The Taylor Group is committed to lifelong learning in all of its forms. One of our staff members with a background in education recently interviewed a current teacher about their experiences returning to school in the era of COVID restrictions and other massive changes in the educational space. We discovered underlying lessons in the conversation that are not only directly relevant to school-age children, but to adults who are navigating challenging circumstances as well. There was a great deal of overlap in the skills we develop with our coaching clients in business, and in life more generally. The key themes we heard were:
“We can’t read minds- if you have a request or concern about your child, please tell us!”
Communication is probably the most fundamental life skill for every human being. It is embedded in almost everything we do, often without us being fully conscious of it. For this very reason, we sometimes have to be more intentional about how we communicate to make sure that we’ve been properly understood. As our teacher friend noticed: “Communication is good, but sometimes it takes time, and some methods are better than others.” Kids with different styles of learning grow into adults. We have to cultivate an awareness of how others express themselves, and be deliberate about how we express ourselves as well. If you feel like your concerns haven’t been heard, try again! Much of our coaching work involves exploring different ways for our clients to listen to others, and then practice new ways of responding to them in return.
“We don’t always have the resources, but we do the best we can with what we have.”
Schools, like businesses, governments, and other organizations, have had to deal with changing mandates, supply disruptions, and widespread uncertainty over the past 18 months. Expecting a stable “new normal” (or any kind of normal) in the immediate future is a recipe for disappointment and frustration. Like the rest of us, teachers are making the best decisions possible with the current, limited information at hand. There will be mistakes and things that get missed. Being patient and acknowledging that we can’t control everything is essential. What can be controlled are our intentions. Whether it’s the safety and success of a student, or a positive and productive relationship with our colleagues, having a clear sense of your overarching commitments will help you stay patient through the inevitable roadblocks along the journey to those bigger goals.
“You’re dealing with kids going through trauma and YOU also have trauma”
Like many of us, teachers are stressed, burnt out, and anxious about the future. Kids are frustrated and disappointed with the limitations placed on their social and academic lives. Having empathy for them will help them by not adding to the negative emotions already there. People are afraid; of getting sick, of getting others sick, of having carefully-laid plans upended, and providing reassurance to one another can reduce that anxiety. Teachers, like many others, are also feeling unappreciated – providing acknowledgment for how hard someone is working builds trust and relationship with them, creating a foundation for working together, solving problems, and overcoming the limitations placed on us by circumstances outside our control. Crucially, having empathy for others also helps you gain perspective on your own challenges so that you can be easier on yourself, and acknowledge your own accomplishments in the face of adversity. The net result is to boost everyone’s self-confidence and sense of being on the same team.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, things like communication, patience, and empathy are helpful in the dynamic between teachers, students, and parents but have more universal application as well. The positive moods they engender are one good outcome, but there are more tangible results as well. When we communicate effectively we can access other people’s brainpower and creativity. When we are patient we see a wider range of options to apply to the challenges at hand. When we display empathy, we are building a foundation of trust and respect that sets us up for bigger results down the road. Whether you are supporting your child and their teacher in an unorthodox back to school season, or engaged in your own endeavors, building these skills are always are a good idea.