As part of the leadership team of a new ISTE SIG (special interest group) for EdTech Coaches, I have been mulling what makes a good coach. This time of year, NFL and NCAA college football programs are tossing, grabbing, and exchanging coaches like kids with Halloween candy. The media and the fans love to chime in. As a former three-sports-a-year student, I have had experience with many coaches. As a parent, I have witnessed the strengths and weaknesses of my children’s coaches. Along the way, I formed a solid list of what I think makes a good coach. The same traits that inspire kids to swim harder, dig deeper, and learn more as athletes also work when technology integration specialists (or EdTech coaches by any other name) coach our teaching peers. The sports analogies really do make sense, even if you were never a “jock.”
Secret Sauce: Seven Must-Have Characteristics of a Good Coach
1. Fan approval. If the ultimate audience — the fans/students/parents– do not appreciate the results of what the coach does, it’s all over. They may not even notice how the coach does it, but they do notice the effects on the players/teachers. If the EdTech coach helps a teacher score lessons that fascinate, challenge, and/or hook the fans (students), the coach is brilliant. EdTech coaches are perhaps more like the next tier “coordinators” on the football sidelines, removed from the media hype given head coaches and in more direct relationship with the teachers/players. But fan approval still matters.
2.Wins and losses. Coaches are judged by the final score. Did the teacher improve student achievement? Did the coach help him/her make a touchdown, or did they have to settle for a field goal? No matter how much yardage a team gains, the management/administration wants the wins that justify the costs. It’s brutal, but it’s true. Savvy EdTech coaches know how to track results to prove that they are having an impact. If you can’t “score,” at least show that you are improving yards per carry. That will buy some time until you can help your players build confidence and skills enough to #eduwin and until management priorities begin to include more than just one score.
3. Building sportsmanship, or in this case learnership. Good athletic teams do more than score. They model the behavior we call sportsmanship: caring, ethical attitudes that transcend the playing field or classroom. As EdTech coaches, we nurture learnership by being learners ourselves. We admit when we are wrong and try to help those around us gain skills side by side with us. Fan approval can actually go up without wins if a good coach builds learnership. In athletic programs that rely less on making $$ from The Team, coaches can put learnership first. May we all be blessed to be in such a program/school!
4. Noticing and nourishing individual strengths. This is a delicate balance for any coach. Unless you are in an elite NFL program or an EdTech magnet school, you probably have some players/teachers with natural talent and some who simply have to work hard. You want to help the hard workers but also keep the high-talents moving ahead. As an EdTech coach, you may want to arrange some extra exposure to elite “camps” such as ISTE workshops or invite a teacher to submit for a conference. A good coach develops all players without making any of them jealous. And a good coach finds some strength even in the bench warmers. Those good-hearted teachers who just keep trying need every pat on the back they can get. The corollary is that a good coach notices the faces in the crowd who did not even come to tryouts. Some may hide from technology, perhaps out of fear or simply because they did not grow up in the right neighborhood where all the kids got to join in sports/technology. Result: they don’t want to embarrass themselves. Have EdTech play days or “camps” where everyone is welcome. And give out snacks. Everyone loves snacks. This is where the “everyone gets a trophy” philosophy actually fits.
I have three more, but it’s time for “practice.” I’ll share the rest of the thoughts from my playbook in a few days. To be continued….
Meanwhile, I hope you will plan to join the #SIGETC chat at 1 pm Eastern on Tuesday, January 15!