One of my ‘jobs’ is working as a coach with young people in a tough school in a tough area in South London. Families are replaced by gangs and they go to school because they have to, some have no concept of what education is or why they need one. Many are scared. You see this in their body language. A handful brave enough to stand up agreed to be part of a coaching programme. They are all deemed ‘at risk’ in some way. All are under performing and under achieving. All have been excluded from school at some point. Some wear this as a badge of honour, it enables them to be accepted.
Yesterday I had my first sessions with 3 year 10 pupils (age 14/15). We had briefly met before Easter so they knew a little about me and I about them. You never know what to expect. There is always a little trepidation.
The aim of this programme is to help them focus on their goals. My role is to be committed to their commitment. Coaching is about mutual respect, it is about partnership. Believe me they are showing enormous courage in standing up to say that they want to leave school with an education, to get to college and find a job doing something they want to do.
Things I’ve learned as a coach
- Young people are like sponges to new ideas
- This is often the first time in their lives that someone has given them real time. This is the first time they have been listened to.
- Don’t judge them for the way they sit, talk, behave…..it’s just attitude, a mask they wear.
- They have incredible energy and enormous potential that just needs harnessing.
At the end of the session I asked each of the pupils ‘What was the one thing that they took away from the session? When they fell asleep that night and thought about our session what was the one thing that stuck in their minds’.
- To learn to stand in someone else’s shoes, to feel what it must be like for them when I am rude.
- To ask if what I am doing or am about to do is appropriate. Will it get me nearer my goal?
- To really think before I open my mouth to ‘cuss’ or ‘disrespect’ someone.
We are going to get along very well. I am neither teacher nor parent. I am impartial, I am their cheerleader. I will be their trustworthy guide to achieving the goals they set themselves. I will hold them accountable, they understand that the only person they really let down is themselves. They get that. These young people are brave. They know it’s going to be tough at times; the distractions are all around them. They must have passion for their goals, this will keep them on track.
Now, I don’t know about you but I’m sure we could replace these young people I’m talking about with ourselves, our children perhaps, our colleagues, partners or friends. Would we not all benefit perhaps from….
a) learning to stand in someone else’s shoes?
b) ask ourselves whether what we are doing is appropriate (eating the chocolate if we’re trying to lose weight, allowing ourselves to be walked over again, procrastinating once more……..)
c) thinking before we open our mouths.
d) being passionate about our goals to keep us on track.
e) being accountable to someone in order to achieve our goals.
f) finding or being a cheerleader!
Photo credit : Nicolas Nova