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Friday, October 21, 2011

Put Me In Coach, I'm Ready to Teach!

At a recent West Campus adjunct council meeting (after we'd conducted the secret handshake and passed the silver goblet) we were treated to a presentation and demonstration on coaching.

I don't mean the kind involving a whistle and sweaty laps around the gym.

Instead, inspired by a recent New Yorker article about the benefits of coaching in the professional world, our presenter convinced us that teachers need coaches, too.

Teachers need someone rooting for them, fine-tuning them, and whipping them into shape.

This demands a relationship of mutual respect and trust. A coach is not a supervisor, who has the power the hire, fire, promote, demote, and fix pay rates. All of this is necessary, but can complicate performance reviews and feedback. You're less likely to take risks, make mistakes, and admit errors when your job is on the line.

A good coach, on the other hand, would be disappointed if you didn't do all of those things. (This blog is a fan of mistakes.) And since the coach follows your progress over time, your mistakes will be seen as a necessary part of the journey. A once-a-year snapshot of someone's classroom might misrepresent the narrative.

One problem: coaches need to get paid. Teachers can't afford coaches. Schools probably won't pay for them. I'm not sure once-a-year retreats will cut it.

Two solutions:

1) Teachers team-up and coach each other. This would mean extra time, sweat, and tears.

2) We could use something like Sugata Mitra's granny cam. Using a webcam, a coach from some remote location could peek in on his or her "player's" classroom and then provide coaching feedback. This would eliminate the cost of paying for food and lodging. A teacher would be able to hire (hopefully the school would pay) the best coach on the market, regardless of geography. It might also create jobs. The cloud would be populated by granny cam coaches.

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