Coaching fields forever #educoach #twistedpair

strawberry fields forever

strawberry fields forever

Today’s blog post is a response to two blogging challenges: the #educoach October blog challenge and the #twistedpair blog challenge set by Steve Wheeler, in which a blog post needs to blend two disparate things. I’ve decided to pair coaching (something of my journey as/to coach here) and picking strawberries. (Although now that I look back on Steve’s challenge, he asks us to pair people or characters, not things; still, I hope this counts as a strange duo.)

So how is coaching like strawberry picking?

Today I took my two young children to pick strawberries. After a week of working relentlessly on my PhDdeep in the thesis cave where it’s dark and solitary, and with a sprained ankleit was so good to get out into the sunshine and the dirt. 

The first rows were dry and over picked; there wasn’t much to find. We fossicked and looked, but our box remained sparsely populated. It wasn’t until we walked further afield that we found bushes that were greener, bushier and more bountiful. Even then, it wasn’t until we crouched, paid attention to a particular plant, and looked deeply into its foliage, that we found the glossiest and juiciest strawberries, protected by shade and unseen by others who had trudged by without stopping to examine that plant and explore its blossoms, leaves and unseen-from-the-outside fruit.

This reminds me of coaching, which requires us to approach a person, the coachee, uncertain of what we might find or where we might find it.  We cannot assume where they are at, or where the conversation is going to go. In order to uncover and bring to the surface thinking which they haven’t previously accessed—not to mention the a-ha moment, or ‘cognitive shift’ as it’s called in Cognitive Coaching—we need to be present, pay attention, and expertly use questioning to reveal those glossy, or rotten, unsurfaced thoughts which help that person to take their own reflection, practice or dilemma to the next level.

by @debsnet

part of our haul

Not only that, but as I picked the strawberries this morning, and later washed and sorted them this afternoon, I noticed their snowflake-like idiosyncrasies. Each was recognisably a strawberry, but each was a slightly different shape, colour and texture, with a stalk which bent a different way, or seeds which sat differently against its skin. Some were under-ripe, some had just begun to turn, and others were at the apex of their strawberry-eating life: red, shiny, firm and glorious. Each coachee is an individual, and they are in a different place each time we meet with them. So while a coach might apply a coaching conversation map or set of tools to all coachees, each relationship and each conversation will look different, shaped by its person, time and place.

Combining two very different things seems a disruptive way to approach a topic. I’m interested in how we might bring new understandings to familiar concepts or practices by attempting a twisted pairing. I’ve written before about research and Wicked, the musical, and my PhD as a sculpture or birthday cake. I’m wondering what else I might uncover about myself as coach through analogy or metaphor.

by @debsnet

strawberry blossom in the sunshine; perfect potential

11 thoughts on “Coaching fields forever #educoach #twistedpair

  1. Hi Deb, as usual, I love your use of metaphor. I think they help us access some of our deeper ideas and beliefs. If you had asked me to use a similar one, I no doubt would have come up with something entirely different, but meaningful for me. In fact, on that note, I wonder how metaphors could help coaches to access their unsurfaced thoughts? A wonderful post as always.


    • Thanks, Corinne. When I participated in the #blimage challenge, I loved to see different people’s interpretations of the same image, layering and connecting understandings. Metaphor is certainly powerful. It’s even emerged in my PhD as something useful for conceptualising identity. Perfect for my love of lyricism and literature!


    • Naomi, writing this reminded me of our spider-web / #blimage collage of overlayed ideas based on images. I really do think that analogy and images can help us to dig deeper into our thinking, and surface things which are new to us. Something about it feels ‘bigger’ to me, too. I’m trying to figure out how I might interrogate it further.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Really enjoyed your post as an extended feldgang (fieldwalk) in the implied idea of embodied cognition. I am also reminded how most paradigm evolution seems to come from outside the original discipline. My question is this: does this prompt style (#twistedpairs) help us ‘practice’ this evolution so that when it bubbles up in our daily life we can know and grasp it tightly for the gift that it is OR is the big shift an emergent effect, chaordic and uncontrolled. I think the flaneuse would argue that the random walk creates the condition for those ideas to occur, but they cannot be prompted. So, you tell me. I think there is a place for preparing the ground for the big shift, but preparing it doesn’t necessarily mean that the radical will take root in the soil. It in not just complicated. It is complex and it is likely that no one can predict when the cone of sand falling in the hourglass will shift a bit. I think we need to be ready when it does.


    • Hmmmm! What interesting reflections.

      My initial thought is that shifts are likely to be non-linear & surprising, but that by exploring possibilities and alternatives, we might stumble across or incite them. Pushing boundaries of internal and external paradigms, and exploring playful ways of creating knowledge, can surely be steps in shaping what and how we know.

      All the better when it occurs in connected ways, like here online, so that we might shift each other. Collective cognition.



  3. I love that you were able to connect two things that are so completely unrelated. The last thing I would think about when I go strawberry picking (or apple or blueberry for that matter) is instructional coaching. Yet somehow, this makes sense to me. Thanks.


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