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Five More Ways the Learning Coach Approach Is Different from Traditional Teaching

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Five More Ways the Learning Coach Approach

Is Different from from Traditional Teaching

In a previous post, “Light Your Child’s Learning Fire with Her Interests,” I introduced the idea that acting as your child’s “learning coach” at home, you can approach education in a different, more natural way. I promised I’d follow through with five additional ways in which the learning coach approach is different than our memories of going to school.

TeenWithBook learning coach

Capitalizing on children’s interests is one major way in which coaching differs from the traditional idea of teaching. There are five additional important differences.

A Learning Coach Creates a Different Relationship

The nature of the school system is such that teachers and administrators must maintain a hierarchical relationship with students. They become the “authority” to which students are held accountable and to whose standards they must aspire. A learning coach becomes a partner in the learning process, creating a relationship with your child much more conducive to cooperation, respect, and understanding.

A Learning Coach Creates a Different Way of Dispensing What Your Child Needs to Know

In order to track progress, a step essential to the traditional school approach, information is provided to children in a predetermined sequence so all children may be tested on their “receipt” of the information in the same way at the same time.

As a learning coach, you can give your child the pleasure of discovery, an element vital to enjoying the learning process. You need not merely dispense information. You are free to help your child explore and discover the information he wants, the other half of enjoying the learning process.

A Learning Coach Creates a Different Guiding Agenda

We would never demand that all children play baseball every day, because common sense tells us that not everyone will be good at or enjoy the game. Yet someone (likely many someones) somewhere out there set down on paper just what s/he/they thought every child should study every day at the same time, and it became the course your child’s school chose for her. It’s called the curriculum, a name derived from a Latin root that means “a running.” The curriculum guides the teaching agenda in schools, and it doesn’t matter how fast or slow, good or bad your child happens to be “running,” he is on the same course as everyone else, one with a “finish line” that becomes the main goal.

Not so at home. Through the learning coach’s freedom to customize a learning agenda, your child’s course may become as simple or complicated as desired, lead anywhere you’d both like, and contain countless “side trips” as a true discovery learning process requires. Best of all, you’ll see that a “finish line” is only an illusion, as you’ll both recognize learning as a lifelong process that adds meaning and value to every life activity.

A Learning Coach Creates a Different Way to Assess Progress

Whether we liked it or not, most of us spent our formative years having our academic prowess measured in relation to the prowess of others and held up to something called “a norm,” an average of what all the other little children in the same grade were able to accomplish. As if that anonymous “norm” wasn’t enough, we sat in class and compared test grades, and rapidly decided which was the best and worst reading group based on who was assigned to each.

Some of us knew we’d never reach that “norm” in math or English, science or foreign language. Or, after enough failed attempts, we stopped spinning our wheels and trying. Others, quite aware of how easily they could exceed that norm, stopped taking much of it seriously. Along with the others at all the points in-between, as children we allowed that norm and the performance of others to dictate our sense of how smart – or dumb – we were.

The truth is, learning is a very personal act entered into by folks with varying degrees of ability, interest, and determination. Your child’s starting point is not the same as the child’s next door. If the same two children entered a two mile race and one started even just a few yards ahead of the other, would we determine how well they ran by comparing their finish times? Of course not, yet this is exactly what happens every day in classrooms across the country.

As your child’s learning coach you can move progress assessment back where it belongs – to success measured through personal growth. One year, Brad and Michelle knew their only child, Brad, Jr., was way behind his classmates in understanding division, so they incorporated “division lessons” into everything from putting toys on shelves to divvying up food at the table. “Brad, Jr. was led to believe he wasn’t ‘normal,’ and his classmates were merciless when he couldn’t come up with answers when requested in class,” says Brad. “His resultant lack of confidence was beginning to manifest as a loss of interest in learning.”

Then came the wonderful day Brad, Jr. did unlock the mystery of division. “He was so proud,” Michelle remembers, “so I took advantage of that. I explained it doesn’t matter if it took him a little longer than his buddies; that the most important thing was that he kept working at it until he succeeded. While at this point no one at school cared one way or another that he understood, he still benefited from the sense of accomplishment he deserved because we, his parents, were paying attention.”

It’s easy to see which approach more readily serves to inspire a child toward future progress.

A Learning Coach Creates a Remarkably Different Outcome

Wait for the teacher to tell you what to read. Wait for the teacher to tell you which questions to answer. Wait for the teacher to say you may start and must stop. Wait for the teacher to tell you what to study. The teacher has all the answers. Such an approach encourages the learner to become dependent upon another for much of the responsibility for her own education. It’s hard to imagine we could create any larger roadblocks on the path to responsible independence for young adults than this.

It’s easy to clear away that roadblock by coaching for autonomy. Learning coaches encourage educational independence by aiding the learning process, not by doing all the thinking for the child. This puts your child on a clear path toward being able to find answers for herself, and a self-directed student is a wonder to behold.

From
The Learning Coach Approach: Inspire, Encourage, and Guide Your Child Toward Greater Success in School and in Life by Linda Dobson (Running Press)

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3 Responses to “Five More Ways the Learning Coach Approach Is Different from Traditional Teaching”

  1. Wendy says:

    Thank you for sharing this I am going to implement this idea of being a learning coach to my children

  2. That's terrific, Wendy…thanks so much for being here.

    And thanks for the "tweet," Ms. Norma!

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Norma Young, Parent at the Helm. Parent at the Helm said: More of the wonderful differences when we move away from "teaching" kids! http://fb.me/BFfynKRV […]

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