Learning Coaches Change Lives
When our self-images get warped, we need relationships—the vision and kindness of caring friends and mentors—to correct them. I’ve found some incredible interventions to combat this broken-lens-view in my own adult life and can’t wait to share them with you.* But first, let’s focus this story on our kiddos in relation to voice and choice.
Can you see how with powerful factors (parents, friends, teachers, social media, social media, social media, did I mention social media?) already influencing our kids’ personal narratives it’s hard for them to show up as they are meant to? They don’t have time to sift through the truths and lies of, “Everyone else is happier than me, my family’s first language isn’t English, so we don’t fit in, my teacher gave me a C so he must not like me, I might miss a Snapchat and lose friends, I don’t have the right style of jeans, so I’m irrelevant, I said the wrong thing in class and now it’s all over Instagram.” This stuff may sound silly to adults, but it defines kids’ reality because it’s where they fix their eyes for feedback.
Folks, there are kiddos who spend the school day (and night) lost in the filters of misfocused self-perception. Kids who are missing the essential assets needed to sift through the kaleidoscope of shame and blame in their stories for a variety of reasons.
Maybe she learns differently from the kids who usually raise their hands and forever keeps telling herself that her way isn’t good enough. Or maybe taking tests is a source of anxiety that continues to worsen over time. Maybe he works late to help his family and doesn’t have time to finish homework or falls asleep sometimes in class. Instead of asking for help, our young hero figures others wouldn’t understand and hides his frustration in a bundle of anger. Maybe he hasn’t hit his growth spurt yet or she feels embarrassed by her glasses. Or maybe she does really well in school and gets caught in the cycle of “perfect or bust.” Or maybe he’s so busy that he’s constantly losing work or misplacing books. There are kiddos who, in spite of everything their parents try, absolutely miss the message the caring adults desperately want to send. They feel they can’t seem to do things the way their parents expect, no matter how hard they try, so they just give up.
85% of the study participants in Brene Brown’s research on shame can remember something that happened in school that was so shaming it changed how they thought of themselves as learners. Brown goes on to say, “People want to believe, ‘Oh, that must be resource-poor public schools where that’s happening.’ It’s not. It happens in every school. Not in every classroom, of course. Some of the fiercest, non-shaming, wholehearted people I’ve ever met are teachers, but it happens a lot.”
Kids get their stories wrong and miss the chance to be who they are, shine how they’re made to shine. Isn’t this, after all, what we want most for them in the world? To be who they are, experiencing the reciprocity of giving and receiving goodness and kindness? It’s heartbreaking when our kids (or friends, family, or partners) don’t understand what they have to offer the world: Their souls miss out on feeling their worth.
Look at Albert Einstein. Historical sources say he was “terrible” in school. And yet we know him today as a brilliant inventor, credited with some of the most important discoveries in our understanding of space, time, and gravity. Who else’s important contribution will we miss if we don’t get this part right?
Our kids can and must practice believing in themselves, which means loving their own paths and learning processes. When they value themselves for who they are right now, they’re more willing to invest in who they want to become. Without this self-regard, kids will get frustrated, unable to imagine how they fit into the wider puzzle of the world. They might spend years trying to force themselves to fit into lives that don’t serve them, or they may get frustrated and throw the pieces to the floor, decline to participate, float passively through time.
And this is where they need people who can remind them to see themselves as loved unconditionally, complete as they are, capable of trying and failing over and over in the great process of achieving a goal. This is a highly personal, vulnerable, and time-consuming process. A picture-refocus that must happen continually over time: practice click, click, clicking to create a new storyboard with the right view in focus.
Enter: The Learning Coach
Part traditional content tutor, part mentor and advisor, each YP Learning Coach is matched with her or his students according to expert content niche and personality.
The goal: put the best coaches with the kiddos who need them most.
True to the title, the Learning Coach prepares children for their leaps of faith into pursuing passions and interests to serve others by helping each see her or his capability to do hard things—to practice without worry of failure and to reflect on attempts in the spirit of growth. Whatever the core subject (reading, math, writing, history, science), the Learning Coach surrounds content-instruction with real-life opportunities for practice. The coach says, “I see you, I believe in you, and I’m going to help you do this—your way.” Through compassion, curiosity, and connection, Learning Coaches link hope (goals, pathways, and belief) to a students’ learning experience.
And the result? The Learning Coach helps the young person drown out the noise of everyone else’s “shoulds” and heal the pain of their own mistaken, misshapen, or misfocused self-image. Kids’ energy redirects toward their authentic, personal “want-to’s and need-to’s,” to become, to serve, to persist, to harness their power of voice and choice at school and in the community. With a Learning Coach, the student’s question changes from, “When will I ever use this skill?” to “What can I someday achieve by practicing this skill?”
We all have powerful voices and powerful truths; sometimes they’re obscured by years of jumping to harsh conclusions about ourselves. It is time to change the jump pattern for our kids once and for all. Who’s in?
*I could probably write a book about the ways that we unwittingly sabotage our ability to show up authentically—and our power to stop this heartbreaking process from limiting our lives. And maybe I will someday :).