THE TEACHER

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This week I wanted to write about a good friend of mine, Marie, who is a primary school teacher in London. I always find myself drawn into her stories and experiences of teaching and noticed how her principles aligned with those of coaching.

Marie is from Australia. She studied music at university, before going on to train as a music teacher. She was inspired by her saxophone teacher at her own school, who she saw put so much into his lessons and helped her reach her goals quickly, by pushing her to skip grades so she could reach a sufficiently high level of competence before she went to University.

She found that he earned the admiration and respect of his students through his laid-back style and honesty. She also liked the way he didn’t speak down to his students as children, but treated them as adults, as equals. He had a good sense of humour, that helped to build rapport with the students and, ultimately, they could see that he cared and he believed that they could accomplish their goals if they put in the work. She could see that this made the students want to do their best for him.

When I asked Marie about her own experiences of teaching, she lamented on the struggles of not having enough resources, and the challenges of kids who don’t speak English. But when I asked her specifically about her own principles in teaching, she immediately said that she likes to be honest with her kids and treat them as human-beings, not inferior children.

It was remarkable how this was exactly the way she described the teacher that inspired her and she said she was surprised she hadn’t realised this. It was a great example of the positive influence a good teacher can have on someone who then forwards that positive energy on to the next generation. She purposely tells the kids that they are at school to learn to live, how to become adults, and that it is perfectly ok to make mistakes. In fact, she asserts to them that school is the perfect place to make mistakes, so when they go out into the real world, they will hopefully have learned from them. The kids respond well to this, and it forms a foundational purpose to her style.

In relation to this, she also makes an effort to answer all the kids’ questions, no matter how irrelevant to the lesson, and regularly allows the class discussion to go off on tangents. I could see how this gives the children permission and authority to explore their thoughts and ideas in the safe hands of an adult who gives them that permission. This makes them feel important and cared for, especially those, as Marie mentions, who may have unstable lives at home. This policy came from Marie’s own negative experiences as a child of her questions, thoughts and ideas being pushed aside by adults, purely because she was ‘too young’ and not worthy.

I think a lot of us can relate to that.

But another motivation for this style, is that she feels the kids need to know about the real world and she always tries to relate her teaching to things the kids might experience in the adult world.

Just like her saxophone teacher, Marie likes to build rapport with her students through humour and doing fun things with them. But she also wants to get to know them, so that she can tailor her teaching style to their needs.

She says that she finds teaching easy, that it comes naturally to her, which is likely because of the natural joy she gets from seeing her kids grow and develop and make inspirational achievements, through their eagerness to learn.

For example, one of her most rewarding experiences was seeing a Romanian girl join her class unable to speak any English. Within a year, Marie was able to help the girl advance to near-national standard of English-speaking and reading, because, she points out, the girl put so much effort into learning. And when Marie used this experience as a case study to present to other teachers, she was praised because of the way she highlighted what the girl did to reach her goal, rather than what she had done as a teacher. Putting the kids first in this ways seems like the key to unlocking their potential.

Sometimes it is difficult as a teacher to see progress in the students on an everyday basis, because it can be so small. This is why looking at long-term achievements like the example above is so important, and we should all try and review our lives in this way quite regularly.

Sometimes it takes someone else to point it out though. For example, a senior-level class inspector praised Marie on the high standard of the kids’ handwriting, which Marie wasn’t fully conscious of, until it was pointed out. Of course, putting the kids first again, Marie deflected this praise to them, telling them how amazing they were.

I liked Marie’s observations in the kids, by the way that they get distracted and unfocussed, for a whole day sometimes, by trivial things, like having their pencil taken. She says it takes patience and understanding to gently help them detach from insignificant things that are hindering their time to learn and be present; something else I think we can all benefit from sometimes.

I wasn’t sure whether my chat with Marie would be relevant for this blog, but I was truly mistaken, as I found were are so many principles in teaching that are similar to the principles of coaching that can help people, no matter what age, realise their potential:

Making the effort to get to know the client as an individual, so you can build rapport and tailor the coaching to their needs.

  • If a client puts the work into the coaching then they will truly see positive and profound results.

  • The positive influence the coach has will be passed on by the client to other people.

  • A profound sense of joy the coach gets from seeing people grow and change for the better.

  • It is the client’s achievement that gives the coach the most rewarding satisfaction, not how much money they are making or how much praise they get.

  • Using patience and understanding to help clients detach from concerns that are not serving their deeper purpose.

It is likely that one of the many children Marie teaches will become a great teacher themselves because of Marie’s teaching style and I am excited to see how her teaching career develops.
If you are interested in the experience of coaching then please get in touch by clicking here.

Take care,

Oliver

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