It easy for a teacher to fade to coach if the following
factors are in place:
Excellent communication between teacher and students
Supportive class atmosphere for students
Mutual respect between students and teacher
Process for student interaction that allows for candid communication
Teacher knows students have had a strong grounding in basic
skills (strong beginning journalism program)
Faith in students to rise to the occasion; patience to let
them almost fail before stepping in to rescue them
Editors whose role it is to take on the major responsibilities
Editors who have had an opportunity to observe the role
of the previous year's editors when they were juniors so that have some
Each of these is first established in the beginning journalism program and
then furthered in the advanced journalism program. The teacher's role
is changed from actively teaching to modeling these behaviors and then "advising"
students when there are problems.
The fact that the teacher acts as adviser promotes the students feelings of
competence and authority. Adults do not teach each other; they advise each other
and collaborate with one another. When the teacher moves to this role, he/she
sends the student a message that they are on the same level.
Being treated as equal by the teacher is an empowering gift for students. It
makes them feel important, smart, and capable. That does not mean that the teacher
lowers him/herself to the level of the students and starts acting and dressing
like students. On the contrary, the teacher's actions as adviser raise
the level of the student to the level of the adviser. Teachers, who lower themselves
to the level of the students, only demean themselves and lose the respect of
their students. In turn, the students lose respect for themselves.
I cannot stress strongly enough that teachers who are in the process of fading
to the role should act as advisers or in the same way they would act with colleagues
they are advising or student teachers they are coaching. Never lower yourself
to the level of the students.
Fading to coach is an essential element for a learning community. Every member
of the learning community has to have a defined role in which they are expert.
The fact that the teacher will advise but not do the work for the students promotes
the competence of each student in that role.
The Business Manager is responsible for all the bookkeeping for the paper. That
means that when I get bills, I simply put them on his desk. I ask for an accounting
once a month and he gives a report to the class once every few weeks so that
all students are aware of the financial state of the paper. But I will only
step in as adviser. I will not write bills for him nor make out deposit slips.
I will not balance the books for him. If the student fails to do his job, the
group pressure is very strong. I also have been known to say, "We don't
have enough money to publish a paper this month because of...." It is amazing
how quickly everything gets resolved.