Why Do Most Athletes Have a Coach - But Most Teachers Don't?

May 10, 2019

You may have seen on my Facebook page that this past week I was in San Diego, going through the week-long recertification process so I can continue my practice as a Certified High Performance Coach.  As a Certified High Performance Coach, I work one-on-one with people to help them go to new levels of performance in their professional and personal lives – I especially love to do this with teachers and educators who are really seeking the NEXT LEVEL of service they can provide to their students and their families.

Coaching is important and satisfying work – and it comes with plenty of learning during these marathon recertification weeks.  Through the recertification process, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between coaching and teaching.  When you look at all the work that a teacher does on a daily basis, I am always struck by how much of our jobs is actually coaching our students.

I want to share with you three big takeaways I experienced during recertification week.  My hope is that you find them useful in your everyday practice.  I chose these three things, not just because they’re great pointers for coaching, but the truly great teachers implement these gems in their daily practice.

ABU

In the quintessential movie about the sales industry “Glengarry, Glen Ross”, Alec Baldwin struts around the screen screaming at his sales team “A-B-C!  A-B-C!  What does that mean?  ALWAYS BE CLOSING!”

“ABU” is its cousin in the teaching world… and it stands for Always Be Up-leveling.  Not only should we be looking to up-level our students’ knowledge and social-emotional growth through their environment, relationships, and experiences, but we also need to turn the ABU mantra in on ourselves.

It’s our responsibility to consistently be up-leveling our own expertise – our knowledge, skills, and abilities – and, if you look at the great teachers, this is exactly what they’re doing.  They have a commitment to practicing the Japanese art of kaizen, making daily, incremental improvements in their practice and skills.

I challenge you this week to look at places in your knowledge, skills, and abilities where you can up-level your expertise.  Also, make sure to take a long look at your mindset, your energy, and your influence.  Where are the easy wins where you can take yourself to the next level?  Go for those first.

The trick is to get in the habit.  Practice starting each morning looking for the places where you can up-level your important work with children and youth.  And then, slowly, incrementally, do it!

You want a NEXT LEVEL practice around this?  Every time the last day of the month rolls around, take a month-long view.  Ask yourself what FIVE things you need to learn, practice or up-level in the coming month.  Then plan how you’re going to do this and PUT IT IN YOUR CALENDAR!

As with any habit you practice intentionally and consistently, you’ll soon be a role model for your students as an ABU master!

Push Into The Future

One of the attributes of a great coach is the ability to take a client’s past mistakes and miscues and project their solution into the future.  As teachers, our job is very similar.  We want to make sure that we honor the work our students do – though it is not always perfect – and help them project a growth mindset into the future so that they consistently learn and grow.

A recent study of effective leadership revealed a surprising finding: leaders tend to speak about the future three times more than non-leaders do.  As teachers, we are de facto leaders.  We think about the future, and we speak about the future.  The subtle trick with our students is to make sure that we not only teach them, but help them project their own identities as successful learners into the future.

How do we accomplish this task?  First, we help students push their self-images into the future by not dwelling on past mistakes.  This applies to cognitive learning as well as social-emotional learning.  We acknowledge past mistakes, but the truly great teacher doesn’t dwell there – they help the student extract the meaning and learning from the mistake and help project her attention into the future – a future where she is successful with the item at hand.  Using intentional questions such as “what do you think comes next?” or “in the future, what will you do differently?” that project the student’s consciousness into the future, while still connected to the learning from the past.

The second way we can help our students push into the future is to be on the lookout for students that may be stuck in a fixed mindset (if you haven’t read Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, get over to Amazon and get it!).  A fixed mindset keeps students stuck at their current level of learning.  As teachers, we can encourage future thinking in our students by engaging them in the practices of a growth mindset… by consistently using phrases that take our students’ consciousness and project it into a successful future: phrases like “when you’ve mastered this…” or “your next attempt will be better…” or “what other strategies can you try?”  When students fail, remind them that “…it might take time to figure this out”, and when they succeed, instead of praising their intelligence, use more forward thinking such as “I can’t wait to see what you’ll learn next week!”

True leaders are always leaning into the future… practice this with your students and you will see their confidence soar… and you will see your influence go up as well.

There Is Always a “Next Level”

In High Performance Coaching, the main job of the coach is to “take the ball and move it forward” with the client.  Whatever the issue, whether personal or professional, the goal of the coach is to make forward progress – progress toward mastery.  Progress toward the NEXT LEVEL.

The place where many coach/client pairs (and also teachers!) get stuck is, strangely enough, just after the completion of a goal.  When a goal is achieved, it’s like the period at the end of a sentence.  There is a time of rest, of celebration… but… then what?

Many times in our professional lives, when we have success as a teacher – whether it’s with a new teaching technique, a successful curriculum, or a unit or theme completed – we sometimes don’t know what to do at the end.  We’ve run into the period at the end of the sentence.  Some of us celebrate (though not as many as should celebrate!), some of us reflect (though it would be great to have higher numbers here, too)… and then we’re left with a chasm.

Chances are, we’ve just spent a lot of energy, thought, and execution mojo on this thing that just ended, and now we have nowhere to put that energy, thought, and mojo.

What we forget to remind ourselves is that THERE IS ALWAYS A NEXT LEVEL – a next level for us professionally.  A next level for us in our relationship with our students.  A next level in our own learning.

The big trick here is to make sure that we know what that next level is… BEFORE we finish the level that preceded it.  You can probably see that a LOT of this goes back to the second point in this issue – always be pushing forwardIt applies to us as well as our students.

If we want to avoid hitting that momentum-killing chasm, if we want to always have the joy and engagement of “moving the ball forward” for ourselves and for our students, we need to always have our eye on what the NEXT LEVEL is going to be for us.

How do we do that?  How do we keep our NEXT LEVEL on our mental dashboard?

First and foremost, always be up-leveling.  ABU… sound familiar? Another way to be sure you have your mind tuned to the NEXT LEVEL YOU is to always be reading, learning, and exposing yourself to new thoughts and ideas.

Second, give yourself permission to dream.  Somewhere along the way, many of us stopped giving ourselves permission to dream about the future.  Remember when you wanted to be a firefighter?  An astronaut?  The president?  A rock star?  What’s important about dreaming is not that you actually got to be those things… but that dreaming about those things allowed you to become who you are today.  You’re always developing and growing.  The question is, are you developing and growing according to your dreams, or are you developing and growing according to someone else’s plan for you?  Give yourself permission to dream again.

And, third… It’s going to sound glib… but get a coach.  Like how sports team coaches always keep their team’s eye on the NEXT LEVEL prize, a coach will help you do the same.  Steph Curry and Tom Brady are the best at their sports… but they still have a coach.  Why do our sports stars have coaches and those who truly are shaping America’s future (ahem, that’s YOU, teachers) don’t?

Get a coach.  It doesn’t matter if you work with me as a Certified High Performance Coach or if you hire someone else… the important thing is GET A COACH.

That’s how you always are sure to move the ball forward.  That’s how you keep your eye on your NEXT LEVEL.

To learn more about Certified High Performance Coaching and how it can move your practice forward, I made a short video for you at https://www.rickrood.com/coaching-for-teachers

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