By Teaching Stories – Old and New (online, annual magazine for teachers) – August 2022 – Cătălina Cocan

To coach or not to coach? This is the question that many teachers ask themselves when talking about the need to acquire coaching skills to enhance students’ performance in their learning process.
I would like to share my story to help teachers answer this question.

When I was a teenager, those who knew me would have not bet a penny to see me in a profession which would have involved giving presentations, leading teams, negotiating in public meetings, and making strategic decisions. I was very shy. However, I had dreams of being more confident. I had visions of myself as a successful woman but was struggling to be able to make it real. Then, along the path of my professional life as teacher first and educational manager later, I came across the practice of coaching and my life changed.

This life event made me think, “what if I had known about these coaching strategies when I was younger? Would my objectives have been easier to reach?”. Coaching has played a fundamental role in my life because it helped me to reach my full potential. We, as teachers, also have this power: we can make a significant impact on our students’ performance and ensure they maximize their talents.
So, what can we do to fulfil this mission? As language teachers, we aim at giving our students everything they need to achieve a high level of language competence. But being a successful student is not just about knowledge. It’s about being able to perform as responsible citizens, to communicate effectively, to think critically and to creatively find solutions and opportunities. We should be able to support our students to enhance the life skills that are needed, no matter what their life journey will be outside our classrooms.

So, what can we do to enhance our students’ competencies? The answer is integrating coaching techniques in our teaching.

But what is coaching? ICF, the International Coaching Federation, defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership. We all have goals we want to reach, challenges we’re striving to overcome and times when we feel stuck. Partnering with a coach can change your life, setting you on a path to greater personal and professional fulfilment”.

As teachers we should experience a shift in our techniques and methodologies. We should investigate the differences, and similarities, between teaching and coaching to facilitate this shift. We should analyse
the kind of actions that a teacher performs in the classroom as opposed to coaching.
A teacher teaches, explains, marks, supports, asks questions, gives answers, assesses. A coach guides, supports, asks questions, set goals. The actions are similar. However, there is a difference that is the way coaches support their coachees. It’s the “how”. It’s using “powerful questioning techniques”. It’s supporting the coachee without giving the coach’s personal view and input. It’s about creating a relationship where coachees have the responsibility for their development.
Similarly, effective teachers are able to create a trustworthy environment. They are active listeners, they show interest in what the student says or thinks thanks to their questioning skill. They are empathetic and are able to create a good relationship with their students. A kind of relationship which becomes more like a partnership, one in which both sides, the teacher and the student, work together to reach a goal and where the teacher’s role is to guide the student to explore possibilities and to empower them to find their way.

You may than argue, should all teachers become qualified coaches? The answer is no, or not necessary. What they need is to master some coaching techniques that they can apply in their classroom. And a miracle, a true miracle will happen.
In fact, the benefits of mastering coaching techniques are numerous. First of all, coaching empowers teachers to become better in their profession. The reason for this is that the teacher becomes more aware of the developmental process which lays behind coaching itself and is able to apply it for themselves and for their students. The teacher becomes more aware of what is most significant for their students.
Applying coaching techniques in the classroom also develops a mindset for success. The students become more aware of their objectives and are able to better focus on their strengths rather than on their weaknesses.

Coaching practices will support teachers to investigate on the “how” they teach and “how” their students learn and will teach them to give constructive and positive feedback. As a result, students will have an opportunity to reflect and develop.

This, and more, is what you can give your students if you acquire coaching techniques.
If these inputs resonate with you, you will now be able to answer the opening question of this article and you will start investigating the world of coaching, as a magic world of opportunities.
If you decide to integrate coaching techniques in your teaching methodology, you will become a teacher coach and you will be the sparkle of change.