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huge amount has changed since 1997, a year in which: Tony Blair was elected PM with a
landslide victory, ending 18 years of hurt for the Labour Party; Hong Kong was returned to China
and Steve Jobs returned to a financially troubled company called Apple.
In that same year, a 22 year old me graduated from Cambridge University with a 2.1 in
Economics, missing a 1st by 0.5% (I’ve let it go now!) and entered the ‘real’ world. After 16 years
in the very ‘unreal’ world of professional sport as both a player and a coach I returned to
education this year as a Teacher of Economics at Eastbourne College.
Teaching and coaching are about the same thing… making connections
With my first seven weeks in the new job behind me, half term has given me the opportunity to
both catch my breath and reflect on what has been an awesome few weeks.
I’ve laughed (a lot), cried (a few times…only tears of happiness), made friends (for life), said ‘I
love my job’ (way too many times) and drank a mere three cups of coffee. The break has also
given me a chance to clarify some of my learning as a teacher and how it could make a real
difference in the world of coaching.
This article allows you the opportunity to self-reflect by answering each of the questions as
honestly as possible. I guess it’s up to you to find the solutions.
1. How are YOU getting better as a coach?
In the last six weeks, I have observed six first-class teachers teach their subject. In all honesty, it
was like watching six world-class coaches deliver a session and having an opportunity to discuss
their coaching philosophy afterwards. There were no egos whatsoever, just humility and a thirst
for feedback. We are all playing for the same team and sharing good practice is essential.
There were no egos, just humility and a thirst for feedback
Sitting through a German lesson (I speak no German at all!) and watching the connection
between teacher and student, seeing that engagement, observing the teaching process in its
purest form and following the learning journey reminded me how important this aspect is for
anyone wanting to get better in their chosen field. It’s definitely worth asking, what am I doing to
get better today?
2. Do you believe in EVERY single one of your players?
Application of Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset is much more apparent in the classroom
than on the pitch. How many players are put in a box: “_ is too small”; “_ is talented” and “_ will
never be able to tackle!” Do you believe in people, have high expectations and challenge and
support them through the hard work and perseverance necessary for success?
3. To what extent do you DIFFERENTIATE within a session?
Teaching and coaching are about the same thing… making connections. Connecting with people
and helping those people connect with their subject (be it Economics or Rugby) is our purpose.
In the classroom, teaching the individual and not the class is key and differentiation a necessity.
Do you want every single person to fulfill his or her potential both in and beyond the classroom?
Do you believe one size does will fit all?
4. How do you check for UNDERSTANDING?
In professional sport, the only real true test of understanding is on game day. In the classroom,
carefully designed plenaries allow us to check this in a variety of different ways and under a
variety of different conditions.
Generation Y (or is it Z yet?) necessitate factoring in self-reliance
Does every session you coach have a purpose to focus attention and a plenary to check
progress? P.S. every coach should read ‘Inside the Black Box’.
5. Could you be LESS helpful?
Generation Y (or is it Z yet?) necessitate factoring in self-reliance, independent and critical
thinking in the classroom. Dan Meyer’s fabulous TED lecture ‘Math Class Needs a Makeover’
shows how easy it is for us to be ‘too helpful’. It’s a fine line in the classroom where we are
judged ultimately on exam results in much the same way we are judged on on-pitch results in the
sports arena. Are you developing people capable of thinking for themselves and having a
purpose beyond winning? Will that guarantee you the outcomes you desire?
The main reason I ask these questions of myself is that it is very easy to be comfortable when
you think you’re pretty good at what you do. It’s also very easy for you to challenge those around
to look in the mirror and improve. How often do you do that yourself? How often could you do
that? What are you going to do about it? When are you planning on starting? Why not now? Yes
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