The Gift of Coaching | Everyone Deserves a Coach | Steve Barkley

The Gift of Coaching

I benefited from instructional and peer coaching before I had heard the terms. My teacher preparation program and my initial teaching roles were built around team models that had formal and informal coaching conversations built into the organizational structure. When I first began consulting with teachers in other schools, I was surprised to find working in isolation to be the common practice. More puzzling was teachers’ belief that the breaking of that isolation was an infringement rather than a gift.

In 1982, Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers wrote The Coaching of Teachers, which included a comparison of coaching athletes with coaching teachers. This statement reinforced my view that we all deserve a coach:

Perhaps the most striking difference in training athletes and teachers is their initial assumptions. Athletes do not believe that mastery will be achieved quickly or easily. They understand that enormous effort results in small increments of change. We on the other hand have often behaved as though teaching skills were so easily acquired that a simple presentation, one-day workshop, or single-videotaped demonstration were sufficient to ensure successful classroom performance. To the extent that we have communicated this message to teachers we have probably misled them. Learning to use an inductive strategy for the learning of concepts is probably at least as difficult as learning to throw a block properly.

At times the phrase “everyone needs a coach” has been used to communicate to teachers why they should engage in coaching with an instructional coach or peer. I have found I am able to generate a more exploratory conversation with the approach that everyone deserves a coach.  The following short video was designed to engage teachers in considering how coaching is a gift that they deserve. You might share it during a staff or PLC meeting and encourage teachers to share where they deserve coaching that they currently are not receiving and how it might be gained.

I’d appreciate your feedback, thoughts and questions.


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8 Responses to “ The Gift of Coaching ”

  1. Maddy Hewitt Says:

    We all deserve a coach! Thanks for sharing the abundance (not deficit) model, and for providing the good-to-great inspiration by illustrating the ‘learning dip.’

    Clear, helpful, inspiring.

  2. Emily Sargent-Beasley Says:

    Thank you for opening with the quote from Joyce and Showers, “Perhaps the most striking difference in training athletes and teachers is their initial assumptions. Athletes do not believe that mastery will be achieved quickly or easily. They understand that enormous effort results in small increments of change…” and ending with a reminder that our hard work is worth it because our students deserve us at our best.

  3. Gaby Morales Says:

    When you mentioned in your video that skilled teachers are the ones that need a coach the most, instead of the new teachers, I was left with a void after your explanation. Especially because you went into talking about being in a dip and the coach being the one helping you to get from now to later.
    But then at the end of the video, you filled my void when you said: you deserve someone to support you to get from good to better.
    Being a teacher is a path of continuous learning for everybody (or at least it should be), regardless of the amount of years you’ve been teaching. I agree with your ideas, I am just still not sure why you think that the most skilled teachers are the ones who need coaching the most.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  4. Steve Barkley Says:


    Again it is that most skilled teachers deserve the coaching vs need the coaching. In addition when highly effective teachers model the value of being coached it sets an important culture for a school, countering a deficit model of coaching. Also those coaching outstanding teachers are learning from what they observe. Sharing exciting learning that is happening in one’s classroom is a reward we should all receive. Continuous teachers growth for continuous student growth.

  5. Amy Says:

    I love that you mention teachers deserve to celebrate and come out of isolation. I truly believe that knowledge and experience gained is never meant to stay with one person. We need to share and spread what we know and keep it circulating. There is always something new to learn and add to our toolboxes.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Janie Says:

    Great short clip and with our district bringing on new coaches for middle schools I will for sure use this! Not only is it great practice to start with the best teachers but that’s embedded PD for those new coaches. As I was contemplating how to support these new coaches I went to my resources and brought out all my notes / books from the training I had with you – both in Hershey Pa and at home in WV ! You do it best !

  7. Tresa Murphy Says:

    I love the idea of celebrating and breaking isolation! I always welcome opportunities to team teach and recently I had a very rewarding experience of teaching with a colleague on a weekly basis and sharing students over the course of a few months. At the end of each session we would go over our perception of what went well, what we could improve, how our students were doing, etc. It was always very stimulating to compare our views and to work together. On one occasion, I really had a great teaching moment and my colleague was saying that I was “on fire!”. She noticed and loved how I used a closing circle to reflect on the learning of the day and connect with learning goals. We were constantly celebrating each other, supporting and pushing ourselves to best serve our students. Coaching should and can be like this! We all DESERVE a coach!

  8. Chester Garber Says:

    Thanks for this, Steve. Your third point about being conscious about our practice resonated for me. We are in a funny place in the professional world; although there is a body of knowledge about how to be effective educators, we are tempted to emphasize personal style or preferences over evidence.

    If a patient were about to go under anaesthesia for kidney surgery, and the doctor mentioned, “There’s a lot of evidence regarding how to do this surgery effectively, but it doesn’t really fit my style, so I like doing something different,” the patient would be justified at that point in asking for a little clarification.

    Being conscious about our practice requires a teacher to always improve by thoughtfully examining a body of knowledge that can and should inform our practice. With this in place, we can improve our practice and create an ever-stronger body of professional pedagogy!

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