By definition, coaching can happen in many different forms: “train or instruct,” “give extra or private teaching,”“teach as a coach,” or “prompt or urge with instructions” (Oxford Languages Dictionary). However, when coaching is generally thought of, sports, not school leadership, comes to mind. Yet, I would argue that some of the best philosophies of instructional coaching that school administrators can borrow come from coaches in the sports world.
Take for example this quote from John Wooden, a 10-time NCAA championship winning coach from UCLA: “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”
So how do you avoid creating resentment amongst your teachers and staff while coaching them to success? Ease into coaching conversations by inquiring about the individual and their needs as well as celebrating their areas of strength prior to getting into the heavy lifting of coaching.
As you delve further into coaching conversations, this reminder from Bobby Knight, one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history with a record 902 career victories, should be kept at the forefront of your mind and practice: “A coach should never be afraid to ask questions of anyone he could learn from.”
Short questions like, “And what else?” or phrases like, “Tell me more” go a long way in coaching conversations. The more questions you ask of your teachers and staff, the more of an understanding that you will gain. The more understanding that you gain, the better you will be able to pinpoint how you can support and lead them to success.
A large portion of what we often believe are coaching conversations culminate as lectures or chats with an instructional focus. To avoid this pitfall, one can take note from Vince Lombardi, the famed NFL coach who led the Green Bay Packers to five championships: “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect,” and Pat Summitt, who coached her women’s college basketball squad to eight NCAA championships: “Most people get excited about games, but I’ve got to be excited about practice because that’s my classroom.”
Coaching is not just telling people what to do but working with them via practice to refine the “art” of their teaching or overall skills. However, not just any practice will do. You must be willing to lead your teachers and staff in repetitive practice that emphasizes improving key teaching and practice moves every single time.
In the end, if you take no other coaching advice with you into your instructional leadership, take this: “A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.”- John Wooden.
TEPSA member, Kadoria Burgess is a passionate and equity-focused, Assistant Principal in Fort Worth ISD. She loves student and teacher learning, being a lead-learner, and an instructional coach, which happens to be her previous instructional role.