Our coaching begins when teachers share their stories and reveal the sense they are making of their experiences.
Great trainers always tell great stories. I can still see a particular presenter’s face. I can recall another’s clothing. And I remember the funny or poignant stories they told. Just don’t ask me to demonstrate anything I learned from them. That’s the power of story. Its affect lingers long after any specific knowledge or skills have faded away.
Good coaches evoke coachable stories. To evoke is to “bring to existence” or “to call into action”. So the purpose of evoking stories from teachers is to bring to the surface the feelings, factors, limits, and possibilities that exist for that teacher at that time. Allowing and enabling the teacher’s story to become public is the first crucial step in growth because the more a teacher understands their experience as a story rather than as settled facts over which they have no control, the more they are nurturing their capacity for growth.
So evoking story is about enabling teachers to recognize their experience as a story and figure out how they can call into action the necessary skills, knowledge, and passion to improve their practice. The coach facilitates this process through purposeful listening. The great irony of Evocative Coaching is that rather than controlling the narrative through the imposition of their own experience (story), the coach evokes the teacher’s story and by listening openly, enables teachers to reveal key details that will be crucial to their own development.
The Tschannen-Morans describe three types of listening: Mindful, Reflective, and Imaginative. Brief outlines of these types are below. Subsequent posts will examine each type in more detail.
Mindful (Quiet) Listening
The Tschannen-Morans put it bluntly; If we don’t have time to listen mindfully, we don’t have time to coach. We listen mindfully in order to understand the experience of the other person, not as a precursor to establishing our own agenda and training purposes. Mindful listening is not a polite courtesy, it is the foundation of our relationship to the teacher.
Reflective listening stands in contrast to “deflective” listening. Deflective listening is driven by an agenda and is used to evaluate, educate, and explain. When we listen reflectively, we take time to think about what we heard and express our best guess about what the teacher feels, needs and wants.
As teachers tell their stories, coaches attempt to understand how they might be told differently. This imaginative listening considers stories as “maybe so” assemblies; structures that can be torn down and reassembled in different configurations. Reworking and retelling stories from different perspectives can reveal new and novel possibilities.
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