Filling My Tank with Coaching
By Suzie Bichovsky
The invitation to share my coaching story both hugged and choked me. How have the Coaching for Transformation skills I learned impacted my work as an educator? Where do I begin?
Perhaps I could talk about using mirroring to teach cooperative learning. Or incorporating group coaching into the existing bully prevention program. Maybe I should discuss supporting my teacher clients with burnout prevention. Or resisting the ruffling of my integrity feathers by things outside of my control. I can’t forget to mention the impact of approaching open house this year from a heart place.
Then, the Universe stepped in. It sent me the answer in the form of Ellie*, a twelve year old girl.
I saw Ellie in the hall one morning. Naming what’s present is a coaching skill. It involves describing what is happening in the moment as well as what is sensed underneath. I shared that while she told me she was “OK,” I could tell by her energy and tone that she was not. Requesting is asking for a specific action without being attached to the outcome. I made a request of Ellie with the option to decline or counter-offer. “Will you see me during lunch if you want to talk about anything?” I received a noncommittal shoulder shrug.
By the time Ellie stopped by that day, I was drained. My tank was empty. She shared her problem and it would have been so easy to appease her feelings and send her on her way. Instead, we explored her unmet need for safety. Ellie defined this as not feeling comfortable around her friends—their actions were in contradiction to their claims of friendship.
Embracing the shadow is one of the five pathways of alignment. When working with this pathway, the inner critic, or the judge within, may surface. Ellie referenced the voice in her head that would not let go of what her friends had said and done—this was interfering with her desire to reconcile. I invited that voice out to play. Giving me the Middle School Eyebrow, Ellie jumped into another chair and spoke from this place, voicing a desire for Ellie to be happy. At the conclusion of the exercise, Ellie was talking and threw her hand up.
“What was that?” I interrupted. This coaching skill is used to cut through storytelling in service of exploring what matters most. In this case, it allowed us to identify what was being said by her gesture that would have otherwise been covered up by her words.
Ellie’s eyes were wide on her hand. “I don’t know—that was weird.”
“I sense this is you telling that nagging voice, ‘I got this.’ How does that land?”
“Wow! I do. I got this.”
We co-constructed options for engaging her friends.
Before CFT, I would have told her what to do. Now? I trusted that, with coaching, she would be empowered to determine her own next steps and seek additional support as needed.
All of this occurred in … six minutes. Six! Her face was lighter and she visibly relaxed.
Inspired by Ellie’s transformation, I tapped into my reserve tank and the rest of my day flew by. This reaffirms my commitment to my highest dream—to organize an initiative coaching adolescent girls into adulthood. Ellie is on the invite list for my first group this year. I do not know if our coaching relationship will last four months, three years or ten. I look forward to tomorrow.
CFT impacted my whole self first. I am willing to take more risks as an educator and am more forgiving of my mistakes. Connecting with clients—both big and small—and witnessing their transformation fills me.
What inspires you and fills your tank?
*Ellie is a pseudonym created by the student.
About the author:
Suzie Bichovsky is a Certified Professional Coach and a 2014 Leadership that Works graduate. She focuses on Burnout Prevention & Recovery in the areas of work, education, and relationship with self and others. In addition to coaching, she has provided professional development support for educators in the public school and university settings. Suzie is an urban educator with 18 years of experience. A National Writing Project Fellow, she believes in the power of combining writing and coaching. Whether working with adolescents or adults in individual or group settings, Suzie continues to be transformed by witnessing her clients’ journeys. You can find Suzie online at suziebichovsky.com.