Over the last year I have started working as an instructional coach in my school, and this term I am training 4 other teachers to work as instructional coaches next year. As part of this I have gone back and read various books by Jim Knight, to clarify some of the details that he shared in the Instructional Coaching Institute I attended in April.
One of these books is Better Conversations, which is not directly about coaching, but rather about having productive conversations. Obviously, this is a key skill of the good coach.
Knight starts by exploring the issues around communication in today's world, and what he refers to as the "radical brokenness" in many of todays conversations, which often focus on persuading an "audience" to agree with you. He contrasts this to a Better Conversation, or a dialogue, where both parties learn from the conversation.
Knight does not sell himself as an expert, but rather somebody who wants to improve his own conversation skills. The book is his way of collating the stuff that will be useful to his own development, and he has very generously shared what he has discovered.
The philosophy of Better Conversations is that they are based on a set of 6 Beliefs.
These 6 beliefs are easy to agree with, but Knight goes one step further to say that we need to demonstrate these beliefs through our actions, and to do this we can internalise a set of 10 Habits.
The main bulk of the book is exploring each of these habits, what they look like, and how we can become better at them. Each chapter ends with a series of reflection forms to use to analyse how you currently live up to the habits and to plan how you will make the next steps.
I agree with the premise that many conversations that take place do not fulfil the requirements of a dialogue (a learning conversation where both partners are there to learn). This is as true in schools as it is in the wider world. But these skills are not only applicable to coaches: they are a vital part of developing anything, including a school or education system.
Just imagine a world where everybody was willing and eager to learn from each other, and our conversations were not an attempt to convince or belittle others, but rather to truly understand what the other believes and learn from them.
You can get a PDF version of the above images here.
I am a maths teacher looking to share good ideas for use in the classroom, with a current interest in integrating educational research into my practice.