Four of us went into the Denver Women’s Prison again last evening and posts about that experience will be forthcoming.
Here is a note to me from a volunteer last Tuesday night:
As promised – I’m putting together some thoughts on my experience on the first night of the training for the women at Denver Women’s Correctional. Please feel free to forward my notes to others who are interested.
I was nervous (!) to meet the ladies in the class. It took a bit to find the room and rearrange the furniture so we didn’t really start till about 6:15 – 6:30. It was a little creepy not being able to open a door unless an officer opened it for us – but the officer was very nice and my uneasiness was quickly dispelled once we were in the training room (and I knew where the panic button was!).
Not everyone was there yet, so to fill the time, we talked a bit with the participants about what “coaching” is and what it means to learn “coaching skills.” And, of course, what is Reuel going to do to fill the time waiting for the stragglers – coach someone!
Rose, our brave “volun – told,” really opened up to your coaching and I think that, by itself, set the general tone. It’s as though Rose gave everyone permission to be authentic and vulnerable because that’s exactly what she modeled.
Once we got going with the actual class and did the opening mingle – the energy really kicked in. The ladies were open and real. They engaged fully in the conversation and were spellbound when you picked up and continued the coaching with Rose as the demo. This time as they watched the coaching interaction, now that they were aware of powerful questions and listening skills, they were so much more attentive to what was going on. They were really learning to observe. I think a deeper level of learning happened by having essentially 2 demos, one before the conversation, and one after the mingle where they had a chance to experience PQs.
Triads were great – the one I was in had some terrific coaching. I loved what you said about coaching from your heart instead of your head. So much easier to grip than “get out of your head!” Even though we only had time for one round (4 min each), in the debrief at the end they reported realizations that these skills will take conscious effort and PRACTICE. Indeed.
What I did NOT see was “attitude” which is what I was concerned about. The level of self-awareness was much higher than I expected; probably a result of the self development efforts made by the offenders, and the availability of programs provided by the facility. A few mentioned their therapists; they clearly are making effort and our training can do nothing but support that.
There was only one participant who was resistant, and after triads I noticed that she had shut down. In the closing circle, she was able to express her feelings about being made “wrong” in her perception. For us it was a great teachable moment as the triad coaches shared their learning to the group (differentiating between questions that gather information and questions that open the space). Her body language at the end was different from the beginning of the class, more open, so I’m anticipating that eventually she’ll be our star student. We need to do more TA-DA’s ourselves to model willingness to fail and to let go of it.
I’m excited to continue and want the others to have a chance to co-lead. This is a terrific bunch of ladies, very teachable, and I know we are making a difference.
Thanks for letting me play!