The coach’s primary role is to serve as more than a simple “mirror” for the professional being coached. For most people, a mirror does not always reveal what others can see; instead, it often reveals what is in the mind’s eye. An effective coach understands this nuance of human behavior, and assists the individual in coming to terms with what is real, and what is perceived as real but is actually illusory. This more revealing reflection process is frequently difficult for teachers and coaches because it requires an acknowledgement that the teacher’s work may not be what he or she perceives it to be. It also requires the coach to acknowledge that what historically works for him or her in one scenario may not be appropriate for the teacher being coached.
Like mirrors, coaches can sometimes reflect what proves to be a distortion. It’s a risk inherent in any coaching effort, and requires appreciation of the very human potential for misreading behaviors, and for making assumptions on the basis of incomplete information. The risk of potential distortion is always a hazard, but not an inevitable result, of coaching. So long as one begins with a conscious focus on objectivity, the pitfalls of coaching are not insurmountable. Coupled with objectivity, however, is an additional need to maintain a high level of self awareness; awareness that not all questions have answers, and that coaching is not the cloning of one’s self. “Leaving ego at the door” is critical if trust is to develop, and meaningful dialogue to take place. Thoughtful reflection is critical to gaining understanding of self, and essential to figuring out what works best when interacting with one’s students. A core goal of coaching is to assist teachers in finding paths to higher levels of objective reflection; reflection on their strengths, their vulnerabilities, and what works best for them when it comes to engaging their students.