I have had many conversations with fellow literacy coaches on the importance of lifelong learning and the impact it can have on our coaching. 

In my experience, teachers who embrace a lifelong learning mindset listen, think, act, teach and lead differently. They are enthusiastic learners and look forward to entering the classroom. They embrace professional learning opportunities and have a positive attitude about new ideas and initiatives. They look forward to collaborating with others around instruction and practice and make connections to the classroom. 

Over time, I have realized while some might be born with this lifelong-learning mindset, it is something that we must consciously embrace and cultivate. Coaching should not only focus on the content and process of teacher learning, but on mindsets for learning as well.

In her TED Talk on stress and its impact on our health, Kelly McGonigal shared the results of a health study that showed the perception of stress was detrimental to our health, not the actual stress itself. It demonstrated just how powerful our perceptions and mindsets are to our personal well-being and I hypothesize that the same conclusions could be made about our teaching well-being as well, bringing a new perspective to my work with teachers, particularly those so called ‘resistant’ or less-than-positive teachers. 

However frustrated I might become with teachers who felt they had nothing more to learn, I realized they most likely did not make a conscious decision to remain stagnant, to stop learning, or to be negative. They simply were not accustomed to attending to their own mindset for learning or consciously making decisions to empower themselves. And if there’s one thing I know for sure, it is that teachers are masters at taking care of their students….and are less likely to take care of themselves.

As coaches, we can carve out opportunities for teachers to honor their need for self-care and improve their mindset for learning. How?

  • Create comfortable spaces to connect as fellow readers, writers, thinkers and teachers. Be humans together, not just teachers.
  • Coach with intention and honor teachers’ time, busy schedules and individual goals as teachers.
  • Plan and facilitate authentic learning experiences that are relevant and instantly applicable to the classroom. 
  • Listen to every teachers’ voice and honor their unique contributions.
  • Leave assumptions at the door and not make judgments about teachers or students.
  • Bring joy to our work and savor the little things that might go unnoticed.
  • Continually work to support teachers’ spirits so they can do the same for their students.

Here’s one concrete way to bring this work into your professional learning sessions. Give every teacher a sticky note and have them write down one simple (and free!) thing someone could do for them to brighten their day and remind them they matter: smile for no apparent reason, give them 10 minutes of quiet planning time, tell them they are doing a good job, etc. Compile the ideas together into a calendar (Here's a simple template!) and share it with the entire faculty. Urge teachers to post the calendar close by and indulge themselves in a bit of self-care inspired by the group.

Honoring self care for teachers is not easy. This kind of work takes planning and permission to focus on ourselves, but our teachers and their students deserve nothing less. This week, I challenge you to create your own self-care calendar for yourself and your teachers (Here's a simple weekly template!). What small actions can you take to bring a bit of calm contentedness to your busy days? Each day, take just five minutes for yourself, indulge in a few extra kindnesses and see where it takes you and your teachers. 

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