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  The Teacher as a Coach - Bring the Spark Back to the Teacher's Eyes  

Dr. Maly Danino, CEO Nitzan

Relating to gifted students is based on an approach stating that teachers should learn from their students, not just teach them. This is what Paula White, a primary school teacher in the state of Virginia (USA), was thinking. Paula was wondering: What would happen if we related to all students as gifted students?


This means that we should presume that each student has abilities and our role as teachers is to enable him or her to act upon these abilities.


This means that we should step out of our comfort zone, give up our authority as teachers who “knew everything ", and turn our full attention to our students, learn from them and expend our world of concepts.

It also means that we should encourage our students to research and think, help them formulate problem-solving strategies and guide them to take responsibility for the outcomes. This approach changes the perception of the teacher’s role and dictates a new curriculum.

 

Studies show that the teacher is an important and significant figure in the lives of his or her student. At times the teacher is the figure that influences the course of the student’s life and future. Students are happy to study a subject taught by a teacher we love and respect, one who cares for them. On the other hand it is difficult for them to like a subject when they do not feel connected to the teacher. Learning is associated with emotions. The empathic and sensitive attitude which teachers have for students evoke positive emotions and encourage students to learn and grow.

 

For most teachers choosing teaching as a profession is not accidental. They chose it for a reason.

 

One of the teachers in a teachers’ workshop I conducted shared: “in sixth grade I was an overweight girl. During sports classes I tried to do my best….. When we received our report cards, one of the students in the class shouted: What?? This fat girl gets 100 and I get only 70? The teacher replied: I do not consider results only. I also consider the student’s efforts. I take it with me until this day. As a teacher I always consider the effort made by the student.

 

Another teacher related to the sense of humiliation and failure which brought the desire to create a different, more corrective and better experience for her students: “In the eleventh grade I had good grades in all science subjects. However, due to three failing grades the school decided I should repeat this year. My world collapsed on me, it really affected me badly. The principle suggested that I speak with one of the teachers who failed me. This teacher did not want to listen to me. I set there frightened as she looked into my eyes gloating and said: No!!! To this day the sense of humiliation accompanies me ..."“The Teacher as a Coach” workshop which I developed at Nitzan Association has derived from our parents coaching method called E.C.C. (Emotional Cognitive Coaching). We take teachers on a journey of observation and emotional exploration, enable them to develop new insights and connect to the mission that has led them to engage in education and teaching. As part of the program, each teacher meets several times with a student of their chose and conducts a different dialogue with him or her.

 

Many teachers find it difficult to engage with their students in a discourse that does not relate to their studies, and fear that the students will not cooperate. They wonder how to conduct the discourse in a way that will allow the students to expose and share their difficulties.

 

One teacher who participated in the workshop shared: "As teachers we always think of what we have to say or do, and often don't resort to focus on listening. We are occupied with concrete issues - what we do or say to the student, but the most important thing our student will experience with us is our listening, thus this is the skill that is important to practice. "

 

As part of the "Teacher as Coach" workshop, teachers experience the power of listening and learn to create an effective dialogue with their students. They acquire tools for compassionate communication, learn to create eye-level discourse, "step into the student's shoes," share his or her experiences, understand the difficulties, and respond in a nonjudgmental, noncritical way, but rather containing and understanding. A teacher who is open to listen is not busy thinking "what am I going to say to the student", but is rather available to listen to what the student has to say and share.

 

Teachers who participated in the workshop experienced a formative and empowering experience that changed their attitude towards students and the teaching profession.

One teacher summarized at the end of the workshop: "I was reborn ... I remembered why I chose the teaching profession."

Another teacher shared: “These days, when I sit with a student I want to understand his difficulties and how I can help him. It wasn’t like this before. Today I am more tolerant and containing. "

Teachers receive many hours of training over the years and acquire a lot of knowledge on how to work with students with difficulties. But the question is what can motivate them to connect with students and contain them. The starting point is that in order for a teacher to contain the students, he or she also need to experience acceptance and containment. Experiencing containment will allow the teacher the safe place to express his or her feelings without fear of criticism from colleagues.

If we do not contain the teacher - he or she will not be able to contain the students.

 

In the coming year, the education system in Israel aims to integrate students with special needs, which so far were placed in special education settings, in standard classrooms. The issue of containment becomes a central and very significant. The concern is that teachers will find it difficult to meet this task without support and guidance; support which will expand their containment capacity and help them develop positive relationships with their students.

 

Students value teachers who are genuinely interested in them. It encourages them to put more effort in school and strive for success.

This positive connection will bring back the spark to teachers’ eyes and enable the respect and appreciation they deserve.

The writer is the CEO of Nitzan Association, founder of the ECC (Emotional Cognitive Coaching) method for parents coaching, author of the books: "The Parent as Coach", "Coach your Child to Success" and "Letting go of Love".