I am currently reading Coaching for Equity: Conversations That Change Practice by Elena Aguilar. Each chapter ends with a series of reflective questions for the reader to consider in our own equity and coaching journey, and I’ve decided to blog some of my reflections. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Chapter 7: What You Need to Know about Emotions
“Resistance is an expression of strong emotions. Learn how to coach emotions and you’ll never encounter resistance again.” ~ Aguilar, page 175
This chapter is literally all about emotions – how to identify them in yourself, how to process emotions to determine what needs are not being met, and how to coach into emotions when working with teachers. I think that every school and district leader needs to read this chapter in particular. I don’t know a single educational leader who has not experienced resistance, which is really masking emotions (often fear).
Which emotions come up in you when you perceive resistance? Which of your needs aren’t met when you experience someone’s resistance?
As a coached, I learned that resistance was often masking fear. Teachers fear they aren’t doing a good enough job, they fear they don’t have the skills or knowledge to meet all students’ needs, and they fear being judged as a “bad teacher”. I learned how to help teachers open up to their fears by building relationships that allowed them to be honest and to ask for what they needed. There are, however, still times when I experience resistance (to a district goal, from a set of parents, from a specific individual) and have to recognize my own emotions first. For me, I think what comes up is a feeling that I am being judged as ineffective if someone resists something I’m presenting. I doubt myself and my worth first, instead of wondering what needs of someone else aren’t being met. If I’m proud of an initiative, idea, or project, I want to be appreciated for my work. I want my team to be acknowledged for their collaboration and support. These are my needs that are unmet when I encounter resistance.
During our current COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen resistance to closing schools, opening schools, hybrid plans, distance learning plans, and more. People have lashed out at teachers and at plans. So much of that anger and resistance was really about fear – people are fearful of catching COVID, people are fearful of missing work or losing their job or their home, people are worried about finances and providing food for their families. This pandemic has brought out many emotions that I see masked in anger and redirected at teachers, who are working incredibly hard during all of this, while also managing their own emotions and taking care of their own families.
One of the topics that Aguilar has mentioned repeatedly throughout this book, and her other books, is mindfulness. My word of 2015 was mindfulness and I spent the year learning how to cultivate the habit. Since then, I have stepped into and out of the habit of mindfulness and meditation. Over the last year our entire district leadership focused on mindful leadership, which was a great reminder and a support during times of stress. Reading this book is a reminder to take time to pause, breathe, notice, and reflect.
Coaching for Equity Reflections Series: