Podcast: Compassionate Coaching | Steve Barkley
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Podcast: Compassionate Coaching

 Compassionate Coaching

Kathy Perret and Kenny McKee join the podcast to share insights from their new book, Compassionate Coaching: How Educators Navigate the Barriers to Professional Growth.

“Successful Coaching is a humanistic, compassionate process that places students at its center. Truly effective coaching places people above programs.”

Read Compassionate Coaching here. 

Contact Kathy Perret: kathyperret@gmail.com
Contact Kenneth McKee: kennethcmckee@gmail.com

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 Compassionate coaching. Kathy Perret and Kenny McKee, the authors of, “Compassionate Coaching” are joining us on the podcast today and I’m just really pleased. I know that they worked quite a while together on the book so I thought I’d change the introductions a little bit today. So I’m going to ask them to introduce each other. So Kenny, how about you jump in and introduce Kathy to the audience?

Kenny: 00:56 Sure thing. Kathy is an instructional coaching trainer and virtual coach based in Sioux city, Iowa and she is also a co-author of another book, “The Coach Approach to School Leadership,” and she is one of the co-creators of the EduCoach chat, which has been going on for 10 years.

Steve: 01:15 Wow.

Kenny: 01:15 I think it’s birthday was like, my birthday this year. Close to it, close to it. And Kathy also worked as a elementary teacher and coach in the past as well.

Steve: 01:27 Thanks. And the the podcast is where I get a chance to to meet Kathy and I’ve missed not being able to be part of that Kathy, but the time difference is just a little too tough for me from Switzerland.

Kathy: 01:41 Totally Understand.

Steve: 01:44 Kathy, you want to introduce Kenny?

Kathy: 01:47 Sure. Kenny and I have known each other – basically, we got to know each other through the EduCoach chat and started having
conversations about our blogs that we were starting and so forth and it kinda morphed into this book. Kenny has been an instructional coach for 11 years in Asheville, North Carolina and he is currently working as a content designer at NWEA. He’s a national board certified teacher and he’s a former ELA teacher and a high school, middle school teacher. High school and middle school.

Steve: 02:23 Terrific. You guys got a great background to make a team on this book.

Kenny: 02:30 We compliment each other well,

Steve: 02:32 That’s terrific.

Kathy: 02:34 And learn from eachother.

Steve: 02:36 Which is one of the biggest keys to being an effective instructional coaches that you’re locked in on the learning part of it so that that modeling is terrific. I wanna start off with two statements that I pulled from your text that that caught my attention. And I’ll read the statement and then one of you in, and kind of expand on a little bit. So the first one I pulled was, in some cases, schools have built programs they refer to as coaching programs that are really something else entirely. I’m just going to go true to that. But what was your thinking when you laid that out there?

Kathy: 03:19 Well, I know in my work with teacher leaders here in Iowa, we sometimes say that so many duties get handed to the coach and then sometimes his duties kind of take away from the actual coaching of teachers so then they start to misrepresent what coaching really is like. If those tasks and those duties are important for that role, it could just be a name change to the program. It’s not that there’s activities and tasks that are not well stated for the school, but they misrepresent what coaching really is.

Kenny: 03:58 Right. And sometimes, coaches in schools where perhaps the administrative faculty is shorthanded, there’s an unfortunate incidents where coaches are asked to also function as administrators. So they might be more involved in evaluating and checking up on fidelity rather than helping teachers respond to professional growth needs.

Steve: 04:24 So it needs a different title if that’s the job, because it gets too confusing,

Kenny: 04:29 Right.

Steve: 04:30 Jim Knight and I recorded a podcast with a conversation around coaches in professional learning communities. And the fact that admit in many places, coaches got sent into the PLCs to teach the teachers how to do PLCs and they never came back out.
New Speaker: 04:50 Right.

Steve: 04:53 So now I’m meeting a coach who’s got over 50% of their schedule running PLC meetings and running is ineffective with the problem of the word because it’s not a PLC. If the teachers aren’t making the agenda and then it leaves the teachers off the hook to the extent that if we didn’t have a valuable PLC meeting, now it’s the instructional coach’s fault.

Kenny: 05:17 Right. I’ve actually seen that occur so much. And I know in my own coaching, I would work as someone who might help a PLC get going and help lay out a process for them but then I make sure I’m very intentional about stepping out and saying, the PLC is yours, it’s yours to own and my goal is to come in and be a member, not a leader, a member when my expertise might come into play.

Steve: 05:45 I have to tell you, this next quote, I actually used in a blog I was writing today and I just ended up quoting you to the call that I was on right before we got on to record this podcast because it’s just so powerful. And the statement was, “truly effective coaching places, people above programs.”

Kenny: 06:09 Yeah. So, we view coaching as a human centered process. When you read Compassionate Coaching, I hope that’s a big takeaway from people from the jump. And so, the center of coaching is really about the students in the classroom and how they’re responding to the teacher’s actions. Programs can be part of the goal setting or the coaching actions. If you have a program, it might become a piece of modeling or co-teaching classroom visits, but the end result is not about a perfect program, it’s about students learning.

Kathy: 06:41 And we really liked this – what Jim Knight talked about in the forward of the book, as far as, we we’ve come off of a couple of challenging years now and so just the fact that we bring compassion to the table so that teachers see us as understanding their journey and their story and helping them through that, rather than having such a clear cut agenda, like we must get all of this accomplished. Bring back getting to know each other, get that feeling out there.

Steve: 07:21 That’s really intriguing. I had a recent call with a a school district that’s going to have coaches for the first time and an administrator was questioning whether this was the time to be implementing the program. And it dawned on me that that’s a picture of not seeing that there would never be a better time than now, but that doesn’t fit if you have a different picture of what coaching is. If people are the center of coaching, this is the time that we need it.

Kathy: 08:02 Right. And we talk a lot about building efficacy and self-efficacy, and what, this year, we might’ve all experienced lows and some lack of efficacy, whether it’s in our personal lives or in our professional lives. So that coach can be that person that really can help see the strengths in teachers that they may not see in themselves right now, and help rebuild that efficacy because we know the teachers have it, it just might’ve got sidelined a little bit.

Steve: 08:41 I’m wondering how you would describe the mindset that you suggest a coach takes when they’re perceiving that a response from a teacher is resistance. What, what mindset do you do you see being helpful for the coach to have at that point?

Kathy: 09:05 Well probably have a couple of questions come to mind that for the coach to just think about is that coaching program or process clear? Do teachers know a resistance is basically fear-based? And so if the process of coaching and the reasons behind coaching aren’t clear, it’s just a sense of fear bubbling up. Do the teachers understand how the coach can support their work, not make them teach like the coach used to? Taking it from the standpoint of, I’m here to help the teacher grow, not make them become more like I taught as a coach. And how can a coach help celebrate those learning that’s going on in the school, the benefits to coaching, helping that all be a picture of celebration for teachers.

Kenny: 10:03 Yeah. And if the coaching program is fairly clear, then the other consideration is a lot of what we talk about in the book.

Kenny: 10:12 First of all, are we actually meeting the individual needs of these teachers in their classrooms, or are we trying to do the same thing with everyone? One of the biggest criticisms of professional learning is that teachers are expected to personalize learning in their classrooms and then they attend professional development that they feel is one size fits all. So coaching by no means, the sheer allocation of human resources to hire coaches, there’s really no excuse for one size fits all coaching. But constructing those goals with the teachers is really important. And it makes me think of a quote from, this is actually a Jim Knight quote, too. Jim Knight says so many wise things, but, I pulled a quote today. “People are rarely motivated by other’s goals and a one size fits all model change really provides helpful solutions for the individual complexities of each unique classroom.”

Steve: 11:11 I mean his quote there really fits yours about programs over people. Once it’s a program that we’re implementing and the coach is helping me implement the program, it’s somebody else’s goals.

Kenny: 11:26 Right?

Steve: 11:28 I’m almost sensing that the teacher who’s exhibiting something that a coach is labeling as resistance, probably has something that
the coach isn’t knowing or understanding. So I really like it, Kathy, when you said it’s questions. It tells me there’s something else I have to learn and understand rather than responding to the sense of resistance.

Kathy: 11:55 And we talk about these things as like seasons, when we’re bringing them out with teachers and that they’re situational. I mean, if
you’re lacking confidence, it’s not that you’re totally lacking confidence all the time, it’s just situation that you’re lacking confidence in. Or if you’re feeling isolated, or if there’s some disruptions in your work. And just like our seasons changing, so do these situational barriers. And we never want the coach just to name, oh, I see that you lack confidence, we bring about that compassionate coaching focus areas, such as in the case of lack of confidence, how can you partner more with that teacher? Or if they look like and sound like they’re feeling isolated, what are ways I can connect them to others in the school so that we can help them break that situational barrier?

Kathy: 12:53 And so that’s not a one size fits all approach. Your high school chemistry teacher might feel isolated because he’s the only one at the school and they’re, they’re forced to go to professional development to learn those reading strategy. He’s going to try it, or she’s going to try it, but they feel very isolated. So how can we connect them regionally, globally, whatever to other high school chemistry teachers so that they can have that conversation? So we’re kind of that connector between a lot of things.

Kenny: 13:33 Yeah, that a big one. As a high school coach, that’s a barrier I work with often because of the specialization. So many teachers are the only ones in the building that teach their subject.

Steve: 13:44 There’s a a spot in the book where you talk about coaches working with teacher leaders to promote a culture of coaching. I wondered if you expand on that a little bit for us?

Kathy: 13:57 Well, I know when I wrote those parts, I always think of you, Steve.

Steve: 14:03 [laughter]

Kathy: 14:03 Any time I have been privileged to hear you speak, rather, I know you’ve come to Iowa quite a bit through all of our teacher leadership programs and so forth, you’re always talking about teachers need to see each other teach. That teaching is a public act and not little independent franchises as you talked about. I know we’ve quoted both in this book and coach approach, you’re finding – you put on a blog post once in about 2016 I think that more than 50% of the teachers haven’t even had opportunities to see others teach. And I know as a classroom teacher myself, I didn’t have those opportunities. And a lot of times I’ll tell people at times I did see someone teach was when I went into another classroom to interrupt them because I needed something.

Kathy: 15:03 And then I didn’t say teach, I saw them, how do we go through this disruption? I was someone walking in. So coaches can help not build for them but build with them. There’s times when we can open those classroom doors.

Kenny: 15:23 Yeah. We just we really are big advocates – when we’re thinking about shifting cultures in a schools, like we are huge advocates for recruiting teacher leaders and engaging them in public teaching, especially. And so in the book, we talk about learning walks, peer coaching, labs, these structures allow the coaches to facilitate reflection and analysis of instruction. And I think that all those different public teaching activities are great, but there’s probably ones that are better fits for schools depending on where they are right now. And so in the book, we kind of lay out like a sequence of the types of public teaching you might do. And you may even start before that with really some connection activities, like a pineapple chart, or we talk about the matchmaker month where we pair something a teacher wants to learn with the teacher who feels like they’re really strong in that area and have them work together. That was something I learned from two coaches in my district that I also used in my schools.

Steve: 16:23 I’ve been putting the phrase out in front of folks of instructional coaches seeing themselves as the coach of coaching. That’s what I’m hearing, what you’re describing there, that they’re creating all those opportunities to to expand that, that coaching response out to out to everyone. I’m wondering I’m wondering what you would hope that administrators who read compassionate coaching might might have as, as takeaways from your work.

Kenny: 16:59 Well, I think the first thing I’d like an administrator to take away – if the administrator hasn’t had a lot of experience themselves with coaching, is to gain a better understanding of the work that coaches do and the complexity of the role. Because most of the issues
that crop up with coaching and leadership is really a misalignment in vision and understanding either on one party or the other party’s viewpoints.

Kathy: 17:26 As we wrote the book, and it’s based on barriers, these barriers are humanistic barriers, they’re not just barriers that teachers experience, they’re barriers that coaches experience and they’re barriers that administrators experience. So even if it’s looking at each barrier and looking at each compassionate coaching focus area, and if you’re feeling isolated in your role as a principal, what can you do to make better connections with others? I know I met with the principal in the beginning of her career, and she pretty much says she lacked confidence and she pretty much said, don’t tell the teachers I don’t know what I’m doing. But it was kind of my key to just say, you don’t want to have a confidant that talk things through and help you overcome this feeling because I’m sure it’s out there for anybody in their first career.

Kathy: 18:29 The coaches feel that way when they first sign on as a coach. So administrators and felt these barriers reflect on them and use the compassionate coaching focus, or we tell poaches through our trainings and such as if one of the barriers that you’re seeing isn’t in the book, name it, and then find your own word that’s your compassionate coaching focus area for that, because our list isn’t exhaustive.

Steve: 19:03 Gotcha. Gotcha. Well, guys, I really appreciate you taking the time with me here today and I want to give my personal recommendation on the book out to out to listeners. I’ll be sure to to post a a link to the book and your emails in the lead-in to this this podcast. I’m wondering, in closing, if there’s a a message you’d like to leave with the coaches and school leaders who listen in on this podcast?

Kathy: 19:39 Well, I think just advocate for yourself as a coach. I mean, what are your needs? I mean, if you’re experiencing some of these barriers, what are your needs? And find ways to support those professional needs whether it’s finding a mentor or a coach of your own. I know Steve, you’ve talked about the coach should be the most coached person in the building. One way to find some support is come to our EduCoach chat every Wednesday night at 8:00 PM central standard time. That provides a network of coaches to just look at what coaching is, what it looks like in other areas. I know Kenny and I have found great value in being there just learning with coaches.

Steve: 20:28 I would definitely add my recommendation to joining that group whenever you can. A closing thought, Kenny, you’d like to put in here?

Kenny: 20:36 I was going to say, I echo everything Kathy said. And one thing, when coaching gets tough, again, kind of a Jim Knight-ism I’ve used is the going to the balcony, like, learning how to of take a pause and step out of yourself and try to see what that situation looks like to an outsider and that’ll help you make good decisions. In my last coaching role, I got a lot of input from teachers about their feeling about me being empathetic and diplomatic and professional and I think I owe that a lot to being able to go to the balcony.

Steve: 21:11 Yep. Alright. Thanks a lot, guys. Really appreciate it.

Kathy: 21:13 Thank you so much, Steve.

Kenny: 21:13 Thank you so much.

Steve [Outro]: 21:17 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.

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