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On Being Remote Coached

It’s coming up to Thinking Classroom’s 10th Birthday (23rd July). In 2002 I jumped ship (from teaching’s aircraft carrier to a nearby leaky coracle) and began my freelance career. Thankfully, over the 10 years, the vessel has become a rather homely and efficient yacht but it’s been hard graft with a fair scattering of financial squalls. (for those of you who are hard of metaphor, I don’t actually own a yacht, though I did once come last of every race in Cowes week).

For 10 years it’s been a privilege to help others develop the craft of teaching and somehow I’ve managed to evolve my own craft as a trainer, consultant and coach. I’ve picked up tips from colleagues, borrowed jokes from comedians, even made up some of my own, and generally tried to give folks what I would expect myself, were I sitting in their seats. But the most significant steps I’ve ever taken happened just a few weeks ago:

I’ve now got nearly 50 in-ear coaching sessions under my teaching belt. But only 3 as coachee. I reckon that’s a reasonable rule of thumb for us coaches: For every 50 sessions coaching someone else, get coached 3 times. So, I invited a couple of star teachers who’ve really grown in skill and confidence through remote coaching to sit at the other side of the link and coach me, training.

I gave them specific focusses: for a few months now I’ve been concerned about hurrying the end of sentences and about speaking too quickly and, in certain venues, too quietly. I was also curious about stiffness in my shoulders, noticed when I last watched myself on video.

I am still reeling from the positive impact of their coaching. For the first time EVER in my teaching and training career I have a memory of someone saying directly in my ear, “You are doing really well, this is going brilliantly”. I carry that with me now, constantly. Not in arrogance, but as quiet confidence that, by and large, I am getting it right.

And I also got some powerful and important messages about my delivery. “Slow down, breath, are you left handed?” My wonderful coaches noticed my breathing going array as I tried to fit too many words into too short a space. And guess what? I hurried the last words of the sentence and, running out of breath, quietened them. There and then in the training session I was coached to take deep breaths and to slow the word count a little. It worked. My mind opened, the words dropped in and arranged themselves all in good time for a thoughtful delivery.

Now a real shock: my clicker. I was told and can see myself on the recording of my session, hanging on for grim death to my slide clicker, with my right hand. It was a comforter, a security stick, probably a safety net if I ran out of breath. What was suggested? : “try swapping hands, try putting it down”. I did, it worked, and with both hands free my arms swung more freely and I relaxed my shoulders.

It turns out that I’ve been carrying unnecessary stress into my training. It’s locked up parts of my body and hurried my thoughts and words along. Would I ever have either noticed or even accepted this?

I remember the prompts from my coaches. I do them now without thinking - because I learned them right there on the job, right there as instant feedback. Not several hours or days later or when the coach had time.

Never mind the yacht or coracle or carrier, with Iris Connect in-ear coaching we’re looking at speedboats and windsurfing.

Update March 2015: 13 years in, same Yacht though other boats are sailing with me in a flotilla now. 150+ sessions with Iris Connect but more importantly have developed training so other live in-ear coaches can gain the same skills, characteristics and professional satisfaction from working live with colleagues. And I've got a new clicker.

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