I continue to return for focused re-reading of sections from a New Yorker article by Atul Gawande entitled, “Personal Best.” The article is a deep, personal reflection and contemplation of the power of coaching – employing a trusted mentor to provide “outside eyes and ears” in order to improve one’s performance. Gawande makes the point that many professional athletes utilize coaches; however, most of the other professions fail to use coaches at a systemic level. His reflection, as a surgeon committed to improving in his art and science, provides a compelling look at how we all would benefit from targeted coaching and a commitment to the growth mindset.
This morning, I wonder if TEAM TEACHING is such a favorable and valuable experience because of the aspect of co-coaching that can happen when educators team up to guide a classroom of learners. I team teach with Jill Gough. We team teach Synergy 8, and we co-facilitate many of the PLC efforts at our school. We also provide PD for schools and organizations around the country. We continuously coach one another, and I know I learn immeasurably from the debriefs and post-activity reflections that we commit to completing. Recently, I have also watched Clark Meyer and Peyten Dobbs engage team teaching for two, combined sections of Writing Workshop: Environmental Studies. And just yesterday, I heard a teacher new to our school say that she had combined classes with another teacher, and they were likely never to go back to single sections – they were learning so much from each other, and they were seeing so much enhanced learning for the students, now able to learn with two, interactive guides.
In challenging economic times even, I will continue to make the case that schools should do everything they can to provide job-embedded team time for teachers, as well as opportunities for team teaching. Gawande summarizes why…
Coaching done well may be the most effective intervention designed for human performance.
And the existence of a coach requires an acknowledgment that even expert practitioners have significant room for improvement. (p.9)
From Bill Ferriter on same NY article: (used to strengthen PLC)
As you point out, professional athletes are excellent examples of people striving to get better, but knowing the edge is pushed when you have an insightful and knowledgeable coach. When have seen this played out in golf with athletes like Tiger Woods. He is looking for the small changes in his swing, or sometimes significant changes, that can push him to play golf a little better. He will change coaches to get that slight edge. I assume he changes coaches because a particular coach may run out of ideas or their relationship might change such that the coach isn’t successful reaching him. But for the most part, these athletes don’t improve on their own, at least in sports where the individual is competing against all the other athletes in his or her sport.
I think the parallels you draw with team teaching are interesting. And while I see the connections and the value of team teaching, I wonder where the parallels to the athlete-coach start and end. I think the coach has to be brutally honest with the player, no holes barred. Tactful yes, but not hold back concerns that may keep the athlete from improving. In a team teaching situation if the teachers are friends or colleagues can they be “brutally” honest with one another. If so, then each may grow significantly in their relationship. If they cannot be, it is possible that each will stay rooted in their own limited sense of what good teaching might look like in that situation.
I may be making this more intellectual than it needs to be because I follow and agree with the core of what you posted. I guess my thought is that the coach needs to be in a position to see the other, watch the other carefully, and be given permission to share insights into the other person’s work. If those conditions are in place then team teaching is like coaching.
Thanks for sharing this insight.
I think the final quotation you include from Gawande is a central and guiding idea going froward in schools.