Coaching--A Difference Between Life and Death?

I posted this back in January, and wanted to make sure that I sent it out again at the beginning of the year, when there's an empty slate and lots of work to be done. Gawande makes a great case for the importance of having a coach by your side.

Instructional coaching trailblazer, Jim Knight posted the video below to Twitter not too long ago.  (If you watch it first, then read this, it will probably be a better read.)  I'd read Gawande's New Yorker article a while back, as that had been recommended to me by another coach in my Instructional Coaching PLC (ICPLC).  While the article and TED talk are singing the same song, the video powerfully illustrates the difference coaching makes.  Doctors have the blessing and curse of being the people into whose hands we transmit our lives when they become fragile.  As such, doctors also come away with some very affecting narratives out of those experiences.

While I watched the TED talk, I found myself thinking about how often teachers are compared to doctors (usually in the sense of showing the disparity of respect that our profession receives)  As I viewed Dr. Gawande's talk, I found myself considering whether or not he and his group of coaches had gone into the birthing ward of the hospital by the request of the staff, or by his perceived need as per observation in the ward.  Either way, he was able to help those nurses and doctors develop methodical and careful care in their ward.

The point in my bringing this up, is that as I've been working as a coach, I've been working within a coaching model that is strength-based, which means that I work with teachers to use their talents to help them develop stronger, self-aware practice--or as we often say in coaching, "capacity."  One thing that was not included in the Gawande talk, or the New Yorker article, was the way in which he and his team actually coached the ward nurses.

In our ICPLC recently, our Director of Instruction recapped the history of our model (I should come back to this in another post, as it seems that each coaching team seems to have a variations of various models) and how we work with teachers on a request/non-required basis.  It's up to the teacher to commit to improvement, or reach out when they want to implement something new in their classrooms.

It seems then, that it is up to a teacher, in a strength-based model, to be self-aware enough to know when they need that boost that comes from working with a coach, whereas in a deficit-based, or corrective model, it is up to the administrators to send in the coaches, as if they were performing triage on those teachers who are viewed as deficient.  Different schools/districts have their own reasons for implementing either model type.  But when I look at Gawande's personal drive toward having a coach, I see someone who is working from the assumption that there is always something to learn, and the more he's aware of his work, and its quality, the better he is going to feel about himself and how he serves his peers and patients.

To close, I believe that teachers too, are people into whose hands we transmit our children's lives, which are fragile by nature.  At times, they may be the person/people who see a child the most, even more than parents.  I recently recorded a podcast with a former colleague, and she told me how she gives birthday pencils out to the kids.  She told me that something that small, can make a huge difference.  She's had more than one student say to her, "You know, you're the only person who's wished me a happy birthday."  She's a high school teacher.  The kids are affected by how we relate to them, and sometimes it's easy to forget that.  So, in a way, we too, as educators bear the same responsibilities as doctors.