Teach, Lead, Coach – Oh my!

So it’s summer vacation time in Teacher-Leader-Coach world, and that means I throw myself into a frenzy of projects I’ve been waiting all school year to do, like get the train running in my train garden, get the t-shirt quilts finished (all 12!!) and hopefully out of my craft room, and get myself back in shape.  Of course, I try to do all those things on the same day for about three days in a row until I’m sunburned, half blind, and sore.  Then I need to rest for a day – and that leads to reflection.  If you’re like me, we teachers never really “turn it off” – we’re always thinking.

I have a hard time doing nothing (just ask my fabulous leadership team), and getting this blog going (and sticking to it) is another goal on my professional list.  So as long as I’m “resting” today, I thought it would be a good time to get going.  My thoughts today have turned to the title of this blog – what brought me here?  Why does it matter to me?  Why might it matter to you?

I’ve always loved learning.  I’ve found over the years that it’s the first ingredient when making a great teacher, leader, or coach – or even just making an interesting person.  I’ve always been fascinated by the process of learning – going from not knowing a thing (and let’s face it – looking like an idiot) to understanding and maybe being able to do it pretty well yourself.  From the perspective of others, it looks like some mystical, alchemical magic straight out of Harry Potter.  From the perspective of the one learning it (me), it just looks like a lot of sweat, swearing, and tears … and maybe some injuries … and a LOT of coffee … and maybe some wine.  But in the end, even I have to admit that the process seems a bit magical when you look back at where you started vs. where you are now.  How did I get here, I wonder.  When did that happen?  Reference that sweat and swearing part.  

So how did I become a teacher? I was playing “school” with Barbie when I was 4, played “school” with the neighborhood kids when I was 10, and was taking myself to “school” when I was 15.  Oddly, I wondered what I was going to be when I grew up.  My grandmother wanted me to be a lawyer, my mom wanted me to get a job that pays, and my dad wanted me to do something that made me happy.  Marriage to an Army officer and two sons detoured me through cow pastures in VT, ruins in Germany, battlefields in VA, snow in WI, and traffic and trees in WA, where through it all I hiked the unmarked trail called “parenting” for seven years.  Eventually, the trail led us to Kansas, where the kids picked up their own educational trails, and I finally embarked on what I’d done for fun when I was 4 – teach.  

Teaching led me to coaching – establishing a Running Club for 5th and 6th graders (and eventually the addition of a second club for 7th and 8th graders) and then, after a decade in the classroom, becoming an instructional coach to teachers.  Like teaching, I love to see folks setting goals, working through the struggles, and achieving a level of success they didn’t really know they could reach.  Unlike teaching, however, I can’t just tell people how to do things; it’s a collaborative process.  Like the learning process itself, it’s an intangible but living thing between coach and client.  Trust, honesty, support, and a lot of emotion goes into creating this new and improved person … and the improvement happens on both sides of the equation.  The best teachers and coaches are the ones who are open to learning from their students and the process of teaching and coaching.  I have yet to walk away from any coaching experience where I didn’t learn something new about myself, coaching in general, AND my client.  That same joy of accomplishment I get from teaching I also get from coaching.  That’s really my payoff – that look on their face when they succeed, and knowing I had some small part in helping them get there.  It’s a powerful rush.

And coaching has led me to leadership.  I got a doctorate in Educational Leadership, and at the end of that learning process (reference that swearing, tears, wine thing again), I discovered that Leadership was really just trying to do the best thing for the organization or group and being willing to take it upon yourself – the good and the bad – to make it happen and get everyone there safely. It means you’re calling the plays and the training – like a coach – and making sure everyone is able to proficiently do what’s being asked of them – like a teacher – in order to win the proverbial game.  Leaders have to be willing to step out in front, model the learning, determination, dedication, or any other -tion out there, that keeps the mission moving forward. You’re still a teacher and a coach – your stage is just bigger, and usually you’re out there by yourself.  (That swearing and wine thing might apply here, too!)

So in the blogs to come, I’m going to take on different topics that spark my interest and suggest how they teach us something about our own work, whether that be in teacher, coach, or leader mode – or if you’re like me, all three at once.  If you find some inspiration, motivation, or just diversion from the daily grind, then mission accomplished for me.  I’m looking forward to the journey!

Until next time …. happy summer project doing!





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