Teach or coach?

Hilary at Orgtheory has a post — discussing some thoughts on Gawande’s latest piece on teaching versus coaching, which is the must-read post of the day:

Gawande discusses a book that I have long-admired—Barbara Sand’s Teaching Geniusabout legendary Juilliard strings teacher Dorothy DeLay (who knew a thing or two about Tiger Moms long before Amy Chua ever came along).  DeLay made a living teaching young children and adolescents how to play the violin—but was she a teacher or a coach?  This question has interested me ever since I started studying children’s competitive afterschool activities. During fieldwork I witnessed a lot of role confusion between parents and the adults they pay to instruct their children in a range of activities during the afterschool hours. Are people like DeLay teachers, coaches, or babysitters?

As Gawande writes, the idea of coaching, especially in sports, is a “distinctly American development.” If you know anything about organized leisure activities and the competitive impulse in our society, this shouldn’t surprise you.  As the number of opportunities for athletic coaching has increased, so too has professionalization. But it often has not gone far enough, especially when it comes to children.

Most teachers and coaches (of children) I met think of themselves as educators. But in almost all cases they are not formally credentialed or certified as such because such programs simply don’t exist. Parents often think of these teachers/coaches as educators… when it’s convenient for them. If not, it’s easy to slip into a “babysitter” mindset, where a parent is paying someone to care for their child—hence they “work for them.”

I am going to look for Barabra Sand’s book; I am also interested in these questions because, as a teacher, it is not uncommon for me to hear from my colleagues complaints about the prevalence of the “coaching” culture (and how students wants us to coach and not teach), and the students themselves come and tell me that they prefer the teachers (who, we tend to call coaches — but the students always call them teachers) they had before coming here and how those teachers did a better job of teaching than what we do.

As you can see, I am interested in the earlier portions of Hilary’s post; more specifically,  if somebody comes with the expectation that they will be coached, is this expectation not good in some fundamental way? and, if yes, is there a way to make students realise this? if no, then, in what ways do we need to change our teaching for the best outcomes?

I have not thought too deeply about the second part of Hilary’s post — namely, regulating coaching; however, my first reaction would be that there is no way we can regulate; but, we might be able place systems and policies which will mitigate the influence of coaching schools, or make sure that they do not interfere with what we are doing.

One Response to “Teach or coach?”

  1. hilaryleveyfriedman Says:

    Thanks for reading– and for interesting/thoughtful comments!

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