ISTE Coaching Standard 5: Professional Learning Facilitator reads, “Coaches plan, provide and evaluate the impact of professional learning for educators and leaders on the use of technology to advance teaching and learning”. I want to examine the value of team coaching to create a safe and open space for coaches to work with educators and child protection professionals. Specifically, I would like to examine how can coaches facilitate dialogue, enhance active listening, encourage feedback, and construct an environment where effective communication and collaboration can grow? How can coaches create a climate of trust and psychological safety that encourages educators and child protection professionals to openly share their perspectives, ideas and viewpoints with other educators and child protection professionals for the enhanced learning benefits of students who have experienced trauma?
To begin addressing this question, I found a 2023 article titled, “The Winning Edge: Elevating Communication and Collaboration Through Team Coaching”. Written by Aditi Choudhary, this article highlights the value of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), a communication framework developed by Marshall Rosenberg. To create a climate of trust and psychological safety that encourages educators and child protection professionals to openly share their perspectives, ideas and viewpoints with other educators and child protection professionals for the enhanced learning benefits of students who have experienced trauma, NVC “promotes empathy, connection, and understanding in both personal and professional interactions”. NVC offers coaches a “compassionate approach to communication, aiming to transform patterns of defensiveness, blame, and conflict into empathetic dialogue and collaborative problem-solving”. This emphasis on NVC aligns with best practice communication frameworks for supporting students with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and trauma. This is because NVC encourages the coaching of individuals to express themselves authentically while also listening with empathy to others. This is achieved through 4 key components: observation, feelings, needs, and request.
To better understand the value of these 4 key components, especially for coaches working with educators, I came across a 1999 case study developed for the organization Nonviolent Communication, titled “Nonviolent Communication Experimental Project in Primary Schools” by Vilma Costetti. Within this study, Costetti noted that “even though sometimes we choose to sympathize with others by feeling what they feel, it is important to be aware of the fact that, when we sympathize, we are not giving empathy”. For coaches to facilitate dialogue, enhance active listening, encourage feedback, and construct an environment where effective communication and collaboration can grow, coaches need to first create an empathetic model in their approach. In an effort to distinguish and reflect the potential of the NVC Model to assist coaches in creating this model, Cosetti shares the following Nonviolent Communication Model table, developed by Rosenberg, as a means of articulating “that in order to give empathy we need empathy”.
The Nonviolent Communication Model
|Express myself honestly without blaming or criticizing |
1. The concrete actions that I observe (see, hear, remember, imagine) that contribute (or do not contribute) to your wellbeing: “When you (see, hear)…
2. ”How I feel with regard to these actions: “I feel…”
3. The life energy in the form of needs, values, desires, expectations or thoughts that are causing my feelings: “because I need…” Requesting clearly what might enrich my life, without demanding it:
4. The concrete actions that I would like to be undertaken: “and I would like you…”
|Receiving yourself empathetically without hearing blame or criticism|
1. The concrete actions that you observe (see, hear, remember, imagine) that contribute (or do not contribute) to your wellbeing: “When you (see, hear)…
2. ”How you feel with regard to these actions: “You feel…”
3. The life energy in the form of needs, values, desires, expectations or thoughts that are causing your feelings: “because you need…”
Requesting clearly what might enrich my life, without demanding it:
4. The concrete actions that you would like to be undertaken: “and you would like me…”
In addition to examining empathy and NVC, and in reviewing the educational and developmental challenges associated with learning for students with adverse childhood experiences, greater attention is also being placed on the value that comes with team coaching, especially as it relates to improved communication and collaboration for educators working with students with ACEs. As it relates to supporting educators working with students with ACEs, Choudhary notes that “team coaching focuses on improving the collective performance of a group by addressing communication patterns, collaboration dynamics, and shared goals”. Why is this important for coaching educators who work with students with ACEs, and how does this help enhance their learning? By fostering open communication, trust, and a shared vision, team coaching helps educators to work cohesively, and not feel isolated in the management of responsibility that comes with having a classroom comprised of students with ACEs, and without. Choudhary notes that “it better develops problem-solving abilities, enhances decision-making processes, and increases adaptability to changes, leading to higher performance”.
Concurrently, greater attention is also being placed on the importance of psychological safety within teams. Choudhary notes that “psychological safety creates an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their ideas, taking risks, and engaging in open dialogue without fear of negative consequences. This fosters a culture of trust where individuals can communicate their thoughts and concerns openly, leading to more effective collaboration and problem-solving”.
We know in working with students with ACEs, that children thrive in environments where they feel safe, stable, and connected to their family. An example of team coaching in practice to benefit educators and child protection professionals working with students with ACEs, can be seen in a 2022 ACEs Aware Storytelling Series, titled “Learning with ACEs: An Educators Story” examining the impact of team coaching at Laguna High School.
Laguna High School, in Sonoma County, California, has a student population where nearly 100 percent of the student body lives below the poverty line, and nearly 50 percent could be categorized as homeless or as unaccompanied minors. Principal Allie Green reports that “Our kids are in a constant state of panic, and our kids come to school dysregulated. When you go to school to be a teacher, they don’t teach you that kids who suffer from significant toxic stress can’t access their education. We knew ACEs are going to impact students’ life outcomes, but we didn’t have the tools in order to figure out what to do with that.” The school contacted a Clinical Counselor, named Mishale Ballinger, to assist and coach the educational staff of Laguna High School on trauma-informed practices, and to train their educators on how to make their classrooms feel like safe spaces for students. Ballinger taught teachers and office staff about ACEs, explained how toxic stress impacts kids, and provided tools to help students to get back inside their bodies. In addition to the use of self-regulation tools, such as restorative circles, and support from multiple marriage family therapists, Green also fostered an open-door policy in the Principal’s Office. Green notes in her coaching that, “The office represents a place of safety, and love, and compassion”. This real-world example of team coaching at work for educators working with students with ACEs goes on to note that since they began implementing the trauma-informed practices they were taught, Laguna has seen its graduation rate rise from 55 percent to 95 percent.
So how can coaches use technology to advance teaching and learning of trauma-informed practices? A 2022 article, titled, Best Practices for Trauma Informed Learning, notes that “students need time to process, make sense of their lived experiences, and engage in activities that can help them move forward and persevere”. The article goes on to note that educators should “provide learning activities in which students strengthen their executive-functioning skills. In addition, include opportunities for reflection”. One way that technology can play a role in reflection opportunities is through voice-recorded reflections where students can talk through their feelings. An example of this kind of technology that coaches and educators can use is VoiceThread. VoiceThread is a presentation tool that allows for storytelling with various mixed media sources, and allows for interaction between educators and their students. It allows educators and students to upload images, videos, voice, text, and drawings, and can be used in physical or virtual classrooms. It is a great tech tool that allows students to work collaboratively on projects, and can be incorporated with other tech tools to enhance student learning for students with ACEs such as Padlet or Google Jamboard.
Another way that technology can help advance teaching and learning of trauma-informed practices, and psychological safety, is through the creation of safe places, such as a Peace Room. A Peace Room is a common trauma-informed practice, and is where students can focus on self-regulation, debrief, and calm themselves. Peace Rooms can also be created virtually through Zoom, Google Meet or Teams, and a can be a place where students, educators, and their families can come together to reflect, heal and grow together.
Through the coaching of an empathetic model around trauma-informed instruction, to help educators learn how to support their students’ in expressing themselves authentically, while also learning how to listen to others with empathy, I believe team coaching can be a vital investment in enhancing the learning growth and development of students with ACEs. Adding in the value of today’s technology into these coaching practices, gives me greater confidence that the increased graduation percentages experienced at Laguna High, can be experienced by more schools and school districts, with similar demographics, across the country when properly implemented and practiced.
ACEs Aware Storytelling Series. “Learning with ACEs: An Educators Story”. 2022. https://www.acesaware.org/blog/learning-with-aces-an-educators-story/
Budhai, Stephanie. Best Practices For Trauma-Informed Teaching. 2022. Tech & Learning. https://www.techlearning.com/how-to/best-practices-for-trauma-informed-teaching
Choudhary, Aditi. The Winning Edge: Elevating Communication and Collaboration Through Team Coaching. 2023. https://xmonks.com/elevating-communication-and-collaboration-through-team-coaching/
Costetti, Vilma. Nonviolent Communication Experimental Project in Primary Schools. Nonviolent Communication for the Next Generation. 1999. https://nvcnextgen.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Vilma_Costetti_Nonviolent_Communication_Experimental_Project_in_Primary_Schools.pdf