How do I get started?

As practicing Cognitive Coaches, we are often asked the question, “So how do I get started?” Each situation is unique, and yet there are some general suggestions that Costa and Garmston offer based on their work with a wide variety of educators:

1. Take time to practice. Enhancing your own skill level will help you develop the efficacy to be more public in time.
2. Begin with a colleague with whom you feel safe and with whom you already have a trusting relationship.
3. Video yourself in conversations. Use the videos to self-assess yourself using the rubric at the back of your Learning Guide.
4. Schedule formal times to coach. What gets scheduled gets done.
5. Use electronic aids such as the Cognitive CoachingSM app at http://www.thinkingcollaborative.com/tc-apps/ and videos at http://www.thinkingcollaborative.com/supportingvideoredirect/

In addition, you may find some of the following tips helpful:

1. If you are a new coach and have served in a different capacity in the past, tell your coachees up front that this is going to look different, feel different, and sound different. Nothing fosters mistrust faster that misunderstood intentions.
2. Ask for volunteers to be coached. Tell them you are learning a new skill and would like to practice. Most teachers love to assist someone that needs help. After all, that is why they went into teaching in the first place.
3. Practice silently before going “public.” For instance, craft paraphrases on a notepad during staff meetings. Craft questions on sticky notes when you are in a team meeting.
4. Practice isolated skills. Don’t try to tackle them all at once.
5. Trust yourself. You know more than the people you are coaching. No one knows if you forgot some of the elements in a meditative question. No one knows if you forgot to try a summarize and organize paraphrase.

Above all, just get started! One thing we know for sure, you can’t begin helping others on that journey of self-directedness unless you take the first steps!

Costa, A, & Garmston, R. (2016). Cognitive coaching: Developing self-directed leaders and learners. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.