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 11: Exploring Emotions
Exploring Emotions is the third of the four phases of Transformational Coaching that Aguilar created. This chapter continues to tell the story of Aguilar’s experiences coaching Khai. In this story, Aguilar is finally able to have intense conversations about her observations of Khai’s interactions with students, specifically the Black boys in his class. Her story is powerful, as are her coaching moves.
What emotions did the story about Jordan bring up for you?
Jordan was a Black student in Khai’s class. When Aguilar videotaped Jordan reflecting about his teacher and his experience, he compared his teacher to a mean dog of whom he was afraid. Listening to Jordan’s story made me sad and angry. I was sad for Jordan, and all the BIPOC students who are treated differently in schools. I was angry about their experiences. I also had some regret for students I didn’t impact as much as I could have because I didn’t have these kind of conversations with their teachers.
It is so important to listen to our students. This is why empathy interviews and focused observations are a part of my work. I can remember the day two years ago when I shadowed a students through her high school day. It was one of the saddest days I’ve experienced in school. During the entire day, my student was only spoken to by a teacher directly two times. She was able to avoid work because the teachers didn’t interact with her or expect anything from her. In her two-hour Spanish class, she only had to say one sentence in Spanish. That was a rough day for me. To see such low expectations for our students, to see limited interactions, made it hard for me to sit in the classrooms. I wasn’t in those rooms to coach the teachers, and I didn’t have established relationships that allowed me to follow-up in ways that Aguilar suggests, but I left with anger, fear, resentment, and humiliation. I did follow up with the school principal, with whom I did have a relationship, but there was so much work that needed to be done there, and in so many of our schools.
This entire chapter is a lesson in how to have crucial conversations about race and expectations and our students. I want to reread this chapter multiple times to have the language handy when I need to have similar conversations. I appreciate how Aguilar provides many coaching stems – ways to start conversation, data to include, how to redirect a client, and how to pause and leave space for silence. This is essential work if we want to change schools in ways that will impact our students.
Coaching for Equity Reflections Series: