Coaching Tips I Can Learn From My Husband

Yep, I know it’s hard to believe that I’m taking advice from my husband (we have a pretty competitive relationship, mostly due to my need to be better than). And even harder to believe that I need coaching advice!!?? Well, we are both coaches, after all. He coaches volleyball and baseball and I coach – well, ELL teachers. (Me? Coach a sport? Um, NO. You can read a bit about my love/hate relationship with sports here.)

As I anticipate my first evaluation from my supervisor and scramble to pull together evidence for meeting the requirements of the eval, I’m finding myself thinking more and more about what I’ve seen Steven do with his volleyball girls this year.

Steven is definitely into sports and has coached middle school baseball for a while now. Last year he got asked to coach middle school volleyball, too. He agreed even though he didn’t know too much about volleyball (but he did know about sports in general), did some research, worked a bit with the high school volleyball coach, and had a good year.

This year Steven was asked to take the high school volleyball (varsity and JV) position. Today his team is at the state volleyball tournament. It is the first time in his school’s history that their vb team has made state. Steven took them there in three months. Here are some things he did to be a successful coach:

1) Made specific long-term and short-term goals for his team.

2) Expected nothing less than the best from his players and from himself.

3) Turned to research when needed (books on vb).

4) Responded to negative criticism (in his case, from parents) by pointing to his goals for the team.

5) Knew his opponents (this included driving solo from Nashville to Memphis and back all in one day to watch some teams that were going to play his team in sub-state).

6) Charted his players’ progress (stats).

Parallells can be drawn between his experience and mine. Though I’ve taught ELL for nine years and have a pretty strong ELL background, I had never been an instructional coach before this year. My job is to help teachers become better at helping English Language Learners develop academic English. I am coaching teachers as I point out ways to improve their performance and model best practices for ELLs.

So I can take Steven’s coaching successes and adapt them to education:

1) Make specific long-term and short-term goals for both myself and the teachers I work with.
This is definitely an area in which I can grow. I think teachers will respond to specifically naming what they want for themselves and their students.

2) Expect nothing less than the best myself and my teachers. This gets a little fuzzy, because I can’t expect teachers to change everything all at once. I work on one thing at a time. You’ve got center management down? Great. Now let’s work on reducing wasted time during transitions. You’re modifying your questioning based on ELL proficiency levels? Great. Now let’s work on modifying written assignments.

3) Turn to research when needed. I pretty much do this regularly. I think I am reading 4 professional books right now, but the one I’m the most attentive to is SIOP since it is an instructional tool for ELL teachers.

4) Respond to negative criticism by pointing to goals for the team. Now I certainly can benefit from constructive criticism, but when I receive negative comments about differentiating for ELLs from teachers, I can point out goals of their grade level team (raise Running Record and DIBELS scores), their school (raise test scores and have good teacher evals), the ELL office (help Els develop academic English). I think data can come into play here. In addition, I always like to make the plea for the ELL student. I love these kids and sometimes the ELL teacher is the only “safe place” in the school for them.

5) Know my opponents. I believe that teachers have so many things that they are up against: lack of time, pressure of teacher evaluation and raising test scores, pressure to differentiate for all students, lack of resources, lack of parental support, lack of administrative support, etc. etc. In the face of such enemies, I am the person they turn to. I am a resource they can use to be successful even in the midst of all this pressure.

6) Chart my teachers’ progress. This is also an area to improve. It’s all there in my head and in some of notes but I really need to document better. I also think post-PD or post-coaching surveys would be helpful for me to see if I did my job well enough.

So here’s to you, Steven. And let’s hope I can do as great a job this year with my teachers as you’ve done with your players!

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