Reflection: A lot is said (and not practiced) of reflection but, for me, it drives everything that I do. It is the glue that links in- and on-action practice related behaviours together. I learned that, when questioning why I organised and managed activities in the way I did, I was able to make them better; not so that they ‘looked’ better, but they enabled learning to occur more inclusively and progressively. Being able to do this in-, on- and retrospectively-on-action was transformatory. It seems such a simple concept but I strongly believe that this is what is at the heart of practice for all effective teachers, coaches and instructors.
You don’t just get ‘naughty’ kids: When I first started my degree in 2010, I wrongly thought some children, young people and adolescents were born naughty rule breakers and disruptors that behaved in that way because they could. Later, I realised that the behaviours exhibited by all children is founded on stimuli that has affected all children at a particular moment in time. That moment in time could be at any point. Equally, I think it is important for effective teaching, coaching and instructing that children, participants and instructees challenge us in this way – that is their natural desire to make sense of the world around them. We need to help them in that sense making process. In other words, challenging stereotypes and attitudes.
Holistic practice: I think a lot of people use holistic practice as a ‘catch-all’ and ‘go to’ phrase when discussing teaching and learning but it is a real thing and not everyone has holistic practice at the heart of what they do. That doesn’t make them an ineffective teacher, coach or instructor. Rather, it has contextualised their practice. Take sport, particularly the talent development/elite domains: should every coach prioritise producing a well-rounded individual over an elite performer that wins? For me, holistic practice is contextual. Educators have a legal responsibility and duty of care to ensure that the holistic development of children is at the heart of what they do whereas sport coaches or instructors may not. It doesn’t make them ineffective as I said. Rather, it made me aware of what developing the whole child, participant or instructee is and whether it does actually (need to) feature across contexts. In other words, practice is and should be contextualised.
Needs-led practice: Teachers, coaches and instructors need to have breadth and depth of teaching, coaching and instructing as well as of the ‘subject matter’ that they are delivering. When this has been achieved, they can then assess the individual(s) in their charge, generate data on their current attainment or performance and then begin a process of needs-led teaching, coaching or instructing in order to progress their charges. Therefore, learning what the needs of children, participants and instructees are is a vital responsibility when teaching, coaching or instructing. Regular assessment therefore is a vital feature of reflective practice that informs learning and progression as practice can be continually informed and enhanced to meet the evolving needs of children, participants and instructees.
No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care: Lets get straight to the point. In my opinion, effective practitioners get straight to the point. They don’t waste time, they are accurate and they are concise. Pupils, participants or instructees are not interested in a teacher’s, coach’s or instructors self-perceived level of knowledge or how much that person likes to listen to themselves. Ultimately, they are concerned with how their teacher, coach or instructor can help them progress and also in my opinion, real progress is not made by those pupils, participants or instructees until they realise that their teacher, coach or instructor cares about their progression. This is vitally important to my final point, below.
Relationships: Everything that we do as teachers, coaches or instructors should be focused with building positive relationships. When this has been achieved, the above (i.e. real progress), will truly occur. Everybody remembers their most favourite and least favourite teachers for very different reasons. But what of those teachers that aren’t so easily remembered? You probably have thought of one now, but the reason that prevents that group of not so easily identifiable teachers being remembered immediately is that they didn’t establish a positive relationship that truly connected with you. Your most favourite teachers did, your least favourite didn’t. This is the same with coaches and instructors, too. But for a teacher, coach or instructor to establish a positive relationship with every pupil, participant or instructee in the way that your favourite teacher did with you is incredibly complex. But what is important is that all teachers, coaches and instructors attempt to do so. At the very least, it is important that a teacher, a coach or an instructor from a school, a club or an organisation does so with every child as every child matters. This is because not every child, player or instructee wants to achieve the same things and arguably not all teachers, coaches or instructors should try to make every child, participant or instructee want the same thing. For that reason, the incredibly complex endeavour to build positive relationships exemplified. Therefore, children, participants and instructees will gravitate towards their favourite teachers, coaches and instructors because they have identified that those individuals will help them achieve what it is that makes them unique.
And there you have it. A very concise and by no means exhaustive list of some of the lessons that have really helped me progress as a coach and lecturer and they will serve me well when I begin my Initial Teacher Education. What I hope that it also portrays to those who are more junior and senior than me is how theory does actually influence practice. In time, I look forward to adding to this list and identifying if, and how, this list evolves over time. Perhaps that can start now: what is it that you have learned that has really enhanced your practice and why? How can my key lessons above be informed and developed by you?