December 2018

December 1, 2018 - 7 minutes read

December 2018 Coaching Tip of the Month

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily” (Zig Ziglar). The dreaded mid-year slump! How to avoid it or how to deal with it… that’s the $64,000 question!

Many of us are incredibly motivated in September and we maintain that momentum for several months. We want to be part of the community and work together – teachers, students, and administrators. Then the holidays come along, and we get busy preparing for them and possibly agonizing over gift giving, how much to spend, when to decorate and many other attentions that possess our thoughts. There is, however, a more important issue to think about when preparing for the holidays… about people who struggle with traumatic experiences and the stimuluses that can set them off or weaken their motivation – maybe even devalue it. How can coaches help teachers navigate these challenging times?

Motivation is impacted by many things. I don’t think any of us wake up in the morning and decide we will not be motivated going forward. We may, however, wake up in the morning and not feel like doing anything, something with which I am all too familiar!

There are some tips for this kind of “malaise” to help your colleagues emerge from the slump… revisit your goals to see if revisions are needed; think about short term goals from the midpoint to end of year. (Short term goals help everyone see the “light at the end of the tunnel.”) Think about celebrating the small “stuff” and make those celebrations visible; remind your colleagues of their strengths by engaging them in conversations about what they do and how others can learn from them. Plan some “chat and chew” brown-bag lunches and talk about movies, great books, recipes, sports, music or any topic that is fun and doesn’t hold anyone accountable or responsible for completing tasks associated with it. Brighten someone’s day by putting fun stickers or little notes into a mailbox or under a door. Build confidence… this is critical to maintaining the energy level and pumping up the motivation factor. Most of all, be an example and keep smiling in the face of dreary weather, student slouches, and implementation dips. These, too, shall pass.

But, trauma triggers do not go away this time of year.

First of all, remember to be a good listener and hear “between the lines.” For some who may not recognize why they are feeling so blue, a coach can engage in conversation that spans the educational domain to talk about other things in life that are influencing behavior. Not so easy to do. This can only happen in a safe environment where the coach and his/her teaching colleagues have a trusting relationship; that is, the coach needs to feel comfortable asking some questions and the teacher needs to feel comfortable answering them. Sharing some details can be incredibly painful and followed by feelings of rejection, self-hate, and loneliness. A conversation may only be the tip of an iceberg but a necessary one if the conditions are right to connect.

Don’t try to visit someone you think is troubled every day; stop by in the morning for a quick hello but don’t hang around and make the person uncomfortable. The hope is that this person will reach out to you on a more personal level if s/he thinks you are willing to listen without judgement. Perhaps asking the person to join you for lunch, just the two of you, is a way to engage in a deeper conversation. Put yourself in that person’s place and time to think about his/her feelings.

Joy and celebration are not automatic for those who are struggling either emotionally, socially, or financially. Add any abuse to that equation and the recipe for disaster is there.

Brain research indicates that the amygdala, the part of the brain that responds to threats, impacts emotional responses like fear, apprehension, and hostility. Teachers see these frequently in students and may be experiencing the same feelings. These feelings are real and need to be recognized in order to move forward. The question is, “How can we help those who are facing these stressors? How can we promote self-care in order to help others move forward?”

The stress that students and teachers experience may cause a withdrawal or what looks like apathy to us. Coaches need to recognize these signs and embark on a “fact-finding” mission… they need to understand what is happening and why. They need to think about the different personalities of the colleagues they coach and determine the best way to approach a situation where the motivation is hijacked. They need to know when they can help and when they can carefully, gently, and definitively suggest outside support so that all their colleagues can restore their faith in the system, their students, and themselves. Be responsive and not overbearing; be present and not annoying; listen more to the unspoken word and don’t put words into anyone’s mouth… two ears… one mouth.

Happy holidays to all. Be safe!

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