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Welcome to the Coaching in Education Podcast Series – a new, inspiring series of interviews with practitioners, thought-leaders and research academics in the field of coaching within education.

Hosted by respected broadcaster and journalist, Leigh Hatcher, these GCI podcasts are free for education-sector leaders.
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How Coaching is Helping a Science Teacher Achieve her Antarctica Dream




Interview with Elena Joli & Annette Gray

Transcript

Leigh Hatcher (presenter):
Hello, and welcome to a very special growth coaching international podcast conversation. I'm Leigh Hatcher. I want you to meet Elena Joli, an Italian science teacher, physics textbook writer, and editor who also has a Ph.D on the black hole. She's about to launch out on a quite remarkable journey as part of the Homeward Bound project. Eighty women from around the world are heading to Antarctica for three weeks. They all have a background in STEM. The trip is a leadership program for women influencing climate change. Annette Gray, one of our directors at Growth Coaching International, is one of eighty coaches volunteering their time to each of the women on the voyage. She's been guiding Elena in her preparation and I'm so glad to say, they both join us now. Annette here at GCI, and Elena from Bologna, Italy by Skype. This is a story about women in leadership, resilience, and well-being and having a coach to prepare for the journey of a lifetime. So what is Homeward Bound and how did Elena get involved?

Elena Joli
Homeward Bound is a ground-breaking leadership strategic science initiative for women in science. It's the world's largest all-women expedition to Antarctica. We will succeed with eighty scientists travelling to the globe's southernmost continent. Participants are including astronomers, physicists, Antarctic specialists, marine ecologists, all committed to influence and have an impact on policy and decision-making around the good and the sustainability of our planet. I fell in love with the idea of Antarctica as a child, when I had a world map in my room, and I dreamt of becoming the queen of a region, the Dronning Maud Land. And I applied for this initiative by chance, as often happens in life, because a French friend mentioned to me this leadership and scientific program.
Leigh Hatcher (presenter):
What a dream come true, now we can call you the queen of Antarctica from now on. What got you interested in the sciences in the first place, Elena?

Elena Joli
My passion for sciences started younger when my father would challenge me and my sister with logic puzzles and told us beautiful stories about the universe. And then I started studying physics, in particular black holes at university, and now I'm teaching physics at a high school as well as working with a publishing house. It's a magazine to produce educational materials.
Leigh Hatcher (presenter):
And you, together with the eighty women have a real passion about climate change?

Elena Joli
Yes. I'm passionate with- about climate change, and I have to say that my students, as long as my passion for Antarctica were a big part of my motivation to take the voyage, because I'd like to learn much more about climate change, about the physics of climate change and the greenhouse effect to my students. Every day I work with young people who ask questions about environmental change and the state of our planet, which is in their hands. And they need to be educated to work towards a sustainable future. And I believe that I can only really teach what I have experienced, so this is the reason why I'm going to Antarctica.
Leigh Hatcher (presenter):
Fantastic. Annette, can you tell me a little more about what your role, your volunteer coaching plays in this. Pretty incredible story. Exactly how you're helping Elena prepare for the trip.

Annette Gray
Well, we've been brief. There's eighty coaches involved in this and we've volunteered to support the participants on the trip, to get them ready for going into this environment which is a very different environment to what we've experienced. So the other aspect of it is there could be twenty-three hours of daylight, and people can be very eager to take in as much as they can. So a big part of the coaching is about helping with self-care on the boat, and the other aspect is getting along with people, because there's nowhere to hide, there’s- no private time. It's being with eighty people for three weeks, twenty-four seven.
Leigh Hatcher (presenter):
So what sort of things are you coaching Elena on about how to deal with that, then? In the three sixty model that you use.

Annette Gray
So the feedback tool is a tool that looks at your- a self-assessment tool that looks at what's the thinking going on behind your behaviour. And then other people respond to that in terms of how they experience your behaviour. So it's a self-awareness tool to know how am I coming across, and what views have I developed of myself that might not be accurate these days, that we've formed when we're very young. So it's creating awareness around what are you doing that's constructive and landing well for others, and also what are you doing that might be a passive way of interacting, or an aggressive way of interacting? And I must say, with Elena's results, very constructive profile. So I have no doubt Elena's going to do extremely well there in navigating those tensions around being around people for such a long time.
Leigh Hatcher (presenter):
Elena, could I ask you- have you learned much about yourself through this coaching process with Annette?

Elena Joli
Yes. I have to say that my coaching sessions with Annette were a foundational part for my leadership training through Homeward Bound, because we explore every discomfort zone and we look for a solution. The objective was to have a very good understanding of my area of personal development and of where my energies are going to be focused in terms of leadership when I will be in Antarctica. I became much more aware of my weaknesses, of my old patterns, that when we are under pressure emerge more easily. And this coaching experience made me aware that when something happens, for example during interactions with other people, I have always an empty space, even short, before acting. And I have a chance to put it to action, a new pattern, and at the end to transform myself. Thank you, Annette!
Leigh Hatcher (presenter):
Can I ask you what exactly you'll be doing on the boat for the three weeks, twenty three hours a day, in daylight? And how do you believe you'll be developed as a leader during this process, Elena?

Elena Joli
When I applied for this program Homeward Bound, I didn't know exactly why I was doing this. Little by little, starting to work with smaller groups of these amazing women and with the help and support of the entire faculty of Homeward Bound, I began to understand better the meaning of this trip and of this training. Working in Project group or meeting learning groups during the year, reflecting upon the physics of climate change, receiving the training leadership with Annette, all of this taught me the value of peer support for my personal development and the possibility to be in the community sharing ideas and also fierce desires. Yes, and the most important lesson for me is that every positive impact I may produce and have on the world must start from myself. Because to go through a behavioural change may allow me to unfold a part of myself that hasn't yet emerged that [inaudible] impact on people around me in a positive way.
Leigh Hatcher (presenter):
I expect for you and for the rest of the seventy nine women on board- you're going to be taken out of your comfort zones in numbers of ways.

Elena Joli
Yes. I may answer to you with a quotation by the American writer Ernest Hemingway. He said that "courage is grace under pressure". I know that I will be in a situation of extreme stress, twenty-three hours a day of daylight in a confined space. Very uncertain world, very different from home, without my family, without my friends. But for me all is about the courage to change and to transform ourselves. And I may say to you that as a physicist I experience that the world around us is constantly changing, and the only constant in life is change.
Leigh Hatcher (presenter):
You are listening to the Growth Coaching International podcast series I’m with Elena Joli and GCI’s Annette Gray. Now everyone involved in the Homeward bound project is volunteering their time and expertise, including Human Synergistics which administers the lifestyles inventory 360 feedback tool. So, how does this tool help in practical terms with those who are being coached?

Annette Gray
I think it gives people a framework and a language to understand what's happening for them and what are the triggers, when someone will say something or someone will do something. And being able to have a language and a framework to be able to go, okay I can actually respond in a different way. Because a lot of us aren't very self-aware around what our triggers are, or how we come across to others. The lifestyles inventory can be for some a confronting tool, but it's the one that, actually I've seen produce long-lasting change.
Leigh Hatcher (presenter):
And what's it like for you as these women navigate that change, as Elena says, change is constant. What's it like, what's it feel like for you when you see women making such progress?

Annette Gray
Well this is so exciting, this trip, for two reasons. One is seeing eighty women get this opportunity. The other is, I've always wanted to go to Antarctica, so I've said to Elena a few times, "I'm living through you on this trip", so I can't wait to see the photos.
Leigh Hatcher (presenter):
Elena, can I ask you- do you have personal goals for this program, and how might that impact both on you and your students back at home, when you return?

Elena Joli
My students are excited for this project. They are sad because of my absence, but they are very happy about this ability. And for all these reasons I'd like to share my competencies and my experiences when I come back, to create some projects of education about my field study, the physics of climate change and the greenhouse effect. And to students, yes, but also to general public at different levels, making the most out of these gifts I acquired with my Masters degree in science communications and of my experience as author of Physics text books.
Leigh Hatcher (presenter):
So you might be approaching this with some kind of fear and trepidation in one way, but I'm sure you're excited about the opportunity and probably can't wait to get going.

Elena Joli
Yes. I feel afraid and scared because the countdown is on. We'll spend three weeks on the ship. I suffer from sea-sickness…
Leigh Hatcher (presenter):
Oh no!

Elena Joli
But I will manage it. I will manage it, because I'm sure that there will be a lot of take-home messages, all of them strong, unforgettable, strong bonds with people, emotional intelligence, social experience. And this experience will be challenging and wonderful. Very happy and very scared!
Leigh Hatcher (presenter):
You're totally inspiring. Elena, we wish you all the best, and when you're back we'd love to touch base with both you and Annette to see how it all went. Thank you so much indeed for joining us from Italy, and Annette, thank you to you.

Elena Joli
Thank you.
Annette Gray
Thank you.
Leigh Hatcher (presenter):
There's a fest of coaching resources on the GCI website. And if you'd like to check out Homeward Bound for yourself, head to www.homewardboundprojects.com.au

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