The Power of Educators as Life, Well-being and Learning Coaches

The Power of Educators as Life, Well-being and Learning Coaches

Trauma-informed practices are beginning to filter into public and private schools all over the world. With the recognition of the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experience Study growing immensely over the last 25 years, many educational leaders know the importance now of implementing a social and emotional learning (SEL) program not as an add-on to the school’s curriculum, but as an integral part of everything.  Young people are struggling with depression, ADD, ADHD, chronic disease, violence and suicide. There are hundreds of research studies now that show the benefits of young people learning social and emotional learning (SEL) skills to counteract these challenges and build resilience. According to CASEL, one of the leading researchers in social emotional learning includes the dimensions of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. When an effective SEL program is implemented, a positive school and classroom climate prevails. As a result students tend to engage more, take more risks, become more innovative, shift into a growth mindset more often, and feel more confident in their abilities and relationships. Both educators and students also feel more satisfied with their lives, collaborate more often, practice more self-care, and enjoy school more. 

In addition to SEL skills, research shows that young people need environments that offer a foundation of 3 other main areas of learning; (1) wellness and self-care, (2) heart-centered leadership, and (3) purpose driven, process-oriented goal setting programs.  Although some of the skills in these three domains overlap with SEL skills, it is imperative that these three areas of learning are integrated overtly and explicitly along with social and emotional skills as the CORE of education. This is not an easy task, especially since educational leaders and teachers grew up in the same education system they are now working in. They didn’t get to experience a system of learning where these 4 domains of thriving were integrated. 

Graduates of the current education system are going into the world with academic skills, but not skills to flourish in “everyday life” especially when working collaboratively on teams towards common goals. We have found, that past students tend to leave the school system with high levels of toxic stress and a lack of self-worth as a valued human being. They almost “need” to be told what to do and when left to do real work, they fall short not because they don’t try, but because their work is not applicable. Current Gen Z’s that are entering the workforce now are getting burnt out faster, and tend to feel unmotivated and unfulfilled. The current generation of students and teachers are exhausted and stressed by having to learn in inefficient stressful ways. Bureaucracy that demands data for proof of learning is one of the things that is actually ruining innovation, creativity and the intrinsic motivation to learn in both our educators and students.

Education systems are now in a time when the old ways of setting up learning environments are coming to an end. Schools that are still grouping students by age and talent, offering all the same subjects, and sitting passively in desks are a thing of the past. Focusing 100% on academic student achievement tends to dumb down our students. They feel like machines instead of humans. As positive youth development research has shown us since 2000, young people need to build a multitude of positive assets in order to have the best chance of reaching their full potential and thriving along the way. They need to be more balanced, confident and inspired. There is a plethora of research about how to support young people in thriving, but it seems that our teacher preparation programs and professional development (PD) are still falling short of integrating this information into training. Teachers don’t feel prepared nor are given the time to give students what they really need. 

Education systems need a new approach to the integration of these domains, so teachers and administrators know how to shift out of their current disempowering learning environment into a new healthy and empowering one. Yes, we need a major shift in the data driven school plan from the federal, state and local governments. But in the meantime, we need local school leaders, teachers, students and parents to experience the new paradigm of learning and then refuse to do the same old disempowering things anymore and demand that these disconnected means of educating students come to an end.

The most important, foundational and key factor in an effective wellness, SEL, leadership and purpose-driven individualized program is knowing how to create stable, supportive and trusting relationships. When teachers can build truly healthy and empowering relationships with students individually and as a class, a culture of self-inspired learning results and the entire old education paradigm will naturally begin to shift.

A new approach in education that has been shown to build stable, supportive and trusting relationships is the communication methodology of “life and well-being coaching”. This is not athletic or instructional coaching, or consulting, but a personal empowering approach that supports educators in increasing personal freedom and choice, self-worth, confidence, resilience, self-responsibility, and self-love, all variables that promote thriving. As teachers and school administrators gain these feelings and demonstrate new healthy

Most coaching programs in schools in the last years have helped educators acquire and apply knowledge, skills, and abilities related to improving instruction. The focus tends to be on compliance to a particular program, curriculum, or instructional practice. Is the teacher “teaching” that curriculum well? Will the students do better in math based on the coaching their teacher received in that particular math program? 

Another type of coaching in education which has found more success is called cognitive coaching. “Cognitive coaching operates on the theory that instructional behavior is a reflection of internal intentions and beliefs. If educators want to change their behavior, they must first analyze and then change their beliefs. The cognitive coach asks open-ended questions, provides data from classroom observations, and facilitates the educators’ evaluations of lessons (Costa & Garmston, 2002). Studies have shown that cognitive coaching impacts teacher confidence, effective classroom management, and self-awareness, as well as improves teaching style and the quality of dialogue between colleagues (Edwards, 2005).” 

However, there is an even newer type of coaching that is just beginning to be implemented in the education world in the last few years. This is the domain of personal professional coaching (PPC). PPC is based in many sciences such as neuroscience, leadership, health, wellness, psychology, education and business. PPC is finding its way into schools in order to integrate social and emotional learning, leadership, and life & well-being practices as part of a positive, healthy and empowering paradigm shift.

“…while many different styles of coaching exist within and outside of education, all coaching styles, including PPC, adhere to the best practices of a collaborative relationship that supports the client in setting and achieving specific goals (Kemp, 2008). Furthermore, some research is showing that behavior changes in teachers, due to the development process of coaching, may positively impact student achievement (Brown, Reumann-Moore, Hugh, Christman, & Riffer, 2009). [PPC] is being increasingly recognized as effective professional development (PD) for educators who work directly with students and serve in leadership roles (Van Nieuwerburgh, 2012). In the context of a coaching session, educators can self-reflect, let down their guards, seek feedback, and put plans in motion for their improvement. Whether they need to improve mental models about classroom situations, manage expectations of student success, or use effective communication strategies, coaching gives them opportunities to explore these thoughts and behaviors. This exploration sets in motion an intentional change process that fosters intrinsic motivation for goal attainment (Boyatzis, 2006). The looked-for results are self-directed behavioral changes that are more likely to be attended to and sustained over time….these findings support the notion that client-centered coaching focused on personal development might have a greater chance of promoting sustainable changes in social and emotional skills and behaviors than didactic coaching focused on professional compliance to instructional techniques (Smith et al., 2009).”  

For the past decade, i.b.mee. has been using a type of evidence-based PPC, or what we call Empowerment Coaching, with principals, teachers, and students as part of an informal research project to integrate high-level wellness, SEL, leadership and purpose-driven, value-centered learning into classrooms and schools. Empowerment Coaching is a type of trauma-informed communication that integrates naturally into teaching communication, and which prioritizes life and well-being, and social-emotional learning. Empowerment Coaching increases educators’ and students’ wellness, empowerment, heart-centered leadership and purpose-driven, value-centered goal setting through connected, empowered partnership relationships and the integration of personal and environmental social, emotional, physical and mental learning objectives and activities. 

We see teachers as trauma-informed life, well-being, and learning Empowerment Coaches in the Classroom…A COACH IN EVERY CLASSROOM.   We see school administrators as Empowerment Coaches for their staff and students. We believe that educators as Empowerment Coaches is the missing link to the positive shift in the education system…SO SCHOOLS ARE WHERE EVERYONE THRIVES.  ….schools where students and teachers can’t wait to wake up and go to school every day because they are excited to have another experience of how their gifts, innovations, ideas, and personal passions will come alive and contribute to the greater good today. 

Join us today and begin your self-care journey that not only will positively change your own life, but just as importantly, positively change your students’ live.