Friday, September 09, 2011

Spaghetti sauce and Connected Coaching

The homemade spaghetti sauce last week was rich, flavorful-- just downright extraordinary.

I attribute most of that to the quality of the ingredients-- something about organic farm fresh tomatoes, new onions, fresh organo, real garlic, and a touch of hot sauce to add a bit of a zing. Yet I've used those same ingredients before and the sauce never had the unique flavor of this batch. There must be something to the love, to the passion that becomes part of the process. No longer a strict recipe follower when I'm putting together a dish I've made before, there is the possibility of an extra large clove of garlic, maybe dried oregano-- always evolving, responding to conditions at hand.

While I was washing the dishes and the pot in which the sauce simmered to take on all its goodness, similarities to our Powerful Learning Practice Connected Coaching pilot struck me. That experience was downright extraordinary too. The ingredients were topnotch. Our 6 coaches, all accomplished educators-- Brenda Sherry, Marsha Ratzel, Zoe Branigan-Pipe, John Pearce, Mark Carbone, and Chad Evans-- brought their own gits and talents to deep discussions around coaching and entered communities with enthusiasm and passion. Our unique model was well flavored by dashes of Tschannen-Morans' Evocative Coaching, Costa/Garmston's Cognitive Coaching, Knight's Instructional Coaching and Dana/Yendel-Hoppey's Coaching Inquiry Oriented Communities. The zing emanated from Dean Shareski's exceptional vision and expertise for leveraging images and video, moving beyond text, in online spaces, and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach's brilliant insights around developing community.

The coaching process, unlike the sauce, lacked any prescriptive recipe and was not one we'd tried before; we let it simmer a bit, added a bit more of Tschannen-Moran and Knight, turned down the heat for a while, then back to a simmer, not unlike our description of the model as one of wayfinding with looping back, checking pathmarkers (building trust, questioning, and facilitating design thinking). I'm guessing the inquiry based appreciative elements (think more than dashes of Tshannen-Morans) increased the likelihood of such an exemplary experience. And unlike the sauce, our coaching was a collaborative process. The joy, the rush that comes from engagement in collegial conversations around difficult topics can not be overstated.

In focus sessions, we attempted to distinguish the specific ingredients or parts of the process that led to such a remarkable experience; we were unable. We were in total agreement that the ingredients and the process intertwined into a model for coaching in online spaces that should be replicated --- again.

Like the spaghetti sauce, the grand aftertaste leads to a longing for more.
Additional opportunities for connected coaches are simmering; I can't wait. They will have Dean, Sheryl, Marsha, Brenda, Zoe, John, Chad and Mark to thank for their creativity and imagination, for their passion and perseverance in concocting Connected Coaching in 2011.

And I am anticipating too the next batch of farm fresh tomatoes and the potential to replicate that unique sauce once again.

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