I frequently hear on sports talk shows about the concept of a “players’ coach” implying that such a coach gets the most out of her/his players. It got me to wonder if this concept of a player’s coach can be applied to the type of teacher that gets the most out of her/his students.

Here are the attributes I found associated with a player’s coach:

  • Behaves consistently
  • Communicates frequently
  • Mentors
  • Cares for each player
  • Balances encouragement and praise
  • Works hard
  • Speaks truthfully
  • Understands diversity of players’ experiences
  • Creates an atmosphere to engage each player
  • Establishes high expectations for each player
  • Supports player development
  • Builds trust

There also seems to be a general recognition that players can tell the difference between a coach who wants to be liked with a coach that really cares; a coach that lacks discipline with a coach that applies appropriate discipline consistently; a coach that is accommodating with a coach that sets boundaries; and a coach that focuses on a few players with a coach that treats all players equitably.

Now lets apply these attributes to teachers, as I believe they directly apply to effective teachers: those who are respected, trusted and appreciated by their students.  As I review these characteristics I find they are built on a foundation of relationships.  Building trust, a sense of caring and supporting each student defines the type of relationship students find most helpful for their progress and success.

So how do teachers who want to establish and sustain these types of positive relationships with their students’ acquire/enhance associated competencies?

Schools of education have a responsibility to ensure each of their successful graduates have the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary to motivate and educate each student.  This requires a comprehensive curriculum blending content and pedagogy with strategies appropriate for each student.

Schools can enhance these teacher competencies to increase their effectiveness through (1) formal professional development, (2) reflection opportunities to analyze data for continuous improvement and (3) collaborative learning communities among teachers to share and learn with peers.

In addition frequently asking students about their experiences, needs, strengths and interests provides direct feedback to teachers as they enhance their capacity to be a student’s teacher (similar to a player’s coach).

Being a student’s teacher should not be an asset of one or two teachers in a school, but a general expectation that each teacher is capable of establishing positive relationships with each student and supported by school policies, practices and expectations.  This requires a school climate that is engaging, equitable and safe encouraging teachers, staff and leaders to establish common high expectations for each student and teacher to be successful and productive.

I am certainly not the first person comparing coaching with teaching and in fact there are excellent instructional coaches in schools that provide support for teachers, staff and school leaders around evidence-based strategies focused on improving student achievement and building teacher capacity.  My friend Peter DeWitt is an excellent instructional coaching resource focusing on collaborative leadership, fostering inclusive school climates, and connected learning (Learn more here: http://www.petermdewitt.com/).

So let’s expand coaching and being a player’s coach from the playing field to the classroom and assist teachers to enhance their capacity to sustain positive relationships with students for their success in school and in life.

Terry Pickeral
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Terry Pickeral

Terry Pickeral, has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations, evaluation and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.
Terry Pickeral
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