Part 4 of our conversation with Elena Aguilar, author of multiple books on coaching including Onward and The Art of Coaching

Here is the transcript.

– Welcome to #PLtogether Lounge Talks. I’m Adam Geller, founder and CEO of Edthena. Today, we are talking with Elena Aguilar. She is an instructional coach. And the author of multiple books, about instructional coaching. As well as creating a culture, and an environment in schools, that helps students and teachers be successful. Elena, thank you so much for joining us.

– Your welcome.

– So, we’ve been talking a lot about the role of the coaches, and the challenge of, coaching in this moment. And even the, the teachers, you know, kind of finding their way. One of the phrases that I’ve seen you use is using the energy where it counts. Because, you know everybody feels like the whole house is on fire. And, how am I gonna put all this fire out? You know, you gotta have a plan, you gotta have, gotta have some triage. So, I, you know, before you help me figure out what counts. I mean, what, from your professional stance, you know, kind of, absent of anyone’s particulars, like what do you, what’s your general guidance on what counts right now, given the current situation and scenario?

– Well, that phrase, is really in reference to the spheres of influence and control. And, this idea that there’s a lot that we can’t control. And yet, we often spend a lot of energy, complaining about those things. Or worrying about them. Or, there’s a difference between planning for uncertainty, and things that might happen. And worrying, and sort of, or complaining, or. So, what we can influence and control, really is where we should be spending our energy. Because, then we will, we’ll build our resilience. We won’t be depleted. We’ll find more meaning and satisfaction. I think that we’re in another, there’s another opportunity, and potential right now for people to get clearer about their purpose in life. And what gives them joy, and what helps them thrive, and where they want to be spending their time and energy. I am surprised how many people I am talking to, in my professional circles, and personal circles, who are saying things like, “Wow, now that I’ve been away from my job for six weeks, I don’t know if I ever want to go back.” Or, “I know that this is not the right time to be looking for another job, and yet I cannot keep doing that work anymore.” Or, people who are realizing, like my brother-in-law lives in New York City. And he’s been away for six weeks, and he’s saying, “I don’t know if I can ever go back. I’m working remotely now, I don’t want to live in a big city anymore. It’s just enough already.” And, so I think a lot of people are really re-thinking whether it’s changes they want to make, in the near future or long-term, 2, or 3, 4 years out. But really thinking about, their passions, their commitment. And, part of that I think is what happens when we are, in the proximity that we’re in right now, to, to death. It makes you think about, how do I wanna live my life? Where do I wanna be spending energy. And so, I think there is this potential for people to make changes. And, perhaps, to live in a way that brings them, more meaning, more fulfillment, more joy, more happiness. I think that’s, that’s where, that’s where we need to spend energy.

– In some ways, I hear you saying, like to use that, kind of opportunity for self focus. To, either refuel your, your application of yourself, to whatever, you know, has you passionate, and, and kind of excited, and. Or, to recognize that might be an opportunity. We’re both using that word as like a, you know, smoothing over word. But, you know maybe it is the, the, the pause that you needed to kind of have that reflection. It’s the forced reflection that we all, all are under. Taking, you know, taking us back to the idea of the schools, and you know, you know, I guess talk to the school leaders out there. Obviously you work with system leaders as well. But, you know I know that, you know, you know we talked about the idea of like telling story, and celebrating success. But, a lot of that is about celebrating together. And, we are physically apart, but can be together in other ways. So, I’m curious, how you’ve been helping people problem solve around that idea of celebrating together, even when they’re not physically together?

– I think, okay, I’m saying the same thing over and over, this is good. I think there’s potential, possibility. It’s like, if you think about what happens. Let’s say at the end of the year, and there’s a big staff meeting, and people are going to share their celebrations or their appreciations, okay. And then, you have, let’s say 30 or 40 staff members. And, everybody wants to share something, or a lot of people want to share something. And after 20 or 30 minutes, you’re like exhausted. And everybody keeps talking. Okay, maybe not everybody feels this way, but particularly introverts, will start getting more exhausted. I’m really interested in, the, our tendencies towards introversion or extroversion. How that affects our energy levels. I think like, so, if we take that end of the year celebration. And rather than all being in one room, celebrating like you know, “What are our bright spots from this year? What are our appreciations for each other?” If everybody records their own video, you know, they get 3 to 5 minutes. And then, on Monday, it’s these ten people’s opportunity to put their videos out. And, we watch them, and we make comments on them, and we appreciate them. And you can watch them at whatever rate and pace works for you. And then, Tuesday we get ten more videos. Right, we can actually listen to each other better. We can have more energy to listen to each other. There’s more of an opportunity for engagement. There’s so many different virtual platforms and structures to, to talk to each other, and to share. My team is all over the US. And so, we have always operated in a virtual world. And, we use things like Slack, and Loom, and other platforms to communicate, to share. And, we only see each other in person about once a year. And yet, I feel very connected to my team. And, I think they feel very connected to, to each other. And, and so there are a lot of ways that we can maintain the, what we think about as sort of the connective points, and the rituals and celebrations that we would have in person. It’s just, I know it’s a lot to make these shifts right now. And, you know, there’s a lot that many of us miss about being able to be in person with people. But I think a lot of that is more about wishing for the relief of the anxiety and the uncertainty, then it is about the discomfort with the new structures and platform. And, people are creative, and are innovative. And, I think that in any group of people, and in any staff there’s people who are going to be more excited and inclined to think about, you know how do we do a staff meeting and include a pep parade? Or, have people bring, you know, sit down and have their tea together. Or, happy hour, or whatever it is. Like, it doesn’t, it, I mean especially like using platforms like Zoom. Where you can use break out rooms, and you can have the chat feature. There is Zoom fatigue, and there are things I don’t like about being on a video platform, as much as I am. And, there’s great possibility. I think there is, there is, perhaps more potential or different potential for equitable access. And, and communication. I think there’s, there’s opportunities for equity, that we haven’t had when we’re all in a room together. So, I think it’s gonna take some time for us to, try things out, and see what works and what doesn’t, and make modifications.

– Yeah, I had an educator point out to me that, you know we should not forget that many educators are themselves parents, or have family situations that are pulling them in all kinds of different directions. Just like the parents, that we’re hearing about, that are feeling pulled in so many different directions, to support students that are at home. And, wow, won’t you, you know, kind of, allow the educators that, that extra bit of flexibility and freedom, in the way that you’re having them connect. It might play to some of the equity issues, right? In, in the sense that like, if you’re demanding everybody be there at 2 pm and on the a Tuesday. Well, what if, you know, what if lunch time didn’t go well and there’s a tantrum underway? At like, you’re not gonna be, able to be authentically present, for your, for your colleagues. Where as, maybe if you could time shift that a little bit from home. It’s going to end up being better for you. Which that makes it, you more able to have that authentic connection with your colleague, in this new and different way. Ah, okay so, before we wrap it up Elena, I, I don’t remember if I prepped you, that we were going to have an extra credit question. So, this might be a total surprise. I’m realizing I may have, may not have, told you that there was going to be extra credit as part of this. So, the extra credit question is, what’s something personally that you’ve adopted, or changed, or whatever it is, since we’ve, you know started sheltering in place, and changing our routines, but, you value or, or you appreciate?

– Ooh, something I have been doing, since I’ve been sheltering in place. Um, something different, something new. Well, this is just very recent. I have so many, I mean I’m so used to being in a vol-, virtual environment. And working from home a lot. So, it’s not such a huge change for me. But, the last week or so, I’ve been listening to a lot more music. Which, it’s a really good mood booster. And, because I live with other people. It seems to be part of what we do now. We all have our own earbuds in, and we’re all like walking around, listening to our own podcasts, or our own music. But I’ve been listening to a lot of music and singing really loud. Which my 16 year old, does not approve of. But sing, but actually singing is really good. Like, the deep breathing, and sort of exercising of your lungs in that way, is really, a good practice. And, I’ve just been really enjoying music. That’s not, it’s not really that new for me. But, it, like the last week I was like, “Oh yeah. I listen to so many podcasts, and audiobooks,” and I was like, “I need some music.” I was cooking, I was cooking a big meal. I was like “I need some music.” So, that’s been really good.

– More breathing, through more singing, through more music. That’s what I’m hearing.

– Yes. And then I will admit, I also shared one of my, I was preparing for a, a workshop that I was doing. And, shared my singing on Instagram. Just in case the coaching doesn’t work out. I think I have a, a future there, so. We’ll see. I shared it there,

– Okay.

– And got really good feedback.

– So, for those watching and listening. Tell them where they’re going to go on Instagram, and check out your singing. And, more importantly, tell them where they’re gonna go on the internet generally to find out more about all the awesome resources you and your team are putting out, to help everybody through this time.

– Okay, so my website is And, you can find links to, our social media, places there. I have a, Instagram account that is @Elena_Aguilar_Writer. You can find the link to that, on the website. But, that’s the one, we have a Bright Morning Instagram account, and my @Elena_Aguilar_Writer account. And, that’s where I posted, I mean, it, it’s silly, and, and I don’t have like, you know I’m being facetious about my voice. But, what I was really wanting to do was like, hey you guys, like be ridiculous, do, you know, be unpolished. You can show, it was like early in the morning, I had not brushed my hair, I was wearing my goofy screen glasses. You know, its like, come on, this is an opportunity for us, to let down our hair. Whatever is the metaphor, and just be human. And, connect with each other so, yeah. But I did have so-, a few people sent me messages directly to me. Text messages and stuff like, “Are you okay?” “I saw you singing really loud.”

– Oh well, you know.

– Are you okay.

– So, Elena is still okay. And, you can find out more about her and her team at Elena, thank you so much for joining us. And, sharing some of your thoughts for all the educators out there. Yeah, thanks for being part of #PLtogether.

– You’re welcome.