Friday, September 25, 2015

Learning from Coaching

Okay -- so I bet you are wondering why I have a picture of my junior high physical education instructor in a clown costume in a blog entry entitled "Learning from Coaching"?

I recently read the very short (yet incredibly informative) book entitled Learning from Coaching -- How do I work with an instructional coach to grow as a teacher written by Nina Morel.  As I was reading, my thoughts went to people in my life who have taken the time to "coach" me and those I have been blessed to be "coached" by.  

I'm fortunate that many people have invested in who I am today and Jim VanEtten just happens to be one of them (and connecting how Jim has impacted me as a "coach" was one way I could share this great picture of him).  Every time I look at this picture it makes me smile and reminds me of how I might be making a difference in the lives of those I have the opportunity to interact with on a daily basis.   
  • Mr. VanEtten was my junior high teacher and he taught me how to play a mean game of table tennis, along with how to lift weights, run stairs and work as a team member.
  • Coach VanEtten was also one of my high school track coaches.  He taught me that I could improve my times based on solid workouts and by challenging some of my assumptions of what "effort" really was.
  • Jim was a co-worker of mine when I started working at the school district I happened to have graduated from.  He re-enforced with me the importance of creating connections with students and staff; if I wanted to have any chance of making a difference in the culture of our school district.

As I read Nina's book -- here are a few connections I made between her words and my interactions with Jim VanEtten - my teacher, my coach, my co-worker and most importantly my friend.  
  • Good coaching is "movement made easier".  Coach VanEtten definitely helped make those laps around the track easier by encouraging us often during our workouts.  Nina shares one great tenet of instructional coaching is replacing criticism with gratitude and looking and moving forward with our teaching practices.  
  • Professional learning that includes theory, demonstration, practice feedback and coaching leads to positive transfer of new learning to teacher practice.  Coach VanEtten gave me great feedback about my breathing and form to help me achieve maximum benefit of my then 101lb. frame during my races.  Good instructional coaching will do the same -- instructional coaching helps improve upon our instructional practice - no matter where we start from.
  • Instructional Coaches can be your thinking partner.  Jim was great about coming into my office and starting conversations with, "Boss, have you thought about..."  His insights helped divert many rookie administrator mistakes.
  • Adults learn by:
    • having a vested interest in what is being proposed.
    • having a problem to solve or a challenge to be met.
    • having the opportunity to practice within the context of their work environment.   Mr. VanEtten used the resources he had as a junior high physical education instructor to teach us the value of keeping our bodies healthy so they would hold up for us when we got old and to teach us activities we can still do now that we are old:)
  • Instructional Coaching works best when the coach knows your learning preferences.  Coach VanEtten took the time to know each of us as people.  He often gave his students and co-workers great messages about knowing ourselves and our beliefs and to reflect upon those to add meaning to our experiences and to challenge our own mental models and to continue to grow as learners.   
  • Instructional Coaching assumes every person has good intentions and is doing their very best with what is on their plates at any given moment.  Jim had a knack for finding the best in people and making connections with every student he had in his classroom.  He could say because he knew, "I had your grandpa (brother, aunt, mom, etc.) in my classroom!"  

If you are wondering whether you might benefit from working with an Instructional Coach -- I suggest you read Nina's book.  I know I gained from the "coaching" Jim has given and continues to give me. 

P.S.  As I was writing this blog entry -- I emailed Jim and asked him to proofread, give me feedback or make changes on what I had written.  Here's what he wrote back to me:

You have my permission to use anything about me that you need to for your job responsibilities or that you think would benefit someone in the education field or thinking about education...
Keep in mind, most of anything I did or said, was probably borrowed, begged or stolen from someone or somewhere else.
Remember, I only learned 10 things for sure in those 43 years I taught and I have forgot 8 of them already.. So the only two I can now remember are that as a teacher:
1. There is a God! 
2.  I am not him!

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