Portland Schools Lead The Way For Healthy Kids

Portland Schools started to make some significant changes to the diet of its children in 2006. At that time, Portland Schools eliminated all soda, sports drinks and junk food from vending machines in the schools. This was part of the district’s wellness policy in response to some federal nutrition mandates for schools receiving federal subsidized lunch money. But the Portland Schools went even further than just taking the junk food out of vending machines.

The Wellness Advisory Committee recommended significant changes to school lunch menus, advertising and fundraising sales. And Portland Schools listened. Fundraising items like doughnuts and candy cannot be sold until 30 minutes after school ends. Lunches at Portland Schools include more local and fresh produce, often grown at the school itself. And the district removed any ads for soda or sports drinks and replaced them with healthier images. Why does this put Portland Schools ahead of the curve?

The Oregon House voted, 46-11, to ban the sales of most junk food in all schools by fall of 2008. The mandate is expected to pass in the senate and has the approval of Governor Ted Kulongoski. Rep. Scott Bruum, R-West Linn, has stated that studies show that obesity in this country has tripled in the last three years. National attention given to the statistic of 1 in 6 children being overweight, and of a huge increase in childhood and Type II Diabetes also added to the sense of urgency.

The fact that Portland Schools have already addressed the issue is helpful in more ways than one. The current bill doesn’t affect school lunches, as that program is federally mandated. Also, other Oregon districts will now face a financial loss from partnerships with Coke from having the vending machines in schools. Portland Schools have already dealt with that.

Sugar, sodas and junky food have also been shown to have a severe impact on the behavior of many students. Some react with sugar highs, other with lethargy from a lack of protein and healthy whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The Portland Schools’ model has an answer for that. Abernathy Elementary School really made the grade for good nutrition. It was one of many Portland Schools to make changes, but the alterations there were huge. The school started a made-from-scratch kitchen, a hands-on school garden, and many educational programs. Portland Schools funded the pilot program through grants and district support.

If the largest school district in the Pacific Northwest made these changes voluntarily, many parents are asking what’s taking the rest of Oregon so long to catch up with Portland Schools. Of the opposing votes to last week’s bill, some representatives said they were against letting the state make decisions for individual districts. Well, Portland Schools seem to be making their own decisions, and the parents and teachers seem pretty happy about it.

Coaching Compared

There are any number of ways in which we can help people at work perform better and solve problems; coaching is just one. Let’s consider the ways it may be similar or different to some of the other obvious techniques. Specifically, let’s look at:

Coaching and Teaching

Coaching and Training

Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching and Counselling

Coaching and Teaching

We know from our own experience at school that teaching tends to be delivered to groups, to a predetermined lesson plan, with people of mixed abilities developing their understanding as best they can.

Of course, teaching can be given on a one to one basis and there are countless people who have benefited from being taught or tutored in this way.

However, the dominant party in the teacher-pupil relationship is the teacher. The teacher’s role is to pass on knowledge, facts and wisdom. Our role, as pupils, is to do what we can to soak it all up.

We have little scope to set or follow our own agenda and we have to try to interpret what the teacher is saying and make sense of it against our own experience.

Coaching on the other hand is more often than not delivered one to one. It is the coachee (the person being coached) who is best placed to decide on the issues to be discussed and to set the agenda. As coaches, we are not there to provide input or advice or to tell the coachee how we would do things. Instead our role is to probe and encourage and help the coachee make sense of things for him or her self.

This can be a difficult concept to grasp, so let’s look at a comparison. We awake in the morning and stumble across the the bathroom to begin the first major task of the day: to look presentable.

For some this will mean dragging a razor across their face and a comb through their hair, whilst others will concentrate on applying make up and hair spray etc. All of this activity would be almost impossible without our trusty friend – the bathroom mirror.

But does the mirror say “Ooh I wouldn’t do it like that” or “that’s not how we usually shave here” or “you’ve never done your hair like that before”? Of course not! But the mirror does help us to make sense of what’s going on and to achieve our aim – in this case, to look presentable.

When we are coaching we are trying to perform the same function. The best coaches will hold up a ‘mirror’ so that people can develop a deep sense of self-awareness. When people are highly self-aware they have more choices about how to move issues forward.

Coaching and Training

With this in mind we can see that coaching is different to training. Training is concerned with helping people to perform in their roles of course, but again it is centred on the trainer and the subject matter, not the individual.

Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching and mentoring share many of the same skills and abilities but are usually delivered by different people. Mentors, typically, are senior people drawn from outside the line management relationship who take us aside and enable us to benefit from their experience.

If it is coaching we want however, we are probably best advised not to seek a more experienced person who may be overly tempted to persuade us to ‘do it their way’.

Given that we can now see that coaching is wholly concerned with drawing out and not putting in, we can also see how it is possible for anyone with the right skills to coach us – their position in the organization is irrelevant.

Coaching and Counselling

When we consider how coaching compares with counselling we need to think about the limitations of coaching. Coaching in organizations is concerned with helping people with performing well in their jobs, not in dealing with deep-rooted problems from the past.

It may be that as we coach we do uncover some painful or personal issues, but we need to know when to bring in the appropriate expertise. Many effective coaches have never trained as counsellors or therapists, but can still deliver excellent coaching support.

Arguably this exercise in comparison is academic. Do we really need to worry what method is used to develop people as long as they are being developed?

The short answer is no, but we do need to understand the unique qualities of coaching so that we can use it with choice and with greater care.

In reality good coaches draw on all of these different approaches as they work with individuals and will not be concerned with whether they are coaching or teaching at any one point in time. However, they will be wholly concerned with using the right approach based on the needs of the individual and the demands of the situation.