“Teaching Coaches” have become commonplace as public school curriculum is converted to Common Core. The plan is to enlist teachers, lots of them, to coach other teachers how to instruct using Common Core.
In most places these teaching coaches get a stipend of $5-6,000 to help transform a school district into a Common Core wonderland. So-called budget-strapped school districts are able, through the state, to still find funds to add these bonuses, because, as we are informed, Common Core has been chosen to lift schools out of their academic doldrums and create a level playing field for students. Still, Common Core State Standards have never been fully tested—never pilot tested. It worries many educators and parents.
We are not even clear on who devised the actual standards! And those, we know of, like David Coleman, were never real educators. So investing all this time and money into the Common Core is a pretty risky venture in more ways than one. But putting that aside, it is the word “coaching” that I want to address today.
First, I realize if you look up coaching on Wikipedia, there are a lot of definitions relating to actual teaching in regards to coaching. I just happen to disagree. Coaching, for me, refers to sports and winning games. I’d venture that’s what comes to most people’s minds when the word is used.
In the context of sports and playing games, I think the term coaching is appropriate and relevant. I also do not want to offend real coaches and the science surrounding what they do. A great deal of strategizing goes into winning a game. It makes the sport exciting. I respect coaches for the professional jobs they do.
But I don’t like calling school teachers coaches. It sounds like they are also in a game and reminds me that schools are currently being forced to race against each other to win. We are told they are competing globally, by state and even locally. Schools, no matter how needy, won’t get funding if they don’t play the game and win! For many of us, that’s troubling. I also don’t think teaching students should be about winning, and yet that is what drives all the changes being foisted on schools today.
A lot of what’s behind what’s happened to schools in the last 30 years, and this notion of how schools must compete, started with the belief that public schools failed and couldn’t keep up with other countries. Google A Nation at Risk to learn more about this if needed. But we should know, by now, that wasn’t the case then and isn’t the case now. A look at the suppressed Sandia report (1990) is a good place to start to see that public schools, while they needed to improve, were improving! Edutopia provides a wonderful article on this issue and is found easily on the Internet.
Yet, the public is still led to believe America’s schools went down hill long ago and continue to decline. You hear it with every conversation in the media—even surrounding preschool! Connecting 3 and 4 year old children with the global economy seems like a real stretch, but that’s the message behind many preschool initiatives. It is too bad, because preschoolers, especially disadvantaged preschoolers, benefit from good preschools. But pushing children, at this age, to compete is not what early learning should be about.
Common Core carries this further. It is one more new program to supposedly save schools, even though public schools originally didn’t need saving, and also, despite not knowing if the Common Core works! If anything, the program might take America’s students backwards! Along with this, I have always worried that a self-fulfilling prophesy is at play surrounding the negative speak concerning public schools. If you keep saying America’s schools are bad, they eventually will be.
In fact, I would venture to say, if you want to see America’s schools as competing and playing a game, today’s so-called teaching coaches are more likely now coaching the losing team. I wouldn’t bet on any Superbowl championship ten years from now.