Friday, April 19, 2013

Coaching Tip 4 Parents: Preempting the End of the Honeymoon Phase

What do you do after the adrenaline wears off? The honeymoon phase with the new coach, or new parent program loses its initial novel appeal? This chapter deals with foresight. How do we anticipate and predict success, failure, and setbacks, before they happen?

As a coach, it is part of my job to anticipate, and predict possible gains, identify possible shortcomings, and factor those into my own expectations of my student. This helps everyone manage their idea of when they can start seeing visible results, what these results will look like, and what kind of possible setbacks they can expect. In layman’s terms, forecasting the future allows the coach to help regulate emotions, which are held in check to a great degree as the learning process, and rapport establishment unfolds. Expectation setting can also be viewed as an agreement. On the one hand, the parent, coach, Teacher is saying that they will facilitate the production of a certain result by a given timeframe, whereas the student considers, and can agree to what is being presented. On the other hand, setting and managing expectations can sustain momentum to a great degree. When people see what is coming around the corner they feel a whole lot better, than if it suddenly is right in front of them. For example, short-term expectation setting during a single Coach Bill session can be loosely likened to short-term planning ahead (an executive function skill). Not only is the creation of a ‘to do list,’ or a map crucial, but it marks a definite start and finish to the session. The student has a clear idea of what will happen, and what will be coming next.

This little bit of knowledge comforts the student, but again, how do you anticipate success, failure, and setbacks?

The experienced Clinical Teacher takes a vital step forward by relying on real-time data that is taken through observation, and immediately acting on it to shift instructional approach, and increase/ decrease the challenge level. Everything is done to maximize the engagement, and enjoyment of the learner.  Experience is king here. It is hands-on experience that tells the coach how to read the ‘signs’ that it is time to shift once again. Signs can be communicated by facial expression, verbalizations, body mannerisms, attitude, and effort.

This personalized approach, reminiscent of the ‘personalized, experienced-based’ instruction promoted by American Education reformer, and psychologist, John Dewey, has now become the leading instructional format across American schools of high achievement, as well as many private schools.

To illustrate this point, in working with individuals with Learning Disabilities, like AD/HD, or Non-Verbal Learning Disorder, I am keen to know my student. I want my student to know that I want to know what makes them tick. What ails them? What brings them joy? What upsets them? What leaves them overwhelmed? How do they feel today? How are they dealing with certain issues? 

Sun Tzu, the famous war general and author of the book, The Art of War, said early on in his 2,500 year old book that if one knows oneself, but not the enemy, they will succumb in half the battles. If one does not know oneself, nor the enemy, then defeat is certain in every battle. If one knows oneself, and the enemy, then victory is assured. Truth be told, the student is not the enemy, at all. Please do not make that connection. It is important that we extrapolate the lesson here. The Teacher needs to know what instructional tools and strategies works best for themselves, what ‘triggers’ negative emotions in themselves, how they deal with failure, and what their instructional strengths and weaknesses are. Similarly, they must know the student. Likes, dislikes, learning styles, executive function skill strengths and deficits, right and left brain hemispheric traits and characteristics, including best times to learn. Moreover, what is the student’s emotional well-being status on a given day, what past instructional approaches seemed to work well for the child/ adult learner?

Lastly, if the student can talk, what are their concerns, what is their input? 93% of all communication is said to be non-verbal. Take advantage of this. What is their body and facial expressions saying? Many a times this is the one and only way of getting quick feedback.  Like a war general, the parent/ coach must divert energies, reformat approach, and launch instruction differently… on a moments notice. Otherwise, throw in the towel and declare defeat. Great generals, as Sun Tzu was, must be able to shift and transition effortlessly. Events unfold, decisions need to be made on the spot, and this requires foresight. Great generals, and chess players pride themselves on their foresight. Foresight can put you in the right place, at the right time. This executive function skill, as noted earlier, is the ability to anticipate and predict what will come next. Some call this luck.  I, and many others call it great preparation, and good timing.

In summary, in order to preempt failure and setback stopping me or the lesson, I am: actively scanning the horizon, and making changes that impact the learning environment positively. The honeymoon phase where the coach, or new routine is a novelty can span one to five sessions. During those sessions, the establishment of rapport during the session is of biggest importance, alongside the creation of a comfortable learning environment for the learner. Preempting, diminishing setbacks and failures can be accommodated with setting and continuously managing expectations, knowing one’s own instructional capabilities, and the learner profile of the student. In the ends, the ability to facilitate an enjoyable learning experience begins to convey the message that learning is important, but so is the emotional well-being of the child/ adult student. We want them to be happily learning, not struggling with us as we try to get them to do tasks.

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