What does coaching really mean for teaching?

Peabody High School 1940 ChampionsA colleague commented on Facebook recently about the “coaching method” for teaching college composition. That label carries with it quite a bit of detail regarding approach to teaching, but there is an aspect that, I think, should be a part of every college teacher, and every speaker to some degree.

When I hear “coaching method,” I think of the football coach at my high school, Walter Kilzer. I never played football, since my only utility might possibly have been to serve as a sort of carpet underneath a pile of real football players, but as the school photographer and school newspaper writer, I was around him a lot. He taught physics class, too, which I remember fondly after all these years. He was a great, caring human being who taught class the way he coached football. He dedicated his life to Peabody High School, having been a student there and a member of the 1940 championship team, and spending his life coaching and molding young lives at the same school.

I remember him kicking the front desk (fortunately unoccupied) because a student was unprepared for class or some such, and yelling in the way that only Coach Kilzer could–top volume, with all the vehemence of paint-peeling swearing without ever saying an actual bad word, like Yosemite Sam. “Goldurn it, Cates, you are smarter than that, and I’m not gonna let you get by with that! Now work that consarned rassa-frassin’ slide rule the way you know how!” We wanted to perform for Coach Kilzer, because he was equally passionate when we got something right, as if we had just scored a touchdown against an overwhelmingly better team.

Maybe kicking a few chairs wouldn’t be so bad, or running a victory lap around the classroom. 🙂

Yes, it’s a clichĂ©. But it’s still true. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I think that is especially true in modern times, because as we have talked about many times, “they” don’t need you as a source of information. They can get information anywhere. What they can’t get anywhere else is you, and what you bring to bear on the topic.

Whatever else is involved in coaching, it includes holding those you coach to a high standard, letting them know where they’re falling short because you’re trying to help them achieve their goal, and you’re celebrating them when they top themselves. If we can remember that, all the other techniques will come together.

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Author: Donn King

Donn King works with individuals and organizations who want to forge top-notch communication skills to increase their influence and impact. He is associate professor of speech and journalism at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee, as well as a speaker and writer. His background includes ministry, newspaper, radio, small magazines and other publications, as well as co-authoring a textbook and blogging.