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Good coaching is powerful. In fact it’s so powerful, that it got me up a mountain the other day. In the summer, I love to spend my time mountain biking in Grand County, Colorado. There are hundreds of miles of trails, most of them pretty challenging.
When I get the chance, I like to ride with my friends Jeff and Angela. They are about ten years younger than me, are strong riders, and force me to push myself really hard. The other day we were joined by Kathy, an amazing rider who is over 50 years old and still races on the weekends. I hadn’t met Kathy before, and little did I know that she would end up coaching me well past my limits.
Kathy Taught Me to Focus on Where I Wanted to Go
We started off on a long climb called Yankee Doodle. I mentioned that I hated a certain section of loose rocks that formed a makeshift bridge. As you ride across, the rocks move around under your tires and I always worry about losing my balance. She laughed and said, “What? Those little rocks? You can totally ride those. Just don’t look at them. Look ahead and you’ll roll right over.” I had ridden that trail many times and I hadn’t ever ridden that rock bridge. But somehow Kathy’s coaching led me to take a risk and go for it. And she was right. I rolled right over it. It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought.
Further up the trail we came upon another rocky section. This time on a steep pitch with loose sand. This was another area that I had never cleared on my bike. I told Kathy that I’d probably walk that section and she said, “No you’re not. You’re going to ride it. Just look where you want to go, not at all of the obstacles in your path.” For some reason I decided it was easier to listen to her than deal with her disappointment later. So I rode it. For the first time ever.
By this time I was feeling pretty good. I had cleared two obstacles that I had never cleared before. All because of good coaching. My last demon was a trail called Burnout Loop. A section of the trail is littered with mud and enormous tree roots. It is a section that many riders can’t ride because there is no easy way through. Kathy was up ahead, and without even telling her, I decided to apply her coaching in this situation. I decided not to focus on the obstacles, but instead just to roll right through. And I did. I couldn’t believe I was able to ride something that had been so daunting to me for so long.
Kathy’s Coaching Moves
Kathy has the heart of a coach, and she knows how to push people well past their perceived limits. Here’s how she did that for me.
She Coached My Mindset
Most of my problems weren’t technical. They were in my head. Kathy was able to coach my thinking by reframing it. She helped me understand what to focus on when I came upon an obstacle. This was a game changer for me. Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can do a thing, or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”
As instructional coaches, we need to help teachers believe that they can reach their goals. Sure there are a lot of obstacles. Some that are under our control and others that aren’t. If we coach teachers to look beyond those obstacles, then they will reach beyond their perceived limits. Coaching mindset is how we get there.
Her Passion was Contagious
Kathy loves to mountain bike. She has a whole lot of fun out there and never stops smiling. While it isn’t a concrete ‘move’, it certainly rubbed off on me that day. I couldn’t help but have fun, and having fun led me to take a few extra risks.
When working with teachers, we have to model the joy that can be found in classrooms. Children are magical and so is teaching. Bringing this energy into what we do is part of our job description.
She Knows Her Stuff
There is a lot of technical knowledge that is required for mountain biking. Just moving up a few inches on your seat may help you up a steep climb. Kathy had this technical know-how and she was able to communicate it to me in a way that made sense.
We communicate the technical aspects of effective instruction through our co-planning sessions. This is when we scaffold teachers’ thinking around the instructional moves that they can make during lessons. This is when we help teachers think through all of the options they have when it comes to instruction.
Transfer Feels Amazing
I love to challenge myself to learn new things because it reminds me of what it feels like to master something new. When I am able to apply what I learned in a new situation, then transfer has occurred. There is no questions that this feels really good when it happens. This feeling is what we provide to teachers through our coaching.
A few days later, I headed out on a ride with my husband. Kathy’s coaching had stuck with me and I found all kinds of places to apply it. About halfway through our ride my husband said, “Wow, you are riding really well.” Yep, transfer is amazing.
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