Monday, October 11, 2004

Learning from great coaches.

Missing from the educational debate the past decade has been valuing the importance of the artistry of the teacher.

Our Minister of Education has just caught up with the idea, but it's better late than never. As well, the unwieldy curriculums, which were once the Ministries 'pride and joy', and a source of great frustration to teachers, are away being mutated into an emphasis on 'key competencies' or 'learning how to learn'. A little like 'back to the future' for creative teachers?

The artistry of a great teacher has much in common with that of a great coach. The metaphor of a teacher as a 'creative learning coach' isn't a bad one.

Great coaches help their 'students' visualize the outcome of what it is they want to achieve. They do their best to get the students to focus on the present and to put out of their minds previous failures or thoughts of failure. Negative thinking interferes with learning and can 'talk' people out of trying.

By helping the student visualize a positive outcome and also by asking them how they would feel if they achieved it, they help the learner create a positive mind set. They also ask students, how they felt when they last achieved something that worked out well in the past, to remind them of the motivation of feeling confident and that 'it can be done'.

They then provide focused practice based on observed needs ( starting with the easier aspects to improve). They begin to 'grow' a sense of success by giving positive feedback , guidance and encouragement. As the song goes they 'accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.'

Young students, in the right environment learn from an early age to believe in themselves. A lack of this belief, in regard to school learning, may well be the real source of the 'achievement gap' that is the Ministries current mission. Learners who a held up by high expectations of both home and school can handle setbacks/ mistakes up as natural events to learn from.

Coaches, not only build up physical strength but also develop mental strength. Finally all the training must enable students to make instant decisions in the heat of playing or competing - or learning. Coaches train their students to focus on the present ( not on what went wrong last time), to focus on what the learner can control and not be distracted by things out of their control. This is the true discipline of a focused learner or sports-person.

Coaches also help their players work together as a team and to balance individuality with mutual obligations. A sense of community and belonging is vital to develop 'peak ' performers or learners. Winning cannot be assured but players are encouraged to give it their 'best shot' ( 'personal best') and to balance the tensions between an ideal result and reality. And no matter the result, be thinking about how to do better 'next time'.

A great coach is a great teacher - and vice versa!

No comments: