In a recent post, I wrote about some exciting new trends in education. The most exciting is a focus on empathy and how it can transform the classroom and school environment. Here are three ways to grow empathy in coaching cycles: build relationships, establish trust, and be aware.
Building relationships begins with acknowledging and honoring each other. Recently, I attended a meeting with educators from many different schools, most of whom I had never met before. The facilitator started the meeting with a simple, but powerful, question: What do we need to know about you as a learner? As each teacher told about their unique learning styles, I gained insight about them and we knew better how to proceed as a collaborative group, being careful to honor all learning styles and needs. Coaches could pose this question to grade-level teams at the beginning of the school year so that we can be aware of how we each learn best. Teachers could use this in their classrooms, too, to build relationships with students and ensure that each student can learn successfully.
Establishing trust requires vulnerability on both sides. It is not always easy for teachers to open up their classroom and accept feedback on their teaching practice. To show teachers how vital it is to receive feedback from others, coaches should be willing to be observed. Yes, coaches need coaching, too! Through Lab Sites, teachers can come to observe the coach in a classroom; afterwards, teachers can share feedback in a reflective discussion. Coaches can also be observed by other coaches while facilitating meetings. This will establish a culture of trust between teachers and coaches, which will lead to learning and continuous growth for everyone.
Be aware of others. We all have “those” days. Days when nothing goes as planned. Being empathetic means being aware of when teachers are having a bad day, and not adding to their stress level. It is important to be mindful that a coach is not a counselor; yet, we must be aware of when teachers need a little extra support or someone to listen.
What are ways that you plan to build empathy in the classroom, or in coaching cycles this year?