I always love when I find a simple activity that has powerful results in coaching and leading. This is one of them.

Traditionally, when starting a professional development session, we often talk about what our goals for the session are, what we hope to accomplish and the deliverables we hope to create. We might even ask teachers to reflect on what they hope to take-away from the session to better support their learning. This helps us set our intentions for our time with teachers and gives teachers a clear rationale for the learning ahead. But, this stance often places the focus on the outcome, not the process, of learning.

Instead of the same old way to launch a session, try flipping the script a bit. Rather than help teachers set their intentions for what they want to learn and accomplish with you, have them set their intentions for how they want to feel when they leave your session. Simple, right? It is, but has big results. I first encountered this idea on Twitter from Katie McGrath and have been using it ever since.

The premise is simple. At the start of a professional learning session, give teachers a brief overview of what they can expect to learn and do together. Then, ask them to think about how they want to feel at the end of your time together in light of the learning ahead. Productive? Energized? Accomplished? Less Stressed? Optimistic? 

Have teachers jot their hoped-for feeling on a sticky note and think about how they could engage during the session to feel that way. Could they be brave and be the first to share their thinking with the group? Could they ask clarifying questions? Could they share their ideas with a colleague? Could they lead a small group discussion? Urge teachers to think of what they might need to let go of as well. Might they let go of an old belief? An old professional grudge? An old negative attitude and start anew? And don’t forget to engage in this activity right along with your teachers as the lead learner in the room. Keep those sticky notes close by as a tangible reminder of how they hope to feel.

This quick and simple activity reminds us that our actions directly influence what we get out of a professional learning session and how we end up feeling. By clearly stating how we hope to feel when we leave, we can take control of our collective actions to make sure we feel that way.

I have found this works particularly well when leading sessions on challenging topics or when there is a bit of tension in the school culture. Thinking about how we want to feel and what we need to do to feel that way instantly places a positive perspective on the learning ahead. And that can change everything.

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