Students reflect and I learn

This school year I’ve been trying to develop a new habit: offering students regular opportunities to reflect on their learning and sharing those insights in different ways.  Sometimes I do this near the end of class and students can share their responses with the whole group.  At other times, I ask them to ponder a reflection question while they change clothes and then try to capture each person’s statement in writing as they come out and line up.  I really enjoy hearing and reading their responses.  Many students generate valuable observations and excellent insights about their  learning.

Today, I asked my 1st and 2nd graders to respond to this prompt:

“So now that you’ve been through this obstacle course a few times, I want you to think about which things you would say ‘Whoo! that’s kind of challenging for me, I’d like to get better at that.’ and then which things make you say, ‘Hey! I got this! I feel confident when I do this’.  Don’t tell me just yet. Think about it and in a moment I’ll ask for hands.”

The responses were specific, spot on and best of all, everyone was eager to share responses to one or both questions, especially after hearing a few of their peers point to the cartwheel section and admit that they found it challenging.  Or when a few said, they’d like to work more on their forward roll.  When asked to share their strengths, again, many were eager to pipe up and claim one skill or another as their own.

With my 5th graders I ventured to survey their learning experiences after playing small-sided games of soccer.  This feedback is vitally important as I know that not every child relishes competitive team games and I wanted to find out what each child was taking away from the experience.

The question I posed was: “What piece of learning are you taking away from the games you just played?”

Here are some of the responses I received:

“teamwork and passing – because you can’t do it by yourself.”

“We weren’t working on teamwork, we were working individually.”

“I’m better on defense than on offense.”

“It’s better to pass than to go alone to the goal.”

“you have to jump in when your team needs you.”

“There was a lot of support in my group.  If we made a mistake, they would say, ‘good try.'”

“Defense is more important than offense” (His team lost 5-1)

“You have to take turns with offense and defense.”

“To be more aware of when the ball comes.”

“Teamwork matters more than you think.”

“I should score more; my life was on defense.”

“Soccer isn’t my favorite sport. Maybe if I participated more, we’d show more teamwork.”

As teachers, there is so much we don’t know about what is going on inside our students’ heads.  And it never ceases to amaze me what kids will tell me if I simply ask.  So why not make a habit of asking?

New habit: Asking, listening, processing, thanking

vs.

Old habit: guessing, assuming, blaming, detaching.

Learning involves stretching...
Learning involves stretching…

Students reflect and I learn.  This is a habit I can get used to.

Being seen as the coach

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I did it!  I delivered my workshop on “Co-Active Coaching Techniques for Better Communication” at an international educators’ conference and loved every minute of it.  The primary focus was on introducing and practicing active listening, paraphrasing, the use of open questions and demonstrating how these skills converge during a coaching dialogue.

What did my participants take away from the session?

An appreciation for:

“Open questions. They show you are interested in what people want to say.”

“[The] combination of different techniques to form a whole (duplicating, open questions…)”

“Open questions and giving time to listen.”

Some realizations:

“I realized that I don’t “ask myself” the deeper questions I often ask others.”

“I want to paraphrase and duplicate more.”

“I will particularly use the “you say,…” in active listening.”

What did I learn in the process?

I learned that when I take on the role of the coach, I bring my best authentic self to the task and some things begin to happen:

I feel myself flexing my integrity muscles.
I authorize myself to soar and in doing so, encourage others to take wing, make the leap, run the risk; to find their own music and share it.
I resist that persistent urge to keep my coaching a secret.
I make my practice public (by offering workshops).
I accept the vulnerability that comes with putting my work out in the world.
I get to live my passion and deliver on a promise to myself.
I open myself to new contacts and unexpected conversations.

Educators talk a lot about goals, outcomes and processes.  These were all part of my positive workshop experience.  And yet the piece that truly makes me hardly able to wait until the next opportunity: the sheer joy of coaching others!  That’s how I know I’m in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.

What a blessing!