a terrible thought
It began after one of those difficult days in the classroom. I was again brought to the realization that the kids had not been able to retain the fantastical knowledge i bestowed upon them a week prior. I began to wonder what I am actually doing here at this middle school. I thought, “hey John, you’re a dedicated, empathetic individual. You love this teaching thing, but maybe this is not teaching. Maybe I am not the teacher I thought I was.” That thought brought me down even further. I tried to banish it from my mind, but it kept popping up.
I kept thinking, how on Earth can I be expected to properly teach my kids with one 45 minute segment a week!?!
I struggled for a few days until serendipity struck and the great Alex Walsh (@alexswalsh) posted a tweet on twitter. It went something like, “Wondering if I am a teacher or a coach, hope I am a coach”.
“HEY!,” I thought, “DUH! that’s just it. I AM NOT A TEACHER! I am a coach!”
Immediately the weight personal expectation was lifted from my shoulders. I was able to view what i do from a different prism. It reinvigorated what I do, and how I do it.
The more I have thought about the distinction between teacher and coach the more applicable I find it to the ESL classroom.
Now, I’d like to say right here, that I by no means am trying to imply we ESL teachers do not teach. On the contrary! We do much more! A teacher gives information to a student. A coach helps the student use said information. A coach guides the student through the process of acquiring a new skill. A coach finds exciting, new, fun, interesting, intriguing methods to drill those skills.
A good coach finds ways to mask the drilled repetition of skills learners need to attain mastery. Anyone who has played under a bad coach knows just how quickly a sport you love can become a tedious, onerous task.
A good coach remembers that new skills need to be integrated with old ones.
A good coach knows their learners strengths and weakness and finds ways to challenge them in their weaker areas.
A good coach knows when to push and when to empathize.
A good coach realizes that the pathway to mastery is not straight, but winding.
With these realizations I no longer worry about HOW MUCH, of what I bestow, my students remember. I concentrate on what they CAN DO. I help them remember what they could do before, and find drills that will pique their interest. This, in turn, keeps them motivated through the practice necessary to cement the new skills being practiced. I concentrate on feedback. By raising awareness of where they are lacking and making sure to acknowledge their achievements, motivation remains.This process also creates the necessary bond and space for learners to feel confident to branch out into the skills they are not yet comfortable with.
My paycheck may say teacher, but I know I am a coach. What are you?