Everybody Needs a Coach
We all thrive on feedback. Not criticism. Or fake enthusiasm. True, honest, and meaningful feedback. That's why I was extremely intrigued by Bill Gates's TedTalk a few months ago, and recently rewatched with colleagues. What struck me was the fact that our profession hasn't done very well with creating a system that identifies each teacher's strengths and weaknesses. That provides and allows me a pathway for growth, reflection and refinement. Our profession is amazingly public and private all at the same time. We work in front of students. We work openly and in front of other individuals all the time. But, that work, the work we do in our classrooms is mostly a performance that is rarely seen by other adults.
While reflecting about Mr. Gates's supposition that we all need a coach, the question ofwhere those coaches would come from struck me as the solution to this systemic problem. If teachers were empowered to be coaches for one another. If teachers were empowered to seek coaching from one another, how could that mentality and capacity reinvent teaching and learning?
The potential of this truth is exciting because it is an investment in the very professionals that are the practitioners. It grows the capacity in both my own instruction but also impacts the instruction of others. My students benefit, but also the students of others. The tricky part is the short-term infrastructure that will need to be in place to get us to the point where this type of practice is the norm. And it is beginning to.
As my colleagues and I discussed this shift, someone said, "Why don't we use our students as coaches for us?" It's one of the things that we talk around or about, but in that moment it struck me as a beautiful solution to a complex problem. I know great teachers always have, are and will solicit feedback, coaching, from their students, but intentionally and systematically empowering students to openly give us feedback has amazing potential. What's also exciting about this loop is that if students are empowered to coach me, think how well they would coach each other? Think of how well they would be engaged? Think of how well they would learn?
So, Mr. Gates is correct. We all need a coach, but I also think we, every one of us, need to be a coach.