Like so many thousands of other Americans, I have found myself at the gym quite a bit in this first month of a new year. exercising with more intention and focus. I even decided to work with a personal trainer for the first time in my life. Yesterday my trainer and I were chatting as I warmed up at the ridiculous hour of 5:00 a.m., and since it was our first session, she asked me what I do. Ever since I began this job as an instructional coach, I have struggled to answer this question because coaching is so unfamiliar to most people. For the past sixteen years the answer has been easy: I'm a teacher. But now I hesitate and begin, "Well, I've always been an English teacher, but now I'm an instructional coach."
And then it hits me, like the weight of the medicine ball she hands me, that I am sort of like a personal trainer. Under the best circumstances, a trainer and her client are both there because they believe the experience will be beneficial, that the client has goals and wants support to reach them, that the trainer will do all she can to support her client in reaching those goals, and the client will feel stronger because of the work she has done with the trainer. The trainer will also learn from the experience. Under those same best circumstances, a coach and a teacher will work together through a similar process.
In my first meeting with the trainer she asked me what my goals were, what sorts of exercise I enjoy, and what time of day would be the best for me to meet her. She explained that we'd work together once a week and that she'd write out instructions for my workouts throughout the week for me to do on my own. So her role was to create an effective set of workouts for me, model the exercises, and encourage me through the hard parts.
Sounds a lot like what Jim Knight taught us at the Instructional Coaching Institute a few months ago: people will not work toward someone else's goals, coaches should expect to learn something from everyone, and we must be respectful of people's learning styles. As coaches, we must listen to the teachers to learn what their goals are, understand how they most want to engage in a coaching partnership, and model/guide/encourage all the way. If only we could burn calories while we do it, too.
from Todd William