In relaxed moments, a flawless wish list of books, comics and films forms in my head. But from the moment I receive a Fnac gift voucher, a big blank follows. Then I wander aimlessly through the richly-stocked store lost in a stream of random thoughts. Not infrequently I return home with the unused voucher, complaining and frustrated. The same paralysis symptoms take hold of me when someone asks me what gift they can give me. Often my response is something in the area of "your arrival is enough" or "that is not necessary”- both blatant lies!

Fortunately, we are increasingly realizing that the best gift has to do with the amount of attention you have invested in it as the giver. Giving something unexpectedly that pleasantly surprises someone doesn't get any better. For example, a few months ago a courier knocked at the door with a consignment of wine; a sign of gratitude from my StreetwiZe colleagues. My eyes still get moist just thinking about it, and it's not a pollen allergy. Or the comic that I received from the Mobile School team to support the difficult Corona times, great! And for Father's Day this year the family gave me an electric guitar, something I have been dreaming of for years. After years of playing air guitar in the kitchen, now is the time for the real thing. However playing guitar is difficult and that brings me to coaching.

©Bram Doolaege

Because of the corona measures, following guitar lessons on-site is not easy. The search for an online coach was urgent particularly since my playing also traumatized the dog. Let me start with some good advice. Never enter the word "coaching" followed by a theme. I was overladen with walking coaches, diet coaches, fitness coaches, singing coaches, yoga coaches, computer coaches until I ended up with guitar coaches only days later. Unfortunately, just like their colleagues from other disciplines, most guitar coaches follow the same pattern. First of all, they demonstrate their virtuosity by combining various difficult works into a powerful guitar solo. That makes the unsuspecting viewer, including me, sad and needy. Then there is a message to reassure. If you follow their proprietary coaching methodology the golden mountains, as musicians, lie ahead. So you suppress the question why the coach, despite his unique method, was not able to build a successful career as a musician. With hope you reach for the visa card, a loyal friend in financially difficult times. After the payment the confirmation follows with "regular contact moments" meaning the automatic forwarding of instructional videos. Then thanks to the struggle with the seemingly "easy starter exercises" your self-confidence is now the size of a pea. That is why you choose the optional coaching package for advanced students and history repeats itself.

And that brings me to some critical comments to make when we talk about coaching today. Whether we are coaching someone or hiring a coach, the first question we need to ask ourselves is how to ensure that no dependency occurs. Naturally, our mobile school exists to support children. However, in everything we do the self-reliance of the child is central. Sometimes that means that, as a street worker, it is better to give some distance rather than take the lead. This can be done by preparing a recurring process in which the emphasis is on exploration and not on advice giving.

Secondly, we have noticed that when you coach street children, you must pay a lot of attention to action and progress. Of course it is nice to have in-depth conversations as connection is an essential component in coaching. But change lies in doing, in achieving success. Therefore don't let a good conversation get in the way of action by focusing on experimentation and evaluation.

Finally, and this applies to any organization, it is our duty to proactively map out future challenges that our coachees will face. But mapping is not enough. As a coach, we also have the responsibility to challenge people about these new challenges before they become urgent. At Mobile School, we are already anticipating the challenges that our children will face, such as digitization. Change takes time, so start early.

If you will excuse me now I still have some chords to practice, according to my coach.

More Streetfood for Thought?