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Differentiated Cycling AND Coaching

Have you noticed that “who you are is how you teach”? Colleagues who are a bit more reserved tend to run quieter classrooms. Teachers who love to read (in what little spare time teachers have!) share that love with students. Our classrooms mirror our strengths and interests in countless ways. (You can download Chapter 2: Who You Are is How You Teach from one of my books which explains a framework for working with normal differences among teachers–and students)

Who We Are is How We Bike–And Teach

I recently realized that who I am is also how I bike. As I did some thorough self-coaching to master new equipment, I found I was taking myself through the same process I use with teachers. Hopefully, my biking experience will help provide an image of key strategies that can help new teachers use their strengths to master their biggest needs in the classroom.!<

It all started when I got a new bike. My husband, a physical education teacher who has far more kinesthetic sense that I ever will, talked me into biking shoes that clip to the pedals. Supposedly these enable a better workout. But, for someone like me who gets lost in thought while biking (I actually “wrote” this blog while cycling around the lakes of Minneapolis), it’s easy to forget that you’re clipped in. Twice as I approached stop signs, I started unclipping too late and tipped over. Worse than the skinned elbows and bruises was the reality that if I kept that up, I’d really get hurt eventually! I needed a new strategy.

Here’s how I coached myself and how it applies to new teachers:

  • Differentiated goals may be the key. My husband’s goal is to clip into those pedals as much as possible. My goal is using them ONLY when I’m unlikely to be distracted and forget to unclip!
  • We can use strengths to compensate for blind spots. One of my strengths is planning—I planned out exactly when to clip and unclip on my most frequented bike route and haven’t had a problem since.
  • What works for them may not work for you. Perhaps I’d be better off without biking shoes altogether! Similarly, your best strategy might fail miserably when implemented by a teacher with a different style or demeanor.
New Teachers, New Motivations

Avoiding injury is a strong motivator, but new teachers are similarly motivated by dread of possibly unproductive confrontations with students or parents, classroom management issues, misunderstandings that result in students not learning, and other possibilities that evoke fear that one is simply not cut out to be a teacher. They want to learn, but need the right kinds of support

While the path to mastery of teaching is a multi-year journey, we can use the fact that who we are is how we teach to focus how we help new teachers. Helping them see what they naturally do well, and how those strengths correspond to specific classroom struggles, can pinpoint the right focuses in those ever-so-demanding first years of teaching.

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Jane Kise is a consultant and executive coach. The founder of Differentiated Coaching Associates and author of over 20 books, she works with schools and businesses worldwide to help create environments where everyone can flourish.

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