Preparing to Teach: Mindset

It’s that time of year again! I know some of you have been back in the classroom for a month or so, but my institution is on the quarter system so we are just back on contract and doing Faculty Kick Off Week stuffs this week to start teaching next Monday.

I’ve been preparing my classes. I’m looking forward to teaching this year more than I have in the past few years as I was serving in an administrative role. So, it is fun to reacquaint myself with values and practices of teaching and learning again. My roots!!

I want to be intentional about my mindset as I’m creating and launching my courses this term.

Mindset is defined as “the established set of attitudes held by someone.” (google’s response when I searched “define mindset”). So, not just one attitude but a set of attitudes. Okay – attitudes? Attitude is defined as, “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.”

Interesting – a “settled way of thinking or feeling” that is typically reflected in a person’s behavior.

What do I want my behavior to reflect about my attitudes and mindset? What about my values?

I want my students to know that I care about them, the content, and the discipline.

I want them to know that I value learning through self-discovery and self-regulation.

I want them to see that I am responsive to inquiries and guiding deep reflection and development of deep knowing.

I want them to know that I believe in them and trust them in their learning and development process – that they are becoming experts on their own work. That they are becoming experts in their own decision-making able to justify if challenged, explain to a colleague, and/or continue engaging even if consequences end up going awry.

I want to reflect my belief (developing commitment) to the idea that grading matters for learning. I want to intentionally engage from that mindset. Setting aside time to do it “as if it matters.”

I want to reinforce the idea of learning as uncovering materials rather than an arbitrary need to cover a certain amount of content.

I want students to know that learning is life long – they will NOT learn all they need to know in my classroom, they will learn how to learn, research, and be curious practitioners.

Questions to Deepen Your Practice:

  • What would you describe as your current mindset toward teaching/mentoring/interpreting?
  • What do you want to prioritize in your mindset for the next bit of time?
  • What behaviors do you intend to practice as reflections of your mindset?

Learning Forward…

Are you an over-thinker like me? Do you stay awake rehashing conversations or other experiences that didn’t go as planned? Do you have a hard time letting go of “mistakes” made? 

One of the things I’ve done in my sabbatical is take classes — art classes, specifically. There are so many benefits to taking classes. 

  • Benefit 1: Being a student again reminds me of the student experience and bring it closer into focus as I return to the classroom.
  • Benefit 2: Sitting under various teachers exposes me to so many more teaching strategies, approaches, and postures.
  • Benefit 3 (which may be #1 in reality): learning new things!!!

I took a class on color mixing from Julie Jeanseau, who taught a lot of great lessons but one that has been sticking with me is that sometimes a painting has taught us all it can teach us and instead of trying to “fix” it or make it perfect, we need to take what we’ve learned and apply it to the next painting. Move forward. 

Not only did this give me permission to move on from a piece, but also to think about applying this concept to other areas of my life — coaching, teaching, interpreting, and peopling 🙂

It has given me permission to not feel guilty and spiral in overthinking after any “mistake” but to consider, “what am I taking from this to apply to future similar experiences?” and move forward. 

In recent weeks, I’ve taken the following lessons forward:

– Keep working in known areas until you are comfortable navigating to novel areas

– Ask more questions, there are other outlets for your musings

– Can I make this even more simple??

Questions to Deepen Our Practice

– What am I taking away from this experience? 

– What is important about doing this differently in the future? 

– What will remind me to engage in this new way? 

“Can I give you some feedback?”

Feedback feels like a dirty word in the land of performance evaluation in the interpreting field. It makes students and even seasoned practitioners shudder to imagine being evaluated and provided “feedback” on their work. In my 20 plus years of work in this arena, I think we fundamentally misunderstand what feedback means and how to incorproate it in our work. 

We have not learned how to provide or receive feedback from colleagues, nor have we created an effective way to solicit actionable feedback from consumers impacted by our work.

I was recently in a discussion about supervision for professional interpreters when the term of “feedback” came up. We explored what it means to us and our relationship to the term. I then went to the internet to find the dictionary definition:  “information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.” ( retrieved 3/17/2021)

Feedback is not about telling anyone what to do and/or how you would have done it differently. But rather it is about sahring your reaction to whatever they are presenting you. As the dictionary says – a product or performance. So, saying, “I would have signed xyz” or “You could have said lmnop” is not feedback. Feedback might look a little bit more like, “I was confused about the connection between xyz and lmnop” or “I could really feel the tone of anger from Sally.” 

Then as the practitioner, I can collect that data – the reactions – and make meaning of it to improve my work product. So, I may learn that a consumer was confused about the connection between xyz and lmnop – and realize that I, as the interpreter also missed the connection. Meaning I could have asked for calrification, or I could have looked to my team for insights, or….any number of other control options. 


Maybe the connection was clear in the source language but my process management was at capacity and I missed making the connection overt in the target language. This could lead me to brainstorming how to better manage my process, or relying on my team to monitor pieces, or following up with the consumers to clarify, asking the speaker to pause, etc. 

When we solicit and collect feedback based on the reactions of consumers, we end up in a much more fruitful direction than when we get feedback that tells us what to do and how to do it. Sometimes the root cause of an issue isn’t apparent to observers, it requires me, as the professional practitioner, to reflect upon my process and identify where I need to strengthen things. 

There are many different ways that we collect feedback – the example above is a direct sharing of that feedback. However, we also get feedback from facial expresssions, responses within the interpreted conversation, and even our own sense of “reading the room/people.”

Questions to deepen your practice: 

  • What sources of feedback do you attend to on a regular basis?
  • What is the message you are getting from those channels?
  • What are you making it mean? 
  • How are you implementing improvements and testing them? 

Holding space

Holding space can seem a very vague and “woo-woo” term, but it just means being with someone non-judgementally in whatever they are doing, experiencing, or needing.

This requires actively setting aside our own preferences, interests, and opinions in order to create space, a non-judgemental space, for the clients to entertain and engage with one another’s thoughts, preferences, interests, and opinions. It does not mean I don’t matter but rather this isn’t the place for them. It requires that I truly engage the value of autonomy and activate my belief that the many “right” ways to be a human are beautiful, and to recognize the honor and privilege I have to bear witness to them. 

Barriers to holding space:

  • Judgement of what is occurring
  • Preferences about what should be occurring
  • Belief that you are responsible to fix it

Questions to deepen your practice:

  • What barriers do you experience to holding space for consumers? 
  • What do you need to be able to hold space for others?
  • What is the relationship between your interpreting and/or teaching practice and the idea of holding space?

Interpreter Presence

In my coach training, we have been learning about the professional credentialing body of many coaches internationally (International Coaching Federation). We have started in earnest to collect our practice hours and start having individual feedback sessions with our teacher. In a recent session, we were discussing the rubric used to evaluate coaching session recordings by ICF. There are a number of categories, as you might imagine, but I want to talk about “coaching presence,” and the potential applications I see to this concept of presence for interpreters and interpreter educators. 

According to ICF, coaching presence is defined as, “Being fully conscious and creating spontaneous relationships with clients, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident.” Some of the criteria used to evaluate is: 

Competency 4: Coaching Presence

  1. Coach’s questions and observations are customized by using what the coach has learned about who the client is and the client’s situation.
  2. Coach inquires about or explores the client’s use of language.
  3. Coach inquires about or explores the client’s emotions.
  4. Coach inquires about or explores the client’s tone of voice, pace of speech or inflection as appropriate.
  5. Coach inquires about or explores the client’s behaviors.
  6. Coach inquires about or explores how the client perceives his/her world.
  7. Coach is quiet and gives client time to think.

It seems to me a helpful frame that may be missing from interpreting and interpreter education. We do talk about impartiality, and being skilled but not about how we show up to the job and hold space for the communication event for which we were hired. We do not talk about the active work that it is to be present and yet withhold judgement, hold space for whatever needs to happen. It isn’t just a matter of being “neutral” (which we could argue about for eons and its impossiblity), it is about living out, actively, our values of non-interference, autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice (see Beachamp & Childress 2001). 

How we show up in a space need not be happenstance, it actually requires active cognitive and emotional work to be present and make space for the interaction that we are responsible for, to hold space, regardless of our own preferences, opinions, etc. It is tapping in to a belief that its not about what *I* think should happen or needs to happen but rather about what the interlcoturs need to happen.

Developing an interpreter presence mantra, questions to deepen your practice

  • What do you believe about ways of being human? 
  • What do you want to remember about your function as an interpreter in other’s interactions? 
  • What do you want to contribute to the space? Anxiety, calm, openness, etc? 
  • What do you want to characterize your presence as an interpreter in interactions? 

Potential mantras:

  • I am a calm presence.
  • I am open to the communication that occurs here today.
  • I understand people who use sign language and English, and they understand me (modified from a workshop participant recently). 

Coaching Lessons & Growth

What I’m learning from being coached…

I entered this coach training with no experience being coached and exposure to coaching via podcasts, primarily. I have grown and learned so much! One of the best parts of the coach training is that we practice it with one another, thus I get coached in some way, shape or form weekly. It has been lovely and so enriching.

The aim of the practice coaching is to practice particular aspects of the structure, and/or tools that we are learning- but the byproduct is actual coaching on real things.

Win -win.

In my coaching sessions (being coached) we have covered areas of my life like leadership, planning for the future, morning routines, and movement during this “work from home” era.

I would say, as would those who know me well, that I am a naturally reflective person – I analyze things (ad nauseam at times), I look for meaning, I attempt to grow and focus on forward movement. And coaching has been amazing at really getting to the heart of things (not like therapy). The level of clarity I’ve received through the process, and the tangible steps I’ve been able to take are significant give that it is merely a byproduct of the training.

I’ve refocused my leadership to focus on my value that I am not irreplaceable. Meaning I want to equip, empower, and trust that in my absence the work still gets done and done well. Also, that if/when I should exit – colleagues are left better.

I’ve seen the connection between “evening Amanda” and “morning Amanda” by looking at the impact of my nightly routine on my morning routine- these 2 Amandas are still in process of becoming friends and collaborators for my best 😉

I’ve been introduced to a myriad of powerful questions that lead to insights and clarity that can be elusive at times. My current favorite question is,

“What are you pretending not to know?”

Juicy, no!?!

I’ve committed to developing rhythms of movement throughout the day including 1) a morning “commute” – stolen from a colleague in coaching training – this is a walk around my neighborhood for about 10-15 mins to separate my morning routing from the start of my work day and 2) restorative yoga at the close of business – another transition marker between work and home. I’ve just started this 2 days ago, so it hasn’t got much traction – but, I’m excited!

I can only imagine if I were being coached professionally, paying for it, and engaging fully, weekly what could come about. I’m adding this to my tools for thriving – I will be seeking out regular, consistent coaching from one of my coaching-mates or another coach in the very near future.