Coaching. What is it? What does it look like and sound like? We know what it looks like from the side lines of a sports event; Ditka, in the day, screaming at his players or Bobby Knight throwing chairs at his. Calling plays, yelling, arguing with officials. In the health profession, fitness coaches who teach us how to work our bodies to the max (can’t move next day) and tell us what to eat and what not. Counting reps, encouraging us to hold it one more second, telling us to squeeze those cheeks (ok, maybe just me). Coaches exists now in almost every profession.
When it come to the field of education, what is it? What does it look like and sound like? There are many schools of thought about kinds of coaching; cognitive coaching (A.L. Costa & R.J. Garmston), instructional coaching (Jim Knight), student centered coaching (Dianne Sweeney), heavy or light coaching (J. Killion) all of which ARE coaching. It all looks the same; primarily a content coach sitting knee to knee, side by side, having conversations about the art of teaching and their students. Thinking, talking, brainstorming, laughing, crying…changing. Together. Now that we know what it is, how it looks and sounds. What is its purpose?
Although coaching in different fields looks, sounds, is different; is the purpose different? Doug Reeves made great impact on my thinking about coaching when I heard him speak at a Learning Forward conference. From his research, he wrote a great book called, Transforming Professional Development for Student Results, that talks just about that…the purpose. Well it’s really about immediate feedback… that is our coaching purpose! Job embedded immediate feedback. The best model of professional learning there is! In any coaching model, sport, music, education, health, its about the focus of the feedback that brings about change. Coaching is focused, immediate feedback to promote change. Change to want to be and do better for the greater good; whether it’s a sports team, office team, PLCs, choir, orchestra, opera, family, you see where I’m going with this…all of us and any of us. It is coaching to change for the greater good through reflection and feedback because that is how we are programmed, by nature, to want to and need to belong to a team. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs at work.
So does it really matter in the world of educational coaching which one you are? (All due respect to Knight, Sweeney, Costa and the experts) Or is it more important to be the one your client needs you to be in order for them to meet their needs to change for the greater good? Our craft is learning about all models, building relationships based in trust and inquiry, and possessing a vision that is beyond our clients target.
Thought. What does coaching sound like to coaches? The one phrase that we need to change in the world of educational coaching is; Coaching ourselves out of a job. Really? Coaches out there, nod with me, I know you have heard this from leaders in the field, administration, conference sessions. I understand the purpose of the phrase, its meant to mean; to build autonomous teachers who can deliver best practice lessons and use strategies that provoke higher level thinking in our students and understand their students needs so they can differentiate and create formative assessments that inform their instruction and provide powerful growth producing feedback to their students and parents and work together all the while collaboratively as a team to look at data so instruction can be fluid and consistent for students. I hope you see my point.
There’s a great need for coaching during this EPIC time in education. Saying to a coach that their purpose is to work themselves out of a job, as their goal is not a good goal. How is that supposed to motivate and engage? How does that match what coaching is, supposed to look like and sound like, if that’s my goal? Of course we matter and our work is important, so please tell us that and build us in our craft. But don’t tell us to coach ourselves out of a job…its the wrong message. Tell us instead that we need to be Excellent in our content areas, Engaged in our work and others, and be Ethical in what we do by providing equity to all who want to be coached. This is how Howard Gardner (Multiple Intelligence’s) defines what good work is with his research. I would add one more that Gardner is on the fence about and that would be, Empathy for those you work with. It’s the relationship piece Maslow helps us understand.
Tell us this and how by doing this we add value and leverage to our educational systems to help our community of learners, adults and students, achieve their best!