Apr 28, 2010

Teaching mistakes I made this week

What I did: Gossiped with the other teacher during warm-up, to the extent that we forgot to actually run the warm up.
Why I did it: Human foibles? Seriously, this is one of the easiest traps for coaches to fall into. The kids are having a good time, they'd rather just be skating around half the time anyway. (In this case they were playing tag and having a blast.) Coaching is an extremely autonomous job--at many rinks you can go for days without any interaction from a boss, and in my experience they tend to ignore warm up altogether. So you can get away with a lot out there. It's very easy to bellyache during warm up-- no one can hear you except the coach you're talking to, and she or he is usually sympathetic because they've got the same issue.
What I should have done: Save the bellyaching for your own time. The kids have a right to the coach's attention. Five minutes of free skating before a formal warm up or class is it; use the time for a couple of gripes or exchanges with your fellow coaches and then get on with it.

What I did: Lost my patience with a child and sent her off the ice.
Why I did it: She just wouldn't listen. I tried repeated warnings, I tried on-ice time outs, I tried threats (stand still or I'll send you off the ice).
What I should have done: Examined my own teaching approach with this class and this child. If there's a child who can't stand still, then she needs to be given something to do. Keep a class like this moving. There is only bad coaching; there are no "bad" children.

What I did: Talked too much about technique, making the kids stand around.
Why I did it: I talk a lot. I am an ubergeek when it comes to skating. I just know a lot about the how's and why's. I get caught up in it.
What I should have done: I know what things tend to require wordy explanations. I need to learn, and even practice off-ice, bullet-pointing those things. Say it, demonstrate it, then have the kids do it.

What I did: Pulled a child from another coach's class to talk to her about her ill-fitting skates.
Why I did it: I have something of a relationship with this child-- she has been in many of my classes, and her brother is also my student. She was having a terrible time with her ankles, so I thought her skates needed tightening (they didn't, the skates themselves are way too big).
What I should have done: So many options here. Watch to see if the coach said something to her or checked her skates. Waited until after class to talk to her. Ask the coach if he had noticed anything and talked to her.

What I did: Forgot about a regular private lesson.
Why I did it: Got caught up in a family activity.
What I should have done: Check my calendar, for pity's sake, every day! Then offer the student a make up lesson at no cost.

Teaching is a dynamic profession. You're never done learning how to do it, and to be effective you have to be aware of your own mistakes and learn from them. In a repetitive atmosphere like coaching, where you rewind to start every ten weeks (Alpha class done? Let's start over with Alpha class) constant reevaluation of your own skills and approaches helps to keep it fresh and interesting for you and everyone in your class.

Well, week's not over. I'll keep updating and share the rest of this week's screw ups. In the meantime, what suspicious coaching have you observed?

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