Walking the teacher-coach talk by Michelle Hunter
Today the lesson went according to plan. The students, having received their instructions, engaged in their tasks with enthusiasm and gusto. They participated equally, presented their research findings eloquently and with very few language errors. They responded well to the different methods, media and feedback, appreciating the variety. What did I, their teacher, do most of the time? Generally speaking, initiated tasks, guided through stages, supported where necessary, created a safe environment for active participation and an open ear during discussion. In essence, I felt happy today that I walked the teacher-coach talk.
Experiencing such a “lesson-in-flow” is not an everyday occurrence. I’m sure you can relate to what I mean when I write that. But I can honestly say, that the more I practice a coach-approach to teaching, the more often students proactively and positively participate in class. I also have an increased sense of well-being and achievement, both during and after the class.
What helps me maintain a positive, effective learning environment?
1. “Ease”. A sense of inner ease, away from rush and hectic.
2. “Appreciation”. Recognition for the willingness offered by my students to trust and go along with some of my more “creative” activities.
3. “Attention”. The act of listening proactively to what someone wants to express, and not interrupting their thinking process. Also paying attention to what is not being said and noticing energy levels within the group.
4. “Encouragement”. Gently pushing individuals to think a little further, to test the boundaries of their knowledge; to “demand higher” of them.
Where did I learn such principles? From the world of coaching. What I learned, and continue to learn, from training as a coach offers me a whole new framework within which to practice as a teacher. Not every lesson is a model example; I don’t always practice what I preach. Some days I realise I’ve spoken proportionally more than my learners, or that I failed again in my personal goal of concise instruction-giving, or forgot a whole section of my lesson because I was distracted. And that’s OK, because I have learned about growth mindsets (Dweck, 2006) and the benefits of being mindfully (Schoeberlein, 2009) aware and self-forgiving of my errors, gaffs and foibles.
But for today, I shall celebrate the brilliance of my students and pat myself on the back for a job well done this lesson.
Dweck, C., (2006) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Constable & Robinson: London
Schoeberlein, B., (2009) Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide for Anyone Who Teaches Anything. Wisdom Publications.
Kline, N., (1999) Time to Think. Cassell