For sports fans, the fall season is like no other.  From hockey, to football, to baseball playoffs, it’s definitely a time to look at new team dynamics, or reap the rewards of a dynamic team.

There is a lot of ‘new’ this time of year.

While watching a game over the weekend, I perused my Student Work Study (SWS) supposition.   My team and I have been invited to share, with colleagues, our learning over the past year.  I hadn’t read it since the end of June – intentionally.

‘Coaching Students Through Learning’:    

“What do we do when we don’t know what to do?……………….What I hope to communicate is what unfolded through the movement of this learning journey – the need for understanding the impact of the teacher-student relationship through co-learning.  The tensions of teacher voice and student voice continue to ignite opportunities for co-regulation.  If we are to think differently, and better understand students, through pedagogical documentation, we must look deeply at how learning is socially interconnected and complex – how we as educators navigate our own tensions in learning as we seek to understand that of our students.  To help students develop, to become responsible citizens, through academic achievement and well-being, we must strategically coach students along the way.  We need to reimagine effective teaching as effective coaching.”

For teachers, September is much like the ‘pre-season’ of the school year – there is a range of ‘new’ including school, classroom, grade, initiatives, colleagues, administration, superintendents, and for some, on the last day of the month, a new team roster.  Change in education is anything but ‘new’, and yet, much of the dialogue recently has centred around this notion of the ‘new normal’.

I must admit, I don’t digest this phrase very easily.

In light of all the changes, at the school, and system level, I wonder if what we name as ‘new normal’ is simply ‘change’, and how the post-season turns out is very much interdependent among all players, coaches, and management along the way.

This past month I have immersed myself in conversation, trying to really listen and observe how people navigate change differently.  What DO people do when they don’t know what to do?  The common thread, and often times the coping mechanism, seems to be the conversation itself.  Colleagues are talking, and coaching one another through the changes, the tensions, the despair, as well as the hope and possibilities.  Sometimes, the conversation sparks a ‘new idea’ rather than sitting in the complacency of the ‘new normal’.  This is where effective leadership intersects, almost magically, with professional teacher autonomy.  These conversations often begin with ‘what if’ rather than ‘I can’t’.

I revisited the consolidation piece of my supposition, comparing and connecting various coaching roles in different contexts…

Professional sports:

“The International Ice Hockey Federation summarizes the ‘role of coach’ under the following three headings: “coach as leader, coach as teacher, and coach as organizer.”

The Ministry’s definition of Literacy Coach in 2007:

“…coaches must learn what to pay attention to, and how to interact with teachers’ statements, beliefs, and instructional behavior.”

Growing Success (p.12):

“…the Living Skills expectations in the health and physical education curriculum serve as a good example. These expectations are designed to help students develop a positive sense of self, use coping and management skills, monitor their own progress, develop and maintain healthy relationships, and use critical and creative thinking processes as they set goals, make decisions, and solve problems.

Student artifact/documentation:

“I have had many experiences working on a team as part of my high school athletic program.  As a member of my sports teams I understand what it means to be a part of something larger than yourself and how to work with a group to accomplish a shared goal.”

When I have the privilege of running into former students, the conversation is usually focused on one of two things:

  • funny moments (we laughed A LOT)
  • game-changing moments (individual/group/team ‘pep talks’ that made an impact)

I don’t believe teachers need to play, watch, or even like sports to be effective educators, but I do believe there is something to consider in looking at skills that develop when we are ‘a part of something greater than ourselves’, in the classroom and beyond.  The nuances of effective coaching, in any learning circle, not only improves the game of an individual, but ups the energy and ability of everyone on the team.

My final thought in my supposition includes a reflection, stating one of the many things I learned from students during our time together last year:

“They taught me about resiliency.  They taught me that we all need a coach.”

But I don’t think that’s anything new…

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