Are You One of Us?
A Reflection on Identity
Recently I was asked by a fellow teacher:
“Are you one of us?”
Even after being in a coach position for 4 years, there is still confusion about my role. There are a couple factors at play here. One factor is the role I play in certain scenarios. If there is a lock down for instance, I am one of the people with a radio. Two, even though I have a good relationship with my teachers I think sometimes they feel like I’m “checking up on them” because the administrator has asked me to. Three, there is an openness to my position that is different from a teacher even though I have the same contract. When I first started I actually was blocked at first from a meeting and was told at the door “Only teachers.”
I’ve had the honor of being a coach in two corporations but the roles were glaringly different. One coaching was mandatory and I was an evaluator/quasi admin. Here, it is voluntary and not evaluative.
But it got me thinking about perception and how I’m seen. The Better leaders Better Schools Leadership podcast last week was guest hosted by Amber Harper who is the founder of The Burned In Teacher. It is an acronym and she helps teachers go from burned out to burned in. She was a guest for over a week sharing tips and action steps. One activity that got me thinking was TEACHER/COACH Brand. Every product has a brand identity. When you think of NIKE or CRAYOLA certain adjectives come to mind. It is the same for teachers. There are teachers who are known for Quiet Power or great discipline or zany ideas and innovation.
You have a brand.
Your coworkers have a brand.
Your principal has a brand.
The actionable idea is to poll your co-workers and see what adjectives they would use to describe you. You make own list of adjectives of how you want to be perceived and then embody those adjectives as much as you can. The idea is also to see if there is a discrepancy.
I always tell my teachers I cannot fix a problem I do not know about. Several weeks ago I was conducting a PD and I took the opportunity to ask a small group of teachers what adjectives they would use to describe me as a coach . Now I realize this procedure is not scientific. It wasn’t anonymous but I have a good enough relationship with these three people for them to be honest. It takes a lot to offend me or hurt my feelings on a normal day. [Confession: I do have about 5 days a year were things bother me that don’t normally and I have been known to cry.]
The words I received were not surprising. I am still pondering if they are the right words for what I want to convey and achieve.
Some of the words for my Coach Brand from teachers were:
- no nonsense
- fast paced
Now I am in a district coach within 2 buildings with different responsibilities. I am trying to cultivate my coach brand as being helpful and supportive and knowledgeable while splitting my time across several buildings.
In a few weeks, I will have to poll some teachers for their adjectives to see how I am coming along.