5 Common Coaching Misconceptions
“Coaching" means something different to everyone. Many of us have had both positive and negative experiences with coaches in the past, which influence our definition of and expectations from coaching. Becoming an instructional coach is often seen as a natural next step for classroom educators. Unfortunately, all of the skills that make one a good teacher may not be everything that makes a person a successful coach. Additionally, there aren’t always enough coaches to support all teachers. This limited capacity leads to some frequent misunderstandings of the role and accountabilities of a coach. We’re here to bust those misconceptions and encourage coaching to thrive.
Only struggling teachers need a coach. Everyone can use a coach! The best professional athletes have coaches, but somehow receiving coaching in education has been distorted to indicate a sign of weakness. It is time we change this narrative and advocate that everyone, regardless of their number of years in the classroom or their skill level, can benefit from coaching. A coach provides an important lens for teachers to understand and identify their strengths and growth areas. While everyone may not receive the same type of coaching, all teachers should continuously reflect on and improve their practice.
Only coaches coach. Coaching is not limited to a job title. A question we often receive is, “Who can be a coach?” Our answer to this is simple: anyone who wants to help others improve! If we stop thinking about the title (or noun) “coach” and focus on the act (verb) of coaching we might be able to recount how we have been coached in other aspects of our lives. We often look for someone we can trust, who has experience in what we want to learn and has the desire to listen and teach. In education, instructional leadership is an important component of all roles in a district and school. Actively listening, providing concise feedback, and sharing targeted resources are actions that we can perform to support our teachers. The only requisites are that a coach must be trusted to have honest conversations and facilitate the development of others.
Coaches need to be experts in everything pedagogical and content-related. Coaching is not about being an expert. Sometimes we believe that in order to be a good coach, we have to be the best at all content areas and grades, but coaching requires different skills. It is impossible to be an expert in all grade levels and content areas; therefore, coaches must be process and relationship experts. Great coaches facilitate growth through observation, debriefs and resource sharing. While it is helpful to have a solid understanding of the teaching environment, coaches do not have to be award-winning teachers to be great coaches. If they are able to support teachers in reaching their professional goals and ensure an excellent education for all students, they are perfect for the job!
You must schedule coaching conversations. Coaching can happen at any time and in any place. You don’t have to set up an hour-long meeting to provide effective coaching. In fact, hallway conversations can be some of our most powerful coaching opportunities. Coaching exists on a spectrum from quick Q&As to comprehensive observation-debrief cycles. Time and space should not be limiting factors.
Coaches solve problems. A coach’s objective is to build the skills and capacity of others to find solutions. A coach is not successful if he/she constantly provides answers to his/her teachers. Instead, a great coach should ask good questions so that each teacher begins to identify possible sources of the problem and any potential solutions for him/herself.
While coaches are often misunderstood in districts, their potential to impact growth should not be overlooked. Atul Gawande in Personal Best states, “The concept of a coach is slippery. Coaches are not teachers, but they teach. They’re not your boss—in professional tennis, golf, and skating, the athlete hires and fires the coach—but they can be bossy. They don’t even have to be good at the sport. The famous Olympic gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi couldn’t do a split if his life depended on it. Mainly, they observe, they judge, and they guide.”
Do you know of other common coaching misconceptions? Share them with us on Twitter @EdElements. Also check out our previous blog posts about coaching:
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