Youth Coaching: Voice and Choice


Zoom into an after-school learning center AURA in a small town, Vadodara, in Gujarat, India, where a group of 15 children are learning about heroism. Rahul, age 8, has just disrupted the class for the third time—this time by spilling water on the floor. The teacher, Priti, is experiencing distress and is tempted to give the child a grim warning. She pauses and takes a breath—she gets in touch with her inner distress and silently acknowledges her need for order and cooperation. She touches her yearning to contribute to how her children learn and connect with each other in her classroom. Then she reminds herself of her ‘contribution mantra’—which is part of her coach’s stand—the best learning and connection comes from what’s in the here and now. She looks now at Rahul, with new eyes of curiosity, and says, ‘Rahul, I noticed that we stopped our work three times today because you had some problem. You may be upset and I wonder what’s happening. I really want to listen to you and understand. How would it be if we formed our Circle of Sharing to talk about this for the next ten minutes?’

Circle of Sharing is a ritual that was introduced in the classroom after Priti attended coach training. Whenever there is a situation of distress or conflict that needs immediate attention, the children and teacher sit in a circle where space is made for deep listening and giving and receiving empathy. Children are the Wise Ones and Priti is the Guide of the Wise Ones. All can contribute to the conversation and Priti facilitates. Contracting time is sacred and for today, it’s ten minutes. If there remains a need for more conversation it would be taken care of later, outside the class or with a shared agreement for more time.

As Rahul gets heard, he shares that his mother had yelled at him, called him a lazy boy and pulled his arm to make him pick up his toys and paints before coming to AURA. Priti and the children take turns to support Rahul to name his feelings and touch his needs. Rahul moves from naming anger to hurt and fear. He receives empathy that he wanted his mother to be respectful, caring and soft. As the empathy touches Rahul he shares that he was most hurt for being called lazy and that he had actually wanted his mother to look at his artwork before he could put stuff away. He wanted her attention and understanding. The conversation helps Rahul to move from a place of agitation to calmness. At one point Priti asks Rahul if he could possibly see the situation from his mother’s eyes and try to guess what was going on for her. Rahul is able to guess that she was rushed for time and anxious and possibly tired. Priti ends the ten-minute circle by saying that Rahul wants understanding and offers to work with him offline to help him. The class then proceeds with collaboration and harmony. Priti is greatly satisfied that she was able to embody a consciousness that enabled a rich learning for the whole group.

Priti is one among a group of teachers trained in the essential skills of coaching and an introduction to the Coaching for Transformation model. This work has awakened and excited them about how the coaching consciousness can transform the way children and adults engage with each other. There can be a world where adults and children share power and children can be empowered to be in choice from a very young age.

As these teachers embraced the coaching approach, they came back with stories of wonder and awe, humbled by the wisdom of children. They came back gladdened with the richness of their own transformation. They came back claiming that coaching goes beyond training and skills, it is a way to be!

Written by Jagruti Gala

Excerpt from Coaching for Transformation by Lasley, Kellogg, Michaels and Brown. 

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