Talk to Think?


A few days ago, if you had told me that talking can lead to thinking I would have said, “Uh, no. That’s stupid to believe that talking would promote thinking. Talking gets in the way of thinking! You need to be quiet to really think deeply.”

Uh, no. I’m wrong. Well, partially wrong.

Yes, there are times that thinking requires quiet contemplation but there is brain research showing that talking through an issue or problem with someone, who is asking you the right questions and giving you space to think, activates more of the brain than thinking alone.

“Talking about an issue activates more parts of the brain than just thinking about the issue. When people speak about their thinking, it increases the speed of learning, as well as the ability to apply the learning” (Rock, 2009).


Shut the front door!

Photo Credit: flickr

This week, I attended days five and six of Cognitive Coaching (CC) Training and this is where I had my revelation about talking to think.

Let me back up here and give you some insight into the CC training. I have to say that in January on days one and two I knew CC was going to be a good way to coach others and would definitely challenge me to use skills that were underdeveloped. On days three and four, which took place in February, I was pretty sure I was not going to be able to do this. But, by the time days five and six rolled around this week I had studied my handbook, practiced CC, had recorded video of myself engaged in CC with a teacher, viewed my video several times so I felt like I just might be able to do this.

My really big Aha! moment (cognitive shift) happened during a practice session with one of the other participants in the training. She and I practiced by taking turns presenting a small life issue for which we were currently grappling and unable to make a decision.

As I coached her, it was so powerful watching her figure out the answer to her dilemma. After she introduced the issue, I paraphrased her statements to ensure I understood her and once I was clear about her statements, I could pose questions to generate more thinking.

Her answers came as I posed questions and left ownership with her – not as I told her what to do or gave her examples of what I would do. As she coached me, the same thing happened. The answers and my action plan for what to do next evolved with each question she asked and during the moments I talked about the details.

I’m blown away by the power of questioning and being quiet so the other person can think and talk out the answers to their own problems. This is SO foreign to my personality and the way I typically operate. I am very action oriented, impatient and anxious to get things resolved so it’s a huge test for me to actively listen and respectfully be quiet and patient as the other person finds their way through their own thoughts. (Translation: I tend to be extremely bossy and confident that I know the answers for you – just let me tell you what to do.)

On the other hand, it’s extremely freeing! As the coach, I don’t have to carry the weight of having to know or find all the answers. My job is to relax in the fact that, with the right support, others can draw their own conclusions and come to their own realizations without me dictating it to them. I can trust in the journey each coachee is going through and that they too will have an Aha! moment.

Now, I feel like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. You could have told me all these things about the power of CC – the power of listening, the power of higher-order thinking questions and the power of talking – but I wouldn’t have believed you. I had to learn it for myself.


Cognitive Coaching is challenging to implement. But, just like anything else, I can do it by starting small.

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden


I am really excited to continue practicing CC and anytime I have an issue to sort out I want someone to coach me! So, fair warning to my friends, family and colleagues – I’m coming to coach you. And, to my peers who are CC trained, I’m coming to be coached. 🙂

Photo Credit: flickr

See Them, Know Them


The Power of Being Seen

This Edutopia article showcases how one school has made academic gains by increasing their attention to the social and emotional needs of their students.

“I want to find out what their interests are, and that kind of opens the door. Then that moves to, ‘What challenges are you currently facing?’” Ewald said. “We are developing trust and loyalty, and then students are no longer a piece of data, but a real human being.”

I work in a high school and I think the social and emotional needs of our students are paramount to creating an environment where kids are successful academically and in other areas as well.

How many kids walk into their school on a daily basis and blend in and rarely have a meaningful conversation with an adult in the building? How many would love to be seen and known by the adults who are with them the most? How many would love to have their voice heard and honored by teachers, principals and other school staff? How many of them never get that recognition and celebration of who they are?

“Two big reasons students leave school are that they have no meaningful connection to an adult in the building, and no one knows their name or how to pronounce it,” said Trish Shaffer, the district’s SEL coordinator. “This SEL work isn’t just feel-good: We know through research that relationships and connections keep kids in school.”

Schools are supposed to be for ALL kids. Is your school? Is your classroom? Are you?

Photo Credit: Flickr

Build Positive Relationships 


So excited that my latest Amazon purchase was delivered this week! Can’t wait to read it. Below I’ve included a few tidbits about the power of the teacher-student relationship which has a high effect size of 0.72. 

In 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning, Hattie and Zierer outline “powerful mindframes, which should underpin every action in schools.”

“… teachers are evaluators, change agents, learning experts, and seekers of feedback who are constantly engaged with dialogue and challenge.”

In order to make the greatest impact, teachers need to create “a sense of fairness, predictability, and thus safety to be engaged in learning, with all the related notions of making errors, seeking help, and working positively with others.”