While many types of relationships assist others in becoming who they are meant to be, we believe that a coaching relationship excels in evoking a desire for self-growth and development. This brief article outlines and defines some of the primary coaching methods the Freedom Center recommends to develop trusting and profound relationships capable of helping you and others amplify your respective nobler selves.
General World-View and Approach
Coaching and education in general, occurs in a specific time and place. We cannot maintain communication and trusting relationships with students outside the time of history in which we live, nor isolated from the economic, political and cultural systems in which we live. Times of tranquility and abundance call for one approach to coaching. During times of uncertainty, economic or political crises, or rapid increase in deprivation another coaching model may be best.
The specific coaching endeavor must evoke in the individual coach an organic feeling of resonance as well as personal desire to act as part of the team or circle. Coaching requires a clear world-view. It requires an understanding of the specific purpose, the “why” that forms the foundation of the relationships between the team of coaches, the organization or institution, and the individual and group of students. Good coaching also calls for trust in and willingness to develop the methods of coaching, the “how” that forms the means by which all the necessary relationships compliment one another and adds to the construction of the team, the community.
Five Specific Philosophical Foundations for Coaching
Attitude toward Self and Student
Attitude, or one’s philosophical starting point, sets the vision or mental map one utilizes to proceed in developing coaching relationships. How you see yourself forms an essential part of clarifying your starting point. “Who am I?” and “What is my life’s purpose” lead us to vistas from which we might see clearly our attitude toward our own selves.
It is likewise necessary to “see” our own attitude we hold for the student(s). “Who is she?” and “What might be her life’s purpose?”
Dr. King teaches that each one of us lives with two basic attitudes. One he considers our “lower” self or that self concerned first and foremost with our own appetites, advantage and acknowledgement. Our other self, according to Dr. King, forms our “nobler” self, that part of our essence that carries out otherinterestedness, helpfulness and altruism. Everyday both selves exist and function and no one lives entirely in either one. A coach’s philosophical starting point is that self which the coach consciously determines his or her self-definition.
Purpose for Each Specific Coaching Endeavor
Success in coaching requires one to develop and hold a clear purpose or mission for each specific coaching endeavor. What does the coach seek at the completion of the specific organizational or institutional relationship? The purpose of the Oakland Green Civic Campaign is to reach the middle of August with coaching relationships that result in strong, passionate individuals who can and do integrate into the struggle for peace, community and a stronger democracy. We seek to evoke within the student the courage, hope, vision, and skill and self-view required to confront racism, sexism, consumerism and militarism.
The Sequence of Individual Transformation
Psychology, pedagogy and nonviolence all confirm that the individual makes changes in a sequence beginning with conduct change. First conduct change, then a broadening of character and finally a higher consciousness. Traditional education has accepted the view of individual change promoted by private economic, commercial interests. This view puts the “idea” in first place, the “consciousness.” “Character” isn’t even part of the tradition view of self-change.
The sequence, of course, is circular. That is, once one changes conduct and character further develops and consciousness rises, then the sequence continues in a spiral manner to higher more noble conduct, character and consciousness. The key for a coach is to develop the capacity to change his or her conduct and to evoke in students the same.
Conduct Change Takes Place in Social Connections and Community
Closely related to the sequence of individual transformation is the reality that actual self-change takes place inside social groups and community. The ability to change in isolation is extremely difficult if not impossible. Almost every successful leader, whether in science, the arts or in spiritual development have grown through conduct change that took place with and among others. Even most saints of old developed monasteries so that they, as individuals, might develop a personal relationship with God through the support of the collective.
Coaching requires the development of community. It also requires knowledge and understanding of the social group (s) and community (ies) in which the coaching occurs. A coach relies on and coaches through the development of cooperation, collaboration and community.
The Necessity for a Coach’s Path for Personal Transformation
A coach is basically asking students to change, and evoking within them a desire for change while also assisting in the development within them of the will to change. In order coach successfully a coach must clearly define his or her own desired, personal changes, and the plan and timeline for completing them.
Making significant conduct change is not a casual endeavor. One cannot coach others in conduct change without actively and currently coaching the self in making personal change. Of course, a coach’s personal change also takes place within a specific social setting and in community. One seeks the active participation of others in assisting the self to accomplish self-defined, personal transformation.
Distinct Methods for Successful Coaching
Form an actual circle whenever three or more of us gather. A circle is the most organic and basic form in the universe. Minute entities such as molecules and cells are circular. Water flows in a circular motion. We learn better when we face one another and engage in our individual and collective body language, eye contact and verbal and other expressions.
Light a Spark
Begin every formal event (class, van ride, work session) by Lighting a Spark. This is very different from the traditional, “Introduce yourself.” Lighting a spark offers practice of stepping up to the responsibility for the focus on the group, for the emotions and ideals of the group. There are four parts to Lighting a Spark:
Individual Conversations Based on Dr. King’s Triplets of Injustice
Dr. King teaches that America falters under the weight and attack of what he calls the triples of injustice: racism, consumerism and militarism. One of our goals is to evoke in students the inspiration and will to transform themselves into being warriors for justice. All aspects of our relationship should be based on our mutual effort to change ourselves to change America.
The times and places where our coaching relationships will be most challenged are during casual situations, such as lunch time, hanging out waiting for things to begin or giving rides home or to an activity. Traditional education makes the pedagogical error of relating to students as friends. This is based on the manipulative nature of the economic system based on greed and profit. Under that system we “talk people into doing things” by having them feel “we’re good friends.” Many times both coaches and students want to “relax” and get into their comfort zone; to talk about things that are fun and comfortable; to participate in talking that evokes within the individual a sense of entertainment. We better maintain our coaching relationships and better evoke in the students the inspiration to transform when we stay focused on our purpose and how to accomplish it. Of course, this does not mean we should “cut off” or ignore students who, in casual times, are engaged in casual conversation. We suggesting that, in the main, we not initiate such conversation. There is plenty of ways to make conversation in a light or casual manner that emanates from the joint effort to discover the self and to seek change. Almost everyone, for example, enjoys and finds some comfort in “talking about themselves” which can be a great basis for the development of a trusting, transformative relationship.
Practice shaking hands at every encounter with students and teammates. A hand shake, in the Judea-Christian cultures (not in all cultures and a coach wants to know the difference), signifies recognition and respect. It is a symbol of a desire to connect.
Give concentrated eye contact to the one you are speaking with. In groups, always focus on the speaker and give concentrated eye contact to the speaker. Do not fiddle with hands, pens or other objects when another is speaking.
Consistent High Energy
Change takes a great deal of energy. According to the poet, William Blake, “all energy is divine.” Energy can be expressed physically, emotionally and intellectually. There are times when one of these channels is better than the other two and there are times when two or even all three channels should be applied simultaneously. During each day, throughout the day, apply consistently high energy. We’ll go home and be able to lessen the energy when we do (if you want to) and the day is relatively short so devote yourself energetically.
Encourage Team Support and Avoid Put Downs
Always look for and initiative ways for individuals in the group to conduct themselves in ways that provide for mutual support. One of the weaknesses of our current social condition is that many of our social relationships are based on an acceptability of putting down others or laughing at them. One of the times where it is most tempting to laugh at another is when the person trips or stumbles or when they are being faced with fear. Evoke in the group team support such as applause or short verbal statements of encouragement.
When Reading Aloud, Skip Words, No Reading Words for Student
You will be present in many organized learning sessions. Students are asked to read aloud. When they do we encourage them to skip words they feel they don’t know how to pronounce. Traditional education, especially in English class, puts too much emphasis on pronunciation and technical reading skill. Leadership focuses on the intuitive skill of getting a feeling for the body of words being read and/or studied. After all, no one knows how to pronounce all the words in a particular language and, furthermore, the same word is pronounced differently in different countries or regions of the same country. As a coach avoid saying a word for the student.
When we read we ask students to pick out (usually by circling a word) trigger words which are those words that signify for the individual a feeling for the point being made in the writing.
Sounds Like/Feels Like
When reading a body of material we evoke discussion by asking what the material “sounds like and feels like.” This does two things. First, it highlights the role of the intuitive. Secondly, it bypasses the more tradition question, “What does it mean?” and thereby lessons the divisions established in traditional classrooms where the same students always seem to “know” while the rest of others seem to “not know.”
You will be with students who are asked to write fast and not “think” about what they are writing. This is an exercise that reveals that the act of writing is basically physical. One need not know what he or she wants to communicate in order to make the pencil or keyboard function. Furthermore, target practice assists in the discovery or uncovering of feelings and thoughts that might otherwise not been tapped.
When students are ask to write on the topic or assignment sometimes they will respond with the question, “What do I write about?” Do not attempt to answer that question. Generally, we change the assignment when we do. Instead, evoke in the student the willingness to write and the feeling that you believe in their capacity to do so. A good response at those moments is, “You don’t have to follow the assignment, just write something that you’re willing to share with the group in a few moments.”
And vs. But
In coaching we’re tempted to sugar coat (based on befriending) a coaching comment by first giving a “positive” and then offering our suggestion for what the student could do better. This form of relationship is based on the current economic system that relies on hyper-individualism and fear. It is actually unloving because it is based on the notion that evoking in another the will and the skill be improve is a negative act when it is actually an act expressing one of the highest forms of love. You can avoid sugar coating if you use the word “and” instead of “but.” When we say, “I like your sweater” and then begin the next phrase with the word, “but. . .” it negatives the “and.”
Read Your Own Work
Always be prepared and willing to read your own written work. Emulate; work to get as far out of your comfort zone as possible.
Write Daily in Your Journal
Each coach is asked to write daily in your journal. A journal is separate from a diary. You are welcome to keep a dairy as well. We have a format for journal writing that offers a method of self discovery. You are, of course, at liberty to follow whatever journal writing method you choose.
Sign and Live Up To the Transformation for Justice Pledge
You are asked to sign a “Transformation for Justice Pledge.”