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Feeling Pressured to Have the Answers

November 19, 2009

I’m always struck that when I’m called in as a consultant, it’s very rare that some extra piece of knowledge tucked away in my brain solves the puzzle. Much more often, it’s the fact that the story I am hearing resonates with my collection of stories, and – or there is an element in that story that reminds of something in my catalog of stories, and I go seek out the other element.

Does this quote resonate with you? Could it be from an educational coach? Actually, the quote above is from Abraham Verghese, a physician and writer, who was interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered. As I listened to Dr. Verghese’s description of being called in to help a patient, I heard a parallel to the work of coaching.

Some teachers and administrators expect coaches to have all the answers. When they turn to us, they think we will quickly assess the situation and produce The Solution. But we know that rarely is it that easy; if it were, our colleagues would have found the answer by themselves. What’s more, if one person were able to solve the problems of education so quickly, we wouldn’t be called coaches, we’d be called Oracles!

Nonetheless, I have found myself feeling nervous when approached by a teacher with a problem. What do I say? How can I help? What is the answer? Dr. Verghese reminds me that, when I listen to the story, I am likely to make a connection to my own experience. When we connect as people with stories, we can work together to find solutions to problems.

(The quote above, and the entire interview, can be found at

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