Coaching to Unlock Limitless Potential - Steve Barkley

Coaching to Unlock Limitless Potential

I have just finished reading Limitless Mind: Learn, Lead, and Live Without Barriers by Jo Boaler. I was familiar with Boaler’s work in the area of mathematics teaching and learning and appreciated the broader application of her experiences and insights. I found myself shifting her comments concerning students’ thinking and learning to teachers understanding their own potential. “The truth is that anyone can learn anything and learning itself fundamentally changes who we are.”

Boaler presents six learning keys that identify myths that limit our potential and understandings that can unlock possibilities. Here are keys with my thoughts connecting them to instructional and peer coaching.

#1 Every time we learn, our brains form, strengthen, or connect neural pathways.

#2The times we are struggling and making mistakes are the best times for brain growth.

#3 When we change our beliefs, our bodies and our brains physically change as well.

Boaler’s comments are important for us as teachers to remember as we plan for student learning as well as planning for our own learning and growth as an educator.

“In every moment of our lives our brain has opportunities to make connections, to strengthen pathways, and to form new pathways. When we face a challenging situation, rather than turn away because of fear of not being good enough, we should dive in, knowing that the situation presents opportunities for brain growth. As we start to recognize the huge adaptability of our brains, we will start to open our minds, and live differently.”

As I wrote this, I had just finished a coaching call with a teacher leader examining how teachers were struggling with a small group of students at each grade level whose continuous negative behaviors disrupt teaching and learning for others as well as preventing themselves from academic and social growth. As we discussed possible strategies, I suggested that teachers at each grade level team with administrators and specialists to develop a plan ( personalized) for the start of the school year for each of these students. Teachers from the previous grade level could join a team with insights from their experiences. Teachers believing that they can learn and change and believing in students’ abilities to change are keys to the optimism necessary for creating, implementing, and modifying a plan. My favorite question fits: “What do students need us to learn?”

Boaler reinforces my thinking; “When people realize that struggle is a sign of something positive, they learn and interact differently. Instead of thinking that they need to know everything, people become open to being vulnerable and to sharing uncertainty. This helps them contribute ideas in meetings.”

In an earlier blog, Coaches: Remember the change sequence, I examined how coaches support experiences that encourage a teacher belief change. Significant changes in teachers’ attitudes and beliefs take place only after positive changes in student learning/behavior  is evident. Improvements in student learning result from specific changes teachers make in their classroom practices. Coaches help generate the experiences that impact teacher beliefs, just the way teachers generate experiences that impact student learning and mindsets.

#4 Neural pathways and learning are optimized when considering ideas with a multidimensional approach.

#5 Learning is optimized when we approach ideas, and life, with creativity and flexibility.

#6 Connecting with people and ideas enhances neural pathways and learning

“A multi-dimensional view refers to a perspective or framework that considers multiple dimensions or aspects of a particular subject or situation. It involves looking at a concept, problem, or phenomenon from different angles or perspectives to gain a more comprehensive understanding.”

In a blog on the NeuroLeadership Institute’s website,  David Rock and Paulette Gerkovich share where business organizations can find the diversity of team members having the greatest impact. I sure see the connection with how teachers’ multi-dimensional approaches generated by opportunities to connect with a variety of colleagues can mean benefits for students. What do you think?

There are four kinds of work activities likely to especially benefit from the strengths of diverse teams: first, when launching a new product; second, when troubleshooting an existing product or a process; third, when planning for the future; and finally, when responding to crises. That’s because diverse teams are particularly good at exposing and correcting faulty thinking, generating fresh and novel ideas, and accounting for a wider array of variables in planning. Part of the reason this happens is due to what scientists call cognitive elaboration—the process of sharing, challenging, and expanding our thinking. In essence, diverse teams compel each other to think more deeply about their reasoning and interrogate the facts more objectively.”

As your review Boaler’s six elements, consider how they can support you tapping your limitless mind and the limitless potential of those you coach to remove barriers for students to learn, lead, and live.

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One Response to “ Coaching to Unlock Limitless Potential ”

  1. Tim Seller Says:

    Just for my “aha” moment I gleamed fron this blog. I can only imagine how powerful it would be if my middle school students teacher could meet with me, I need to know what I can anticipate, as those fifth graders arrive. It would be very impactful to know what strategies they employed. I could save time and effort and “prevent rather than fight fires” .

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