Yes, Even You Need a Coach

This month here at Onward we are exploring the habit: Be a Learner. In Chapter 9 of Onward, Elena Aguilar acknowledges context and looks at the conditions for learning.

Anders Ericsson developed the theory that is takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become a master at something. The adjective deliberate is key here. Practice alone doesn’t necessarily work, and as Elena shares “practice alone doesn’t make perfect. Practice with feedback, correction, and refinement helps you get better – there’s no such thing as perfect.”

Because of this, people at all levels of our educational system need coaches. “Coaches facilitate practice, create opportunities for feedback, cultivate self-reflection, and provide guidance so that we don’t keep repeating the same ineffective actions year after year.” And yet often in our systems only new teachers or maybe those on improvement plans get coaches. Why not everyone? Does the superintendent of your organization have a coach? What about all the central office and site administrators? Imagine an organization where this was the case. An organization where people at all levels of the system were practicing with feedback, correction, and refinement.

Having been in education my entire career, I often think it helps to step away from education to see how the rest of the world operates. Early in my coaching career, I came across the work of Atul Gawande, the surgeon who talks about the need for coaching. In Personal Best: Top athletes and singers have coaches. Should you? Gawande shares his personal experience from the operating room of having a coach observe and give him feedback. He also shared his work on the TED stage in Want to Get Great at Something? Get a Coach. In this talk he shares the power of coaching: “I saw a team transform because of coaching. And at least one life saved because of coaching!”

Do you have a coach? Does your system advocate for coaches? Imagine the students in a classroom of a teacher who has a coach. A teacher who is getting feedback and working on refining his/her practice. Imagine your next faculty meeting being led by administrators who have coaches. Imagine an organization that values a learner mindset.

Go now and create that organization!