Last spring, I received a phone call from a colleague at Hillel’s Schusterman International Center (SIC) asking me if I would like to participate in the New Directors Coaching Initiative. It took a moment for it to register that I was being asked to be on the coaching side of the equation. Subsequently, I enjoyed a mostly pleasant trip down memory lane as I recounted stories of special students, transformative experiences, and programs of impact. After my brief moment of daydreaming, I answered that I would be honored to participate. It is hard for me to believe that it has been more than six years since I started my own journey as a Hillel director.
So, now, I am a coach. If you had asked me what that meant a few months ago, I would have given you an answer that went something like, “A coach is that person whom a new director calls to run stuff by and problem solve with.” In reality, I have learned that a coach is both of those things and much more. I am that person on the other end of the phone who listens and reflects back. I am also that person who can be an anchor for a new director when everything seems to be swept away in the flow of work. I am that trusted voice on the other end of the phone that doesn’t judge and can help guide.
I knew that being a coach for a new director would allow me to give back to my Hillel community by helping someone else. I knew that being a coach would allow me to enhance my skills as a listener and help me think critically about my work. What I didn’t expect was how much I would gain from the experience in such a short period of time. Every time I get off the phone, I take a few minutes to reflect and look at the work on my campus through a different lens. I think about the choices I have made in similar situations. I review and replay the good choices and the not so good choices, and I have a new appreciation for the support I have received over the years from my colleagues, my staff and my campus partners. Being a coach makes me feel connected to Hillel and Jewish campus life beyond my campus and reassures me that the Hillel movement as a whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Lastly, I want to thank my colleagues at SIC for providing me with this opportunity, my campus partners and my staff for allowing me the time to engage in the meaningful work of being a coach, and most of all my ‘coachee’ for trusting in me and letting me grow along with her.
Rebecca Simons is the Director for Jewish Life at Duke. Since arriving at Duke in 2005, she has traveled with students to Israel, Prague and six U.S. states, hung out with Dr. Ruth Westheimer and toured the country talking with parents, students and alumni about Jewish life on campus.