I found an interesting blog by Brad Keywell titled, Make Love and Belief Interchangeable, that triggered some thinking about teaching and coaching.
Keywell describes an experience where he was caused to consider if the belief he had in his children had been communicated to them. He took his usual tucking into bed phrase, “I love you”, and switched it to, “I believe in you.”
A CEO colleague of Keywell, who was involved in the conversations about belief in your kids being different from loving your kids, took the concept to a different application.
In a meeting with his management team, hearing their strategies, challenging their tactics and providing the decisive direction for next steps, he ended the meeting replacing the usual “Thanks, folks” ,conclusion with, “I want to tell you all something — I believe in you.”
Keywell suggests, “Belief in someone does not only convey trust, and love, and a common set of values. Belief is a gift that says to them that we not only trust they are doing the best they can at this very moment, but also that we lovingly anticipate the best from them in the future. While love talks about today, belief incorporates tomorrow.”
Keywell planned to use the belief statement with his daughters from time to time, but they began to request it when he didn’t say it. He states, “It’s the sincerity inherent in the concept of belief that makes it so powerful. Belief conveys the confidence I have in my daughters and in the choices they will make.”
Wow…how important for us as teachers to get our students to know that we have confidence in them…for students to know that when success isn’t present now, my teacher believes it is in my future! It’s much easier to have confidence in my own potential when others do. As instructional leaders in administrative or teacher leadership roles we need to find ways to communicate our belief in teachers…trusting that they are doing their best now and will build to future increased success.
In another blog, The Difference Between Praise and Feedback, Anya Kamenetz writes about how parents respond to their children’s attempts or performances. Citing several researchers, she explores the differing opinions on the “damage” of praise, kinds of praise and feedback. She states that our goal should be to encourage the child to actively seek both positive and negative feedback in order to grow and improve. Her recommendation is to get more involved with what a kid is doing. “Appreciate it. Ask questions. If we see that a child is using interesting strategies we can ask about them. Talk to them about their thought processes and how they can learn from mistakes.”
“Providing helpful, detailed, encouraging feedback and appreciation requires paying attention to what kids are doing, and listening to what they are saying. This takes time and energy.”
Notice how this statement transfers directly to being an effective coach.
Providing helpful, detailed, encouraging feedback and appreciation requires paying attention to what teachers are doing, and listening to what they are thinking and saying. This takes time and energy.
Sounds like coaching advice in a nutshell. There is no shortcut! No quick walkthrough and send an email. Coaching requires asking open questions and listening.
I thought the messages I found in these two blogs really fit together. It’s critical that the folks you are coaching know that you believe in them. When you provide feedback that is rooted in the questioning and listening you have done, the words of belief are reinforced. Sensing belief and having valuable feedback, the adults in schools are engaged in continued learning that will provide the same for their students.