Coaching: Athletes, Students, Teachers

I have previously mentioned Trevor Regan’s website, TrainUgly,  in earlier blogs. It provides insights connecting learning performances in sports to those in the classroom for students as well as for coaching teachers.

A podcast that Trevor recorded with The Power Company, a group that focuses on the sport of climbing, reinforced and further defined some of my thinking about coaching learning for students and teachers. Take a listen. Here are some ideas I pulled from the podcast and my thoughts at applying them to my work. See what this triggers for you.

Our stories can limit our beliefs and rob us of reps

In an earlier blog, From the Gym to the Classroom,  I explored a connection I made from a TrainUgly video regarding how repetitions are important to internalizing skills. Sports coaches know that practice time is precious and work to maximize the number of reps that players can gain from a practice session. As classroom teachers and teacher coaches we must consider the same issue. How much time are learners spending engaged in the actions that will advance learning/performance? How much of the PLC time were teachers engaged in actions that advance their learning?

Stories from others or ourselves tend to influence our growth or fixed mindset. When my fixed mindset filters an opportunity in front of me, I may choose to avoid a chance to increase my practice of a skill because my story says it isn’t of any use. “I won’t get better.” For our students, this may mean selecting a project to complete that stays in their area of past success and avoiding a project that pushes them to practice a challenging skill. Teachers may avoid “attempting” a new instructional strategy because a story illustrates, “I haven’t had success with things like that in the past.”

Check this video, Rethinking Giftedness, for an illustration of the negative impact of stories.

“When students are led to believe they are gifted, or they have a “math brain” or they are “smart” and later struggle, that struggle is absolutely devastating. Students who grow up thinking that they have a special brain often drop out of STEM subjects when they struggle. At that time students start to believe they were not, after all, gifted, or that the gift has “run out” as one of the students in our film reflects.”

What are the stories that the rest of the students in a class internalize when the “gifted” students leave the room for their “gifted learning time?”

Two thoughts emerge for me as I consider applying this thought about stories. First, how do I as a coach help create stories for educators that reinforce that repetitions of working on challenging goals for students’ success positively impacts their growth as teachers? Secondly, how do I trigger my consciousness to identify when I am about to miss a learning opportunity because I’m listening to a fixed mindset story, and choose to take on a repetition of action that can increase my development?

Think like a scientist. Outcomes are serious but not personal.

Trevor describes the value of having goals that drive our effort while understanding that when results come up short it is an indication of a process problem. The plan or strategy didn’t work rather than “I am a failure.” Our ego is often at play when we personalize the results. That ego may prevent us from tackling a challenge and playing it safe instead. I recently was reviewing PLC goals with a building principal and found one PLC set a goal that “all the students will show progress.”  That’s a goal that is rather safe. Compare that to a PLC that identifies students’ current level of achievement and sets a year’s growth as a goal for each. Perhaps more than a year’s growth for some students who are behind grade level. As that PLC gathers assessment data during the year, students who are not on target to reach their goal indicate the need to alter the instructional plans. They are asking the question, “What are we learning from the process that isn’t working? How will that learning be helpful in our next approach?”

Our ego can cause us to view challenges as threats rather than opportunities. Sometimes a staff developer who is organizing a learning session for coaching that I will facilitate has difficulty finding volunteers to be coached by myself and the participants. This is an opportunity that few teachers have, to receive input from a team of colleagues. A great opportunity to learn and grow…. lost because the ego said, ”play it safe.”

Practice a growth mindset to develop a growth mindset. Teach a growth mindset by modelling it.

Implementing a growth mindset to help maximize learning is like gaining other skills. It takes practice….reps. Consciously setting goals and tackling new challenges even when my ego says, “at this point in your career its ok to play it safe,” is important. Every now and then I’ll get a call asking me to tackle a project unlike my ongoing work. As I consider out loud, ”I don’t think I need to do this”,  my conscious (my partner Michelle) says, ”this sounds like a great OPPORTUNITY.” I know she is right. Its great to have a coach. My grand-daughter, Zoey. is a 10 year- old competitive swimmer. She dismisses ego to practice and compete with older students because she sees the OPPORTUNITY to grow. Its great to have a model.

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One Response to “ Coaching: Athletes, Students, Teachers ”

  1. Jan VanGilder Says:

    Lots of great food for thought! The “giftedness” thing is a concern I have had for years! There are many way for learners to grow their gift(s).

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Steve Barkley

For the past 35 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…