One of my favorite on-screen coaches is Doc Hudson from the Cars movies. Doc Hudson wasn’t always the town repair-car and judge. He was once the Fabulous Hudson Hornet, three time winner of the Piston Cup race! No one could out-race him until one horrible crash sidelined him and he didn’t race again. From that point forward, he didn’t want anything to do with racing until Lightning McQueen happened upon his sleepy town, and Doc finally saw something in Lightning that made him coach him and teach him and pass along all he had learned. We find the same process in Cars 3 [spoiler alert] as Lightning has a crucial choice to make in his comeback season after his own big crash similar to Doc’s. What Lightning finds out is that through the coaching he received from Doc, he finds himself coaching his new trainer–someone who always dreamed of being a Piston Cup race car! Lightning McQueen took his valuable experiences from racing and being coached by Doc Hudson and transformed that to ultimately be able to coach and train others.
I actually shed a few tears at the end of the movie as I saw the connection from practicing teacher to teaching coach and how the pipeline of learning continues.
As a novice teacher, I refused to believe that others would look at me and accept that for the first 3-5 years I was going to be bad at my job. Thankfully, I had some great mentors at my first school who observed me and gave me pointers on how to improve my practice during those crucial first two years of teaching. Additionally, at each step of my career, I’ve had mentors who’ve coached me along the way in my teaching, and as I grew, so did the type of feedback they gave. Because I had such great coaches, I started looking back at new teachers on my team and seeing how I, in turn, could help them while I continued to learn.
Coaching new teachers not only helps them to start to solidify their own practice, but it also helps me reflect on my practice and the “Why?” behind my own strategies. It helps me refresh my learning on the teaching methods I’ve learned as I pass these things along to those new to my team. It also helps me innovate my own practice as I observe what others are doing and learn from them; the team is strengthened if there is a trust to share, and we’re all moving toward the same goal. I know it’s easy to sit back and armchair quarterback a football game, but as teaching coaches, there’s almost a mirror that we hold up to ourselves as we observe others. One key thing to remember is to strengthen the pipeline of teachers and leaders not because veteran teachers are so omniscient, but because we care about teacher growth and student growth. We care about the next generation.
It wasn’t easy for Lightning to step away from his last Piston Cup race, but he realized his impact if he shared his knowledge with Cruz and let her compete.
We’ve all had that one influential person without whom we wouldn’t still be teaching or wouldn’t be in the position we are today. Or those mentors who saw a spark in us and kept pushing us to do new things that seemed outside our comfort zone. Or those influential teachers we had as students that we wanted to emulate.