administrators cancel meetings with coaches. Coaches show up and everyone has forgotten about the coaching session. It happens. And it is not about me!! It just happens
Worry less about what others think of you. This is the time of the year when everyone is getting feedback in the form of end of year evaluations and reflections. And this is the time of the year when a lot of people are feeling a wee bit defensive as a result of poorly delivered or unforeseen feedback. The whole ethos of that defensive feeling becomes a vortex that can suck us in. Beware the vortex!! The time to worry about what anyone thinks of my work is not now — that ship has sailed. All during the year, I want and need that feedback and I need to take it seriously and make adjustments to my work. Right now, I need to worry less about what anyone thinks of me. I need to relax, be who I really am, do my best work and trust the partnerships I’ve built with colleagues.
Reframe and manage disappointment and adversity. This is a time of the school year when resiliency counts. Take a deep breath, see things from another point of view, and move on. One of my mantras is “no one wakes up in the morning thinking ‘how can I screw things up today?’ — no one”. Everyone is doing the very best that they can — sometimes that best is less than we might wish it to be. Sometimes MY best is less than I might wish it to be. Manage it and move it. We have only a few weeks left to the school year. There is little recovery time available. Make the most of that time by bouncing back quickly.
Stay true to your own values despite what others expect. The stress of the end of the school year creates a lot of competing agendas. Things need to get done. Deadlines are looming. Everyone is feeling the pressure. And most everyone is putting some pressure on someone else in the process. Find your north star. Find your compass as a professional, as a colleague, as a human being. Stay true to the compass.
Be open to revising your thinking. As the year has progressed, I know that I have invested my time and energy (and emotions) in things I have deemed important. As the year winds down, some of those investments have yielded, some of them have not. It’s easy to become overly attached my investments. This is a time of the year when I need to take step back and revise my thinking. The article had a quote that I loved — “there comes a point at which constancy can curdle into rigidity.” I have a visceral reaction to the word “curdled” – and I think it serves me well. Constancy has been my goal all along. But at this time of the year, I need to guard against curdling and making everything around me sour.
Find ways to tackle tasks you want to avoid. There are a zillion and one tasks that must be done before the end of the year. The paperwork alone is daunting. Take a measured approach. Don’t let yourself drown in the tedium. Find ways to get it done that don’t drain your energy, passion and love for the profession. Team up with colleagues. Plan a paperwork session with a little reward at the end of it. Tuck the tedium in between the fun parts of the job.
Tolerate ambiguity. This time of the school year is loaded with ambiguities. Teachers are sometimes unsure what grade level they will be teaching next year. Others may be uncertain of their very employment status. Students are feeling the looming end of the relationship with THIS teacher and the prospect of constructing a new relationship with a new teacher. The end of school is bittersweet.
“Lessons You Won’t Learn in School” by Jena Pincott in Psychology Today, May/June 2018,