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From the Court to the Classroom: Transforming Teachers into Champions

June 2, 2024

During my 10 years as a teacher, I held a pretty negative view of "coaches"—and I wasn't alone. We saw them as the folks enjoying hour-long lunches and bragging they didn’t have many responsibilities. We felt their role was pointless and believed that hiring more teachers would lighten our classroom loads. Plus, being the messengers for the administration didn’t exactly help their cause. Many coaches openly admitted they loved their roles because it allowed them to escape the classroom, and they saw it as a stepping stone to administration.

Had you asked me earlier in my career if I wanted to become an instructional coach, my answer would’ve been a hard "NO." I was hesitant about stepping into this role because of the negative impressions I had. I couldn't see myself in that position, and it certainly wasn’t my dream job. But my mindset has completely shifted now. I’ve committed to being the complete opposite of what I saw and have brought my whistle into the classroom so here’s my story and how I’ve embraced “coaching.”

Embracing the Coach’s Role

My background in athletics played a huge part in my mindset moving forward as an instructional coach. I've always been involved in sports and coaching and to me, a coach is someone who teaches, builds relationships, and lets their players shine during game time. I adopted this mindset as an instructional coach. This past year, there were so many “news” in my life—new state, new role, new district—but I kept my mindset grounded. When I stepped in between “those 4 lines,” I wore my whistle, took my clipboard, and drew up a practice plan each and every single day. I wanted my teachers to feel the same level of support and preparation that I gave my athletes.

Building Relationships and Trust

The first step was to build trust. I wanted my teachers to feel valued and understood. This foundation made it easier to introduce new teaching techniques gradually. Instead of overwhelming them, I focused on incremental learning, demonstrating how these methods could be effectively applied in their classrooms. I aimed to build strong relationships with my teachers, showing them I genuinely care and will be there to support them. For instance, I would take time to have one-on-one conversations with them, listening to their concerns and ideas. From there, I started teaching them gradually, demonstrating how they could apply new techniques with their students. My approach was always collaborative, ensuring they felt part of a team working towards a common goal.

Hands-On Practice

Just like in sports, practice is crucial. We practiced using new tools and techniques together with the students. I was right there with them in the classroom, offering support and guidance. This hands-on approach helped build their confidence. Watching their progress was incredibly rewarding, much like seeing athletes improve and succeed. Teachers expressed how they loved that I wasn’t afraid to co-teach with them. They found it reassuring to have support during the most frightening part of introducing new technology: the fear of something going wrong and no one being there to help. This collaboration eased their anxiety and allowed them to focus on engaging their students. One of my favorite moments was seeing a teacher successfully implement a new strategy we had worked on together. She was so thrilled with the results that she ran down the hallway to share the news with two other teachers, first asking if I could watch her students of course. Her excitement and the positive response from the students reminded me why I chose this path.

Game Time

When my teachers felt ready, it was game time. They took the lead in their classrooms, applying what they had learned. I remained on the sidelines, always available for support and encouragement. If things didn’t go as planned, we could call a "time out" to reassess and refine our approach. This ongoing support was vital, ensuring they knew I was there to help whenever needed. I remember one teacher who struggled with a particular lesson. We took a "time out," reviewed the plan, and made necessary adjustments. Seeing her regain confidence and successfully deliver the lesson was incredibly fulfilling.

Grab Your Clipboard

Being an instructional coach isn't far removed from being a sports coach. Both roles involve teaching, building relationships, and empowering others to succeed. By approaching instructional coaching with the same mindset I used in sports, I created a supportive and effective learning environment for my teachers. They knew I was there for them, ready to cheer them on and provide guidance when needed. This approach transformed my perception of the role and helped me become the coach I always aspired to be. Now, I encourage anyone stepping into a coaching role to grab their clipboard, embrace their inner coach, and transform their team into champions.