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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Coaching
Posted by on in Education Leadership

In the last several months we tackled the topic of relationships over rules in the world of students. You can read that post here. This time around, we’re diving into the world of relationships over rules with teachers.

 

As a second year administrator, I (Brent) have a lot still to learn about how to best serve, support, and care for teachers. In my 15 months that I’ve served in this capacity, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. Some small, some not so much. I’ve had staff in the building tell me how much they appreciate my support and encouragement while at the same time unintentionally doing a terrible job of supporting someone the next hallway over. I heard it said recently that students want a supportive, engaging, encouraging environment where they feel known and cared for. I would venture to say adults merely want the same.

 

As an administrator, I (Jeff) get a unique and humbling vantage point into the blood, sweat, and tears that teachers invest everyday into the lives of kids. I try to make it my goal to ensure that I am not making the life of a teacher any harder. Sadly, I am certain that there are times I have probably placed an additional burden or expectation on the back of the teacher that caused stress. Our role as campus leaders is not positional, but rather to support teachers to be successful as they are on the front lines for kids and families.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

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Many of us in the field of education have at some time or another encountered Shel Silverstein’s hilarious poems. There is no doubt that he has brought joy to many children and adults alike through his silly and wacky humor. While I thoroughly enjoyed reading Silverstein’s poems to my classes and my daughter, my favorite work of his was his short book titled The Giving Tree, first published in 1964.

I have always loved the short story for its beautiful message of love and selflessness, but it was not until recently that I realized that The Giving Tree has much to offer leaders. In short, the book is about the relationship between a boy and a tree and how their relationship changes over the course of a lifetime. I believe that if viewed through different lenses, The Giving Tree can help leaders be more effective if they just listen to the people they lead.

Much like the relationship between the boy and the tree, the relationship between leaders and those they lead changes over time. And, like the tree, we as leaders need to be able to recognize what we need to offer. We also need to be able to recognize what it is our teachers need at each particular stage of their career and we need to provide it for them to the best of our ability. As leaders we need to realize that our teachers are at different stages in their careers and development and therefore we can’t think that treating them the same is going to be effective.

The following is my new take on The Giving Tree and how it can help us become better leaders:

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Posted by on in ShiftParadigm

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It’s no secret that countless students eagerly wait for the final bell to ring—not to go home, but to play a team sport. Why is that, and how could we get students to show similar enthusiasm for learning during the actual school day?

Great coaches have an edge when it comes to inspiring today’s youth to greatness, and parents, classroom teachers, administrators, and reformers should take notice of the following traits of effective coaches:

  1. Encourage Failure: The best coaches encourage failure, and they don’t harshly penalize students for making mistakes. Instead, they review with an athlete what he or she did wrong and move on with the next play. In the classroom, the permanent nature of grades and high-stakes testing damages moral and reinforces futility and despair. Too often, well-meaning teachers do too much to ensure that students never fail. But if kids never encounter adversity in the classroom, it’s doubtful they will successfully manage it in real life. Like coaches, teachers should encourage students to try daring new things, and rethink how failure can turn into even greater, more meaningful success. 

  2. Acknowledge Individual Progress: On the field, coaches praise athletes for reaching their fullest potential—whatever that may be. In September, I spoke with legendary cross-country coach Joe Newton who over 50 years has led York Community High School in Elmhurst, Illinois, to 28 state titles. “I’ve got three guys on my team that are like 250 pounds,” Newton says. “They’re out there in front of the whole team at the team meeting. I said to two guys, I said, ‘Look at their bodies. They’re not made for running and they’re out here every day busting their butt.’ I said, ‘I just love guys like that. That’s what our program is all about.’ Then I gave them the old shot: ‘You choose to be average. You choose to be good. You choose to be great.’ Those guys don’t ever score a point for us, but in my eyes they’re great because they come out and they give me what they’ve got.’” How many teachers would say as much of a math or history student, trying equally hard, but only managing to earn a D?

  3. Affirm the Power of Hard Work: Great coaches help players see real improvement. I coach varsity cross-country, and at the start of the season, I discuss fitness goals with my athletes. It’s not long before many of them are sporting six-pack abs, along with impressive race times. Even my slowest runners revel in achieving new personal records, in turn motivating them to continue working just as hard—or harder. In the classroom, teachers should provide students with analogous goals and measurements for progress to encourage (rather than discourage) continued growth.

  4. Affirm the Power of Teamwork: On the playing field, no matter how talented an athlete, victory is impossible without teamwork. The best coaches cultivate productive relationships, and their athletes revel in accomplishing something they couldn’t do alone. More still, the entire team is only as strong as its weakest player, and it’s the job of that team to help that individual improve. In the classroom as well, pursuing individual academic competence must remain paramount, but teachers should encourage students to support each other. Too often, students compete against each other for high grades and standardized test scores. Just think of what happens when all of the players on the same team compete against each other for possession of the ball—they all suffer.

  5. Teach the Value of Struggle: During training, my varsity cross-country runners follow a strict diet. They aren’t allowed to have sweets or soda, except on special occasions. If they show repeated signs of struggle or a lack of progress, I know they haven’t kept to my workout plan and nutritional regimen. To ensure future compliance, I work them even harder. Eventually, those that stick with it quickly show signs of improvement, not just in their race times, but also in their overall health and appearance. With academic dishonesty reaching ever-greater heights, in the classroom we need to do a much better job of showing students the value of learning through struggle. Just as on the field, by taking shortcuts, they only cheat themselves.


If you’re a coach, what other lessons could teachers learn from your practices? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

 

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