Elena Aguilar, who is an instructional and leadership coach in the Oakland Unified School District, uses her vast experience in this role to provide a steady stream of insights about coaching along with frameworks for how to understand the coaching process. If you have ever been a coach or “coachee” in a school, you will recognize the scenarios she describes. I found myself frequently nodding and thinking, Yep, I’ve heard that. Yep, heard that, too. And I was fascinated to see how Aguilar handled those situations. She is obviously very wise and skilled at her work, and her willingness to be self-reflective has clearly contributed to her growth. Her stories about the challenges of coaching show how difficult and rewarding the work can be.
Along with explaining different approaches to coaching (she clearly knows that one size does not fit all)—such as, cathartic, supportive, confrontational, informative, prescriptive, and shifting mental models—she offers useful tips on how to conduct coaching conversations and how to guide midyear and end-of-year reflections.
This book is dense in a good way. Aguilar peppers it with thought-provoking aphorisms that can cause you to stop and reflect. For example, “We don’t see things the way they are; we see things the way we are” (The Talmud) led me to pause for several days. One dominant message in this book is that our beliefs shape our actions, and as coaches, we need to understand the beliefs of our clients in order to help them transform their actions.
Probably my favorite quote is one that should be applied to ALL fields of employment, not just coaching: “Start measuring your work by the optimism and self-sufficiency you leave behind” (Peter Block, 2011). Yes, indeed! Elena Aguilar will have a lot to measure after more people have read this book.