Angela Buckingham, an experienced instructional coach and coaching trainer, shares her insights around the role of hope and reflection as educators deal with the impacts of the pandemic in the last year. She connects Snyder’s theory of hope (goals, pathways and agency) to our role as coaches.
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PODCAST TRANSCRIPTSteve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Instructional coaches and leaders create the environment that supports teachers to continually imagine, grow and achieve. They model an excitement for learning that teachers in turn model for students. This podcast is dedicated to promoting the important aspects of instructional leadership. Thanks for listening.
Steve: 00:28 Coaching for efficacy, agency and hope. Joining our podcast today is Angela Buckingham, who is an instructional coach with Ed Service Center 13 in Texas. Angela wrote an article for their coach magazine, titled, “Cultivating Hope Through Reflection,” and when I read it, I was anxious for her to join us on the podcast and she agreed. So welcome, Angela.
Angela: 01:00 Thank you so much. I’m honored and humbled. Thanks for inviting me.
Steve: 01:05 Thank you. Would you give folks a little introduction to your background and then a little bit about the instructional coach program at at service center 13?
Angela: 01:17 Sure. I started teaching in 2002. I was actually alternatively certified and hired two days before school started. So I feel like I was kind of thrust in this world of teaching. I taught at a school that experienced high turnover in teachers and leadership. I used to have a colleague next to me who used to tell me that I was getting dog years experience so every one year of teaching experience, I was actually getting seven years.
Steve: 01:58 [laughter] I love it.
Angela: 01:58 I also had the privilege of having an instructional coach since my first year of teaching and that was extremely extremely helpful. She used to tell me never to make a decision on a bad day and I’ve taken that advice with me 20 years later. So I taught there for about five years and then I took a year leave of absence to finish my master’s at the university of Texas at Austin and I began working with students and teachers there.
Angela: 02:25 And I think that ignited my passion, really a mentor and coach. So after I finished my masters, I, you know, had such a strong connection to my school community. I felt love and loyalty and wanted to go back to the same school I taught at and continue teaching. But at the time, the instructional coach was actually leaving to get her doctorate and so we kind of switched places and I became an instructional coach there and coach for another five to seven years or so. And then about seven years ago, I came to Region 13 Education Service Center and we are a team of instructional coaches that serve about 60 school districts, plus charters, plus private schools. And so we go and coach everywhere. And so we also, you know, try to design and provide professional learning for coaches and networking. We kind of really are under the belief that coaches need coaches.
Steve: 03:39 Well, I have to share with the audience that it’s been my my privilege to work with your team at at Region 13 and the many coaches that you serve, so I’m excited that you that you’re here on the podcast with me. What prompted you to to write the piece that you wrote around the topic of hope?
Angela: 04:05 Well, you know, I had been talking with my teammates, Lana and Jackie around the e-magazine and what the themes should be, what kind of is the role of a coach at the end of the year. We were talking about coaches really reflecting with teachers and with each other at the end of the year. And then we just thought about what a hard year it’s been. And this time of year, you know, with Spring and renewal and growth, you know, planting seeds. And we thought we really want this issue to be around hope. It’s really the perfect time of year for coaches to not only reflect with teachers, but to really grow this hope for next year.
Steve: 04:57 As I read it, I reflected on a recent piece that I had read from Adam Grant who wrote an article for the New York times on languishing. And languishing was a new phrase for me. And his article described – used the term languishing to describe what people were dealing with with the impact of of of the pandemic. That if you thought of a continuum where at one end of the continuum, you had depressed and at the other end of the continuum, you had thriving and wellness, there’s this spot that he labeled as languishing. So he said, you don’t actually feel depressed, you’re getting the job done that you’re doing the work you need to do, but that excitement isn’t there. And when I read that, it clicked for me. I’ve described myself these during this past years as times where I’m living in Groundhog day.
Steve: 06:07 I get up in the morning, it’s the same day as the day before. I get the work done, but nothing seems to be seems to be moving ahead. And then, he suggested that the way to counter languishing was to enter a state of flow. And a person’s in flow when time kind of stands still because you’re totally consumed in what it is you’re doing, or time flies by. You know, it’s that piece you started searching on the computer and you suddenly realize it’s an hour and a half later, and you’ve been to all these sites., you’ve totally totally engaged in it. So, as I was reading the things you had written about hope, I was sensing a connection back to flow, and I’m wondering if what I just laid out there makes any sense to you.
Angela: 06:59 Yeah, definitely. I know when I watched that clip, a couple of things resonated for me. One, same as you – I was so appreciative he named it for me. There’s something about naming things where I was like, ‘oh, that’s what I’ve been feeling.” And then I think, you know, the second piece is yea, what do I do about this, right? And so I really like this idea of low because to me when we are focused on our strengths and our passions, we can get into flow. And so one thing he said was that you know, I feel like the emptiness of the languishing is caused by COVID. And I thought – and we’ve had this conversation, I thought it’s a little bit more complex than that. I think COVID created a lack of efficacy in us where we weren’t so confident anymore.
Angela: 08:02 Like we’ve never done this before, so how do you do this? And our confidence kind of took a dip. And because our confidence took a dip, our agency was also affected, like, do I have any ownership? Do I have any control? And so when we lost some agency, I think is when we fell into a little bit of the languishing. And so I think through the reflection of what worked, what are our strengths, is where we can get into that flow. So I feel like it’s all connected in a way. And I think that through coaching, is how we improve or increase that self-efficacy. So one of the sources of efficacy is mastery moments. So I try as a coach to really focus on where did we see mastery? Where were the successes? Because oftentimes when I start a conversation with teachers, they want to go straight to what didn’t work, what’s not working, what students are lacking. And so it really takes a concerted effort to refocus on strengths and what’s working in successes so that we can back our flow and agency I think.
Steve: 09:18 Yeah, I’m kind of finding myself continually going back and asking the question, what is it that I’m learning through this? And then if I have the chance to apply that learning, then that that moves me ahead. I was actually working today on designing a a workshop on how much personalization can you build into coaching. And I know that one of the things I learned during this past year is the power of personalization, which actually ended up being increased through a lot of the Zoom work that I was doing over traveling in and speaking to that larger audience. And so now, how do I find ways to use what I’ve learned as I move into whatever this next step of of the work we’re doing looks like?
Angela: 10:16 Right. And taking that time to hit, pause and reflect. I think back to the first virtual PD I offered, I think it was back in August 12th and I’m like, oh my gosh, it was a mess. And so now thinking about delivering my last one, I think that span of time and really going back and really picturing what that experience was like back in August to now, really will bring about that making growth concrete for us.
Steve: 10:49 In the article that you wrote, you connected the words, adversity, hope, and reflection and I’m wondering if you’d explore that a little bit for our listeners.
Angela: 10:59 Yeah. I mean, I’ve always heard, you know, the famous saying that adversity brings growth, struggle brings growth. And, you know, at the time I was writing the article – my daughter who’s eight actually was complaining one day that her legs were hurting and I was like, that’s strange, point to me where they’re hurting. And I told her, “oh, I think you’re just going through a growth spurt, those are growing pains.” And she asked me, “does that mean I’m getting taller?” And I said, “yes, it does.” And I thought, oh my gosh, like, there it is, right? When your body physically grows, it’s painful. And not just every day, but when our body goes through a growth spurt or a rapid period of growth. And I thought, oh, that is what we, as a school system here, we went through a growth spurt and it was painful, but yet, we’re figuratively taller because of it. I think a lot of things were visible because of it and what a good place to be in now that we’re kind of through the pain.
Steve: 12:14 I’m making another connection as I’m listening to you in that that growth spurt often makes kids awkward. And so it actually did the same thing. I’m thinking about my granddaughter, who’s a swimmer and she goes through the growth spurt, it throws her times off. She has to make all the readjustments from the growth spurt and to think of us as educators in effect, looking at the same piece.
Angela: 12:47 Yeah. And, you know, what’s funny is we know it’s painful, but we all want to grow, so we’re okay with the pain.
Steve: 12:55 I can put up with it if I bring myself back to that, huh? Talk a little bit more about how the reflection piece fits in.
Angela: 13:05 Well, I think definitely, that time that’s needed to really think about where we’ve been, where we are and where we want to grow and where we want to be is necessary. I hear from coaches, oh, I don’t want to take any teacher’s time with the reflection piece. And I remembered what you said in one of our lunch and learns is that we should never apologize. And so how important it is and I think every time I’ve asked a teacher or a team, can we just take some time to reflect? They’re always so grateful at the end of it, is that someone supported that reflection and pushed them a little bit deeper in thinking about their past present and future. And I worry if we’re so busy and we’re working at such a rapid pace, the learning really key comes through the reflection, not necessarily in just the doing. So I think it’s a really important piece for us to focus on as coaches.
Steve: 14:14 There was another piece from the article I was hoping you could talk a little bit about. You mentioned Snyder’s theory of of hope. I think it’s goals, pathways and agencies.
Angela: 14:27 Yes. I was pleasantly surprised when I began researching and came across Snyder’s hope theory because when I read his three components of goals, pathways, and agency, I was like, well, that’s coaching. Like, there it is right in front of my face. And then I thought, well, that’s what we do as coaches then. I never thought of myself as someone grows hope, but that’s essentially what we do as coaches. We set goals. And the piece I like about what he talks about with goals is he talks about visualization. And so I think about myself, one piece of learning I’ve had as a coach over the years is that my impact as a coach is only as great as the goal. Like, it’s only as impactful as the goal. And so, if I have a very big goal with a teacher, such as if a teacher says I want to improve student engagement and I leave it at that, it’s not going to be very impactful.
Angela: 15:35 But we have to visualize together what does that look like, sound like. That’s where the student learning production behaviors come in and really push for a specific visual for the goal. And then pathways, I love that he makes it plural. I love that he says there’s routes to the goal because I’ve definitely been in partnerships where we go down one route and we may hit a dead end and we have to kind of turn around and go back and choose a different route. And I think that’s okay and we have to be okay with that and not expect a perfect pathway for the goal. And then agency, I mean, I’ve always been interested in the agency just knowing my background with turnover. I think turnover has a lot to do with a lack of a sense of agency. And so we have to believe we have some ownership, we have some control to motivate us to achieve the goal. So yeah, those three pieces, that spells out coaching right there.
Steve: 16:49 I love the power of that because what it says to me is that, if as a coach I’m executing that with a teacher, I’m actually providing the model of what the teacher needs to be doing for his or her learners. You know, I’ve described that one of the powers of an outstanding teacher is that they can see a future where there is no data to support it. You know, it’s easy to look back on a past kid’s success and be able to paint this picture of the future, but really great teachers have the ability to build that picture for a kid, even though there aren’t these things in the past. It’s a belief in themselves and in the kid. And in coaching, it’s the same things, belief in the kids, belief in the teacher and and that that together we can we can make this happen.
Angela: 17:53 Yeah. And belief really determines our expectations. And so I’m really also interested in that piece, right? So we have to have this hope and this belief, because that determines what we expect to happen. And if we don’t have that, then we have really low expectations and so, I think that’s a difficult place to be.
Steve: 18:25 Angela, I really thank you for for sharing this with us. And wanna tell the listeners, I’ll be sure to put it in the lead in to this this podcast, the connection for that video clip on languishing that you can take a look at. And Angela, I’m wondering if you can tell people how they can find out about your your coach magazine because I think it would be a a piece that people would would value receiving.
Angela: 18:57 Sure. Thank you. So you can go to ESC13.net, and that is our Region 13 websites and our instructional coaching programs and services is listed there under district support and you can find links to our events, product services there. And you can also follow us at our @R13coaches on Twitter and hit the linktree in our bio and get a direct link to our magazine, our summer online learning with you Steve, and our instructional coaching conference and all the things there as well.
Steve: 19:34 Terrific. And if you okay, we’ll put your your email address into the lead and people can contact you directly?
Angela: 19:43 Yes, that would be great.
Steve: 19:45 Terrific. Well, thanks a lot.
Angela: 19:49 Thank you so much.
Steve: 19:51 Much appreciated. Have a great day.
Angela: 19:51 You too.
Steve [Outro]: 19:53 Thank you for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean. And please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley, or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.