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Put Me In, Coach! I’m Ready to Play! (Part 1)

Photo credit Twenty20 @askoldsb

When I was a kid I played a lot of sports. Field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, tennis. But I was never particularly great at any of them, and most game days I spent more time on the bench than on the field. Regardless of my playing time, I always loved my coaches and the way they inspired, encouraged, and pushed my team to become better. In fact, my vantage point from the bench allowed me to watch my coaches in action better than if I’d been in the game.

So when I became a teacher, I brought some of that coaching style into my classroom. And as a teacher I’ve benefited tremendously from the wisdom and expertise of coaching.

What? Why? How?

As teachers, we all know it’s important to know our WHY. We usually know WHAT we need to be doing to be at our best. It’s the HOW that is the challenge. HOW to put into practice the things we know we need to do. We call it the knowing-doing gap. Coaching provides a bridge between knowing and doing. It helps us to learn how to apply our knowledge.

Types of Coaching

There are many different types of coaches out there including

  • Career coach

  • Executive coach

  • Fitness coach

  • Group coach

  • Health coach

  • Leadership coach

  • Life coach

  • Relationship coach

  • Skills coach

  • Wellness coach

Businesses are starting to see the value in hiring a coach to develop their employees, not just professionally but personally. It seems that when people feel better, they do better in life and at work. In fact, a third of all Fortune 500 companies use coaching and 86% of companies using coaches rated their ROI favorably.

We’ve all had different experiences with coaching. If you’re an educator, you’re likely familiar with the role and benefits of an instructional coach, but are maybe less familiar with how a life coach, an executive coach, and even a health coach can help level up your game as a teacher. I’ll share a little about my experience with each with the hopes that you can find a coach to help you level up your game, not just professionally, but personally as well.

Instructional Coaching

I don’t know about your experience, but teaching during the height of the pandemic was exhausting for me. My colleagues and I couldn’t wait to be done with restrictions such as social distancing as it profoundly affected the way we taught. As the pandemic waned and teaching was “getting back to normal,” I found myself floundering. I tried to jump back into my old routine, but it was like I completely forgot how, or I was doing it wrong, or maybe I was just a failure!

I brought my woes to my math coach.

“I need help!” I told her, “I know I used to be really good at teaching small groups. I had a structure and a routine. I had it down, but in trying to get back to it, it’s like I don’t remember how. I need help!”

Like a good math coach, she listened without judgment. I could feel the empathy like a big warm hug.

Then she jumped into action by asking powerful questions. “What have you tried before?” “What do you think would be the best approach?” “What are you willing to try?” “What are you willing to let go of?” “What data are you going to use to make your groups?” “What will you have the other students doing while you are working in small groups?” “How do you want to hold them accountable?” “What’s going to be hard about this?” “Where do you need support?”

Her questions were hard. Doing knowledge work is always hard! She listened, really listened and reflected back to me what I said, shedding light and bringing clarity to what had been pretty fuzzy for me. And what I said wasn’t easy to see. Some of the things I heard myself saying were pretty hard to hear. I realized I’d been making some pretty lame excuses and that I had to do some work to get where I wanted to be.

“Can I make a suggestion?” she finally asked.

She left me with a book and some resources on the model I had been using previously with great success. Just what I needed for some inspiration! She asked if I’d like some help with organizing my math manipulatives and we scheduled a date to get it done. She asked what I thought my timeline would be to implement the new structure, providing me some accountability, and offered to come in and observe me or to even teach a small group while I made sure the rest of my class was on task and getting the new routine down. She spoke some words of encouragement into me, and we were done!

Notice that she didn’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t be doing. She didn’t judge or criticize. She asked me some powerful questions, and helped me realize what was important to me, what my strengths were, what my obstacles were, what my internal and external resources were, and provided a little bit of knowledge, and a ton of support and encouragement.

And bam! Like that she had empowered me to solve my own problem, improve my teaching, which obviously positively impacted student learning, but also helped me to feel way less stressed and anxious about my own performance in the classroom. Perhaps most importantly she created a sense of trust. Trust in me to solve my own problems, yes, but also trust in the process of coaching and in her as a coach so that the next time I was struggling I’d be quicker to kick my ego out of the way and reach out for help.

Did her coaching help impact student learning? Yes.

Did it build my efficacy as a teacher? Yes.

Did it also help ease my stress so I could be a better team leader? Yes.

Did it help ease my stress so I could go home and be a better wife, mom, friend? Yes. Yes. Yes.

This process took some vulnerability on my part. I’m not sure that the younger version of me would be so quick to admit failure or to ask for help. But over the years (I won’t say how many!) I’ve had enough experiences to teach me that asking for help can bring an end to my struggles a lot quicker than trying to figure things out on my own.

I cannot overstate the power of coaching. Because we all have the answers to our problems within us. A great coach, simply put, helps us to see ourselves and our challenges more clearly and access the strengths we already possess to maximize our personal and professional potential.

The second part of this blog series will be out in a few days and will cover my experiences with executive coaching, life coaching, and health coaching. I’ll also provide resources for readers who may be interested in finding a coach.


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