This is the second part of a two-part blog series. Part 1 provided an overview of coaching and my experience with instructional coaching. Part 2 covers a few other types of coaching for educators.
Executive Coaching. It’s Not Just for Executives!
Have you ever lost your mojo as a teacher?
It happens to me every year in that long home stretch after spring break. In fact, it has become a rather predictable pattern in my school year calendar – something I’ve always been able to overcome by just venting to a colleague and switching something up.
But this year I found myself in that down place in early October. “October! Way too early for the teaching slump,” I thought. None of my usual tricks were working. I was feeling really defeated. I googled “lost my mojo” and a series of suggestions popped up.
Book a vacation!
Do something daring!
Engage in positive self-talk!
Don’t be afraid to make a big change!
Being a teacher, a spontaneous vacation wasn’t in the cards. Skydiving wasn’t for me, and I certainly didn’t want to quit. And engaging in positive self-talk for sure wasn’t cutting it.
Then an ad popped up about the benefits of executive coaching. And I realized, “Hey, I know an executive coach!” So I decided to give her a call.
Now I’ve done therapy, read self-help books, and even participated in weekend-long self-development retreats, but outside of working with an instructional coach in the classroom, I’d never been coached before. I didn’t really know what to expect.
I met with the coach over Zoom from the comfort of my own home. She began by giving me an overview of the process. She explained that she’d keep everything confidential so this was a safe space for me. She emphasized her belief that I already possessed the answers within me, that I was capable and whole already, and explained that she just really loved helping people get “unstuck.”
Exactly what I needed!
Then she asked me a series of questions. “What did I love about my job? What was something that brought me joy in my day-to-day teaching? How did I want to feel at work? How did I want my students to feel? What was the outcome I was hoping for? How would I know when I had achieved it?”
The questions were hard. I’m not going to lie, the work was hard and a bit uncomfortable at times.
She reflected my answers back to me in a way that allowed me to hear myself in a new way. She said it sounded like my values, the things that were really important to me as a teacher—engaging and empowering students and building relationships with students—had taken a back seat to other things that were taking up my focus, like standardized testing and technology issues we were working out as a school. That was it! She had really heard me in a way that I couldn’t even fully understand until she said it back to me.
She explained that it was common for people to feel stuck when their values at work weren’t aligning with what they were doing at work. She asked if we could do a little coaching exercise. I loved that she asked my permission, it felt respectful. She walked me through identifying my values at work more clearly.
Then she helped me craft a plan I could put into place the next day that required little effort, just a reshifting of my focus. I felt a little lighter, a little encouraged, a little hopeful in a way I hadn’t felt yet all school year. We ended with a commitment to meet again in two weeks to follow up.
The next day I put my plan into action. I walked in with a commitment to focus my energy on my intended outcome and feelings. Did I have to deal with other stuff that didn’t light me up that day? Of course. But I brought my focus back to what I valued, what mattered to me.
I invested an hour and the cost of a nice dinner out into the process and got back months worth of mojo. Totally worth it.
Life Coaching. Life 101
Some topics life coaches specialize in are career, work-life balance, time management, leadership, well-being, communication, organization, and strategic planning. All areas in which I know I could level up at any time. Couldn’t you?
Last summer I invested some time and money with a life coach that has been paying off big time this school year.
Now if you're a teacher you know that summers off are pretty sacred. Many of us have summer jobs to cover costs our teacher salary just can’t cover. Many of us have children who need care while out of school. We use the time to decompress, ready ourselves for another year ahead, and take time to be with our families.
I find myself each summer in this tug of war between needing time to relax and take a break from the structure of the school year, and needing to keep some structure so I can do all the parenting and household chores that need attention during the summer months. For the past few summers I’ve been enrolled in classes to further my education and level up my skills as a coach. It’s been a lot to juggle.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that everyone can benefit from coaching!
So I found myself a life coach who helped me identify my values and my desired outcomes, how I wanted to feel as a result of our work together. Some outcomes from our work together included
A plan to have my family help more with housework to free up time for me to focus on my summer coursework.
A strategy for identifying my most important projects and how to strategically execute the associated action steps as I started my own coaching practice.
A working schedule for the summer that allowed time for me to build my coaching practice, be present with my family, and enjoy the freedom of summer nourishing activities like time outdoors, time spent with friends, and exercise and healthy cooking.
A plan for signing on the right number of clients that I would be able to manage when it was time to go back to school in the fall.
Were weekly hour-long calls with a life coach an investment of my time and a chunk of my hard earned money? Yes. But the outcomes I got from the calls with my coach were worth their weight in gold.
There’s no shortage of information out there on what we should be doing to improve our health. We all know we need to eat better, move more, stress less. Some of us may have had a doctor tell us we need to cut back on something or start doing something because our health is really on the line. Health coaches, relatively new to the field of coaching, help clients bridge the knowing-doing gap and create healthy habits to develop sustainable lifestyle choices to improve health outcomes.
Some health coaches work with doctors. Some work with nutrition and weight loss programs. I became a certified health coach to work primarily with teachers and educators because I’ve experienced firsthand the impact that improving one’s health has on our work.
The term "burnout" has been a buzzword for about 50 years. Several years ago, I found myself BURNED. OUT.
I was working so hard to be good at my job and be a good wife and a mom that I was totally neglecting myself. I was working 50-60 hours a week as a teacher, going into school early to set up for the day, staying late to be prepared for the next day, and bringing work home to grade and plan. I was getting 5-6 hours of sleep a night. I had no time for exercise. My hydration came in the form of coffee in the morning to get me going and wine in the evenings to help me wind down. Sound familiar?
Because (or since) all my colleagues appeared to be doing the same thing, I thought this was the normal teacher grind. As a teacher, I thought, you just pour your life out for the students. You do whatever it takes.
And “whatever it takes” was taking a toll on me. I was walking around with a pervasive sense of anxiety. I got eczema and my heart was racing all the time. I was waking up in the middle of the night. Then I started having panic attacks. During math class or in the middle of meetings, while driving to work, or while sitting on the couch watching a movie with my family.
And so I got help from a health coach. And I learned how to put myself first, to put the oxygen mask on myself before my students, to fill my cup before trying to pour it out into my family and career. To reclaim my health.
As I slowly began healing myself I became determined to find a way to help serve my colleagues. To turn my pain into purpose.
I worked over summers and weekends for two years to become certified as a health coach. Now nothing brings me more joy than helping someone else realize their worth, tap into their internal resources, and reclaim their health. Helping others learn to fill their cup so that they may be their best, achieve their WHY. I still love teaching children, but coaching adults to reclaim their health to maximize their professional and personal potential to be better able to serve their students, families, and communities, that’s been the most rewarding.
Learning to effectively coach another human being is hard, humbling, and one of the greatest honors I have experienced in my years of being an educator. To walk with someone as they work to achieve a goal, to try new things, to shift their framework to overcome often long held limiting beliefs, the importance of all of this is not something coaches take lightly. Coaching is not easy work.
You know what’s harder work? Being the client.
I hope my experiences helped illustrate the value of that hard work.
If you’re ready to be coached, if you’re ready to set some ego aside, to be vulnerable, and to do the work, I encourage you to give coaching a try. Is it going to be an investment? Yes. Is it going to be worth it? Also yes.
If you have a great relationship with your leaders, you might even ask your administrator or human resources department if they would be willing to make the financial investment in your personal and professional growth. If you feel like asking for help might give the impression that you can’t handle the job or that your annual evaluation might suffer as a result, perhaps exploring these issues with a coach will help you gain clarity.
You might want to look for a coach certified through a professional coaching organization. The largest coaching body is the International Coaching Federation (ICF), which oversees professionally accredited coach training programs to ensure a coach has knowledge and skills in core competencies and codes of ethics. The National Board of Health and Wellness Coaches (NBHWC) evolved out of the ICF to certify health coaches with a set of skills and competencies specific to healthcare and wellness.
Some really outstanding practicing coaches may have received less training, while others have additional qualifications. Ultimately, finding a qualified coach you can trust is worth it!
If you are looking for a qualified coach with a particular understanding of the challenges educators face, Edjacent offers a diverse group of trained coaches who are ready to support you. Look for more information on our website or reach out to Meghan Raftery. who will expertly match you with one of our coaches for your first session.