This #coachbetter episode is a special combination case study and coaching call with one of Kim’s amazing clients, Paula Plaza-Ponte. 

These episodes are real client stories – designed to give you a window into the experience and professional growth of coaches around the world. 

Kim has been working with Paula for many years now, and although she’s no longer working full time in a school, her experience of going through the transition from classroom educator to education-aligned work in a non-profit is a story that deeply resonates with Kim – and we hope it does with you as well!

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Tell us about your career path & where you’re at now…

Been an educator for almost two decades. Started in a college classroom, moved into MS, and then dabbled in HS. All throughout, I’ve been fortunate to be part of amazing teams who treated me as a teacher, a leader and someone who is a creator. By training I’ve taught English. At the end of the day, as an educator I believe in putting the learner first, making sure they feel safe and seen and then empowering them to set their own goals and me facilitating. What I’ve been able to find a lot of meaning from is finding safe spaces, inclusive spaces for learners and teachers.

Last year I took a break. At first I was very clear about wanting to leave the classroom, and wrestling with identity foreclosure and then realizing in the middle of it that I wasn’t sure. It looked so enticing to see what was beyond the classroom.

Currently out of the classroom, took a position with AAIE (Association for the Advancement of International Education), Member Engagement Coordinator.

Tell us a little about the term “identity foreclosure”…

From Adam Grant’s book. It was like a death. Deciding to first leave a school and then deciding I didn’t want to go back to the classroom.

A lot of talk about teacher burnout. I didn’t feel that yet – I just knew I needed a break. I needed a pause point. The complexity of not even being sure made it even longer.

Things that helped me:

  • Looking for a community (alumni group from The Coach. I needed people to root for me. All of those amazing things you did as a teacher, you can still take it wherever you go.
  • Writing, remembering success stories – to believe it myself.
  • Putting yourself out there is hard because teachers are fundamentally high achievers. The thing I love about teaching is learning. So I had to remind myself, what does it mean to be a learner, to have a beginners mind.

There’s no one linear way. It’s about being mindful of where you’re at. What are your internal resources. What do you have in you that you can pull, and then your community.

How do you stay confident and clear in the face of a skill gap or experience gap?

I didn’t stay confident the whole time. Staying curious implies that you’re open to failure.

Build a resume of failure,

I had to work on managing my shame. It felt like I was failing because I was leaving a career I loved. How do I stay with education?

Things that helped

  • Trust the purple river – Georgina Pecas – metaphor of going with the flow
  • Sit with a lot of the uncomfortable stuff, a lot of grief
  • Anytime I felt like I didn’t know how to do something, I researched
  • Joined so many free webinars
  • Anything I could do that’s practical for anyone, I did it

Every moment I had in this break, I was moving the needle towards upskilling

How do you let go of your identity as a teacher? 

I changed the goalposts of what felt successful to me on a day-to-day basis. When my goal post was getting a new job, every day felt like a failure. I had to break it down to small wins – that was kinder for me. The minute it was about moving the needle, instead of about landing a job, that was a game changer in terms of mood, perspective, it became an adventure for the life I was defining. Instead of becoming the other identity that was going to define me.

You don’t let go of this identity, once a teacher, always a teacher, there are so many things that will stay with you. You grieve a version of you, but you’ll always be a teacher, I’ll always be proud to be a teacher.

A lot of open communication with friends and family. You’re not alone, you have to find the community.

Changing the goalposts allowed for spaciousness. Instead of what’s out there and hows it going to define me, it’s because what’s going to make me happy, how is it going to allow me to have more time with my son. Found moments that helped me define the aspects of my “new life” – like an hour of time with my son, or being able to cook mindfully. I wrote those things down and told myself that these are the things that matter. I was learning how to see a version of myself that was not so invested in the grind culture. It was a journey of designing the life I want.

What’s YOUR level of coaching mastery?

All coaches go through various stages of coaching mastery. Once you identify where you’re at, you can begin to build the skills needed to move to the next stage.

This quiz is based on real-life case studies compiled from years of working with coaches inside The Coach Certificate & Mentorship Program!

When you receive your results, you’ll also get your matching case study from the STRIVE Case Studies to see where you fit in the stages of coaching mastery.

Ready to tackle your challenges and move on to the next level in YOUR coaching practice?

The STRIVE Model of Coaching Mastery quiz will help you identify your level of coaching mastery by matching you with case studies compiled from years of working with coaches inside The Coach Certificate & Mentorship Program so you can easily see where you fit!

You’ll go straight to the Quiz, and get the Case Study Document via email.

Show Notes continued…

What do you do when you don’t know? How do you handle / manage perfectionism? (Good enough as the way forward)

When you’re pivoting there’s no space for perfectionism.

I identified as a perfectionist for a long time. There was a lot of unlearning.

LinkedIn is a good example – feels like everyone is looking at it. You feel like everyone is looking, but they’re not. It’s a way to dismantle this perfectionism. When I first started looking, I just shut it down, it was too much pressure.

Acknowledging that you’re a perfectionist. And then putting things out there & seeking feedback.

This whole year has been about paying attention to my body. I noticed when my body would react a certain way.

Anything that’s public facing, I’ve decided that it’s up to me when I tell people what. There’s no pressure. I am the gatekeeper of my own information. Once it’s out there it’s intentional.

How do you find the stories that match your experience to feel confident in transferring your skills? (Avoid spray & pray) / How do you convince someone to give you a chance as you fill that gap?

    You can’t convince someone unless you believe it yourself. Until you’ve processed your own fears, they will always show up in some way. There are many things I had to heal before I started job searching.

    Go through the process of acknowledging whatever is troubling you – in an effort to understand the ending of your previous job, because it will show up in the new thing.

    Until you convince yourself you’re good enough, you won’t convince anyone else.

    Think of the stories you share like a movie trailer – look a the job description and then match something that you’ve done, and then connect with theory & examples.

    Take your transferable skills and look for something similar. I focused a lot on process – making it meta.

    Made a lot of mistakes: over sharing, over preparing; then start practicing & rehearsing. Trying to remember when I did specific skills.

    Use your experience to upskill and make those your stories.

    What is the thing you want to carry with you from this experience?

    What are the things that will allow you to clarify what you want. How are you going to sharpen that knife to know? What is it that people need to do for themselves to refine their actual vision. You can’t spray and pray and let it decide for you. It would be a good idea to go an adventure about what do I want next, having more ownership over that. It’s not defined by experience or opportunity. If you have a chance to take a break and figure things out and you have a support system that allows you to do that, what are the processes you need to put into place, to help you clarify what you really want. It’s very uncomfortable when you don’t know.

    Ready to Learn More about Transitioning from the Classroom to Instructional Coaching?

    If you’re ready to dig deeper into what makes instructional coaching successful – or if you’re new to instructional coaching and you’re curious about getting started, join us for one of our courses for coaches!

    To learn more about these options, we have three FREE workshops to share with you today.

    For New or Aspiring Coaches

    If you’re just getting started as a coach, and you want to be successful in your early years, watch our New to Coaching Workshop, which highlights the key mindset and skill set shifts you’ll need when moving from the classroom to a coaching role. The workshop will also tell you all about our online course, Getting Started as a Coach. This course is specifically designed for classroom teachers who are moving into a coaching role so you’re prepared for the transition. It’s focused on exactly the skillset & mindset shifts you need to so you can be successful in your first years as an instructional coach. 

    For Experienced Coaches

    If you’re already a coach & you want to think about being more intentional & strategic in your practice, watch our workshop on the Thrive Model for Coaching Success which will help you evaluate your program and your practice to see where you may have room to grow. You’ll walk away with a clear picture of exactly what you need to focus on to build a thriving coaching culture – and help you decide if our year-long mentorship and certification program, The Coach, is right for you, right now. This program is designed for current coaches who are focused on building a coaching culture through intentional and strategic coaching work at all levels – with teachers and school leaders.

    For Coaches Ready to Lead

    For experienced coaches ready to look at the bigger picture of the school to see what might be supporting or hindering the sustainability of the coaching program, and you want to make sure your school has all of the systems and structures in place, watch our workshop: Scaling Your Impact as an Instructional Coach. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of what’s needed to make coaching sustainable for you as an individual coach and for your school. When you’re ready to put that learning into action, join us in our online course for coaches ready to lead: Coaches as Leaders and put it all into practice – with support from Kim and our global cohort! This course is designed for experienced coaches, ready to lead.

    You can find all the workshops on our coachbetter website at

    Wherever you are in your coaching journey, we can support you!

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