Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"What We are Looking for...": A Coaching Manifesto for Teachers

Next week I'll begin my summer teaching job with the Idaho State University Trio/Upward Bound program. I taught in the program the summer of 2006 and am happy to be returning this year. Back in 2006, I taught speech, College Prep English, and English 12. This year I'll be teaching only one course: Communication 1101, which is the Early College Program dual enrollment class I teach at my home school.

After finding a handout given to one of the basketball teams, I began thinking quite a bit about the approches coaches use in guiding their players Both our boys and girls basketball teams placed 3rd in the state 5A tournament this past year. Here's a screen shot of the document.

I like that this flyer about playing basketball isn't labeled, for had it been, I might have tossed it into the circular file without a second thought. In doing so, I would have missed its implications for classrooms, both for students and teachers.

So as I begin my summer teaching duties, I'll share some of these thoughts with my new students during the course. These students come from 13 Southeast Idaho high schools, so I'll need to work to build a classroom team of learners from the moment the first class begins.

I'll temper the rhetoric a bit while focusing on the general ideas.

Below is my interpretation, followed by the original wording of the document pictured above.

What I'm looking for: Original: What we are looking for:

  • A "yes I can" attitude: No excuses. No arguing about the course requirements (which I don't set). No interrupting me or a peer who has the floor. 
    • Original: A yes sir attitude (ah la Tim Tebow), No excuses, No back talk or talking when I or any other coaches are talking.
  • Focus 100%: Put in the time necessary to complete your outlines and speeches. This will vary for each student but will require substantial commitment from all. 
    • Original: Focus 100%, 1 1/2 to 2 hours to forget about life's issues.
  • Listen: Communication involves more that giving speeches and writing outlines. The ability to hear and understand what others say is equally important. We will engage in numerous activities designed to improve our listening as it is a skill that must be developed and practiced. 
    • Original: Listening we will be implanting a lot of drills to ingrain habits; we are looking for kids that want to get better and can listen and retain information. 
  • Teachable: Improving one's communication skills requires a willingness to learn new and complicated material, as well as a willingness to try new things. 
    • Original: Coachable players that want to improve and be coaches. 
  • Diligent: We have six weeks to learn the research techniques necessary for completing three speeches and outlines. This will be a marathon and a sprint combined. I'll be beside you, supporting you, guiding you through it all, but ultimately the work will have to be yours.
    • Original: Hustle at all times, we will be implementing a lot of drills, I want you to run and hustle in-between drills. (Not running in-between drills talking when I am, back talk, excuses, being late will lead to fines, for the whole team)
  • Hard Working: Hard work is tangible. It's evident in students who read the assigned material, review the online resources and aids, seek out of class help from tutors and the instructor, and in those who do more than the minimum research and preparation. And it it is evident in those who prepare far enough in advance of speech day that they have time to practice. 
    • Original: Hard Workers, players that are willing to go the extra mile, stay late, come early ask for help. 
  • Gracious: Students who want success for their peers and demonstrate their graciousness by supporting one another with applause after speeches, by practicing for one another, by peer reviewing using the assigned criteria, and by offering encouragement. We are a community of learners first and are on this journey together. 
    • Original: Proactive players that like to uplift others and congratulate teammates. 
  • Communicative: Talk to one another and to me. Talk to your tutors and support network.
    • Original: Communication on the floor, and off. 
  • Students who are committed to achieving their academic potential and who make wise choices in and out of the classroom. 
    • Original: Players that have good grades that are Smart and make good decisions on and off the floor. 
  • Potential and Willingness: 
    • Original: Skill and Dedication
The original document concludes with the following:

Basketball is not for you if:
  • You don't see any of the attributes above that are bolded.
  • Can't practice at 6:00-6:30 in the morning. (miss practice, lead to missing game time)
  • Bad grades or missing assignments. (missing assignments lead to missing practice, leads to missing game time)
  • Can't be a good teammate when you don't play. (you or your parents can't handle not getting in the game, no guaranteed playing time)
  • Can't handle coaching.
  • Don't want to improve as a basketball player, and a person.
When I first read the above caveat, I thought: "How would it be if teachers were allowed to enforce these same rules/guidelines?" But when teaching students and coaching athletes, one can only stretch the analogy so far. 

I don't need to see public speaking skill in Communication 1101 students on the first day to "coach" them into developing superb speaking ability. 

I do, however, need students who will attend class, who will complete all the assignments, who are a trustworthy member of the learning community, who can handle professional critiques of their work while realizing these will lead to improvement in their speaking ability, and who do want to grow as a student and citizen. 

So can teachers take a page from a coaching manifesto and apply it to our work in the classroom? Indeed. In the final analysis, we're all players in a metaphoric game, and during the season of learning, no one wants to be benched. It's time to take the shot. 


  1. Glenda, this is great. I may steal the idea for my classes in the fall.

  2. Thanks, Debbie, and steal away. I did, after all, get the idea from a basketball coach, although I'm not sure which one as I found the document on a desk in my room. :-)

  3. I love this! It's something I tried to tell my students in so many different ways, but this is a perfect bridge between students' love for sports and what actually needs to happen in the classroom.

  4. Let's take this analogy up another level. Can we ask the same things of teachers as we are asking of the athletes and the students in these manifestos? Are we willing to keep learning, listening, practicing, and really work as a team?