The Coach in the Classroom
Written by Co-Active Coach Martin Richards
The purpose of this book is to explore the question:
What happens when you use a coaching
approach in an educational environment?
What is a Coaching Approach?................................................................4
Developing your coaching approach skills.............................................4
How to use this Book.................................................................................5
Chapter 1: Inspiring Teenagers...............................................................27
Chapter 2: Attitude Makes a Difference................................................57
Chapter 3: Two Teachers’ Strategies......................................................75
Chapter 4: Classroom Fight.....................................................................93
Chapter 5: Give Up and Continue........................................................107
Chapter 6: Reading Aloud from the Book...........................................123
Chapter 7: More Talk, Less Control.....................................................139
Chapter 8: Wake Up Call.......................................................................169
Chapter 9: The Juvenile Criminal.........................................................187
Chapter 10: The Ambassador................................................................207
The Midwinter Vigil...............................................................................227
All rights reserved.
Copyright 2017, (c) Martin Richards, Gothenburg, Sweden.
This book is the result of many collaborations, collaboration with the
many fictional characters portrayed in this book and collaboration
with real, living people, of whom the following deserve heartfelt
and special mentions:
Hetty Brand Boswijk, CPCC, for partnering with me in
our quest to write a book together. It is an ongoing
journey of learnings and revelations.
Michele Helman, CPCC, for accelerating and easing
the final stages of writing, reading and supportively
commenting on the need for this book to be published.
Elizabeth Nostedt, ACC, DTM, PMP for proofing and
commenting on an early version of the manuscript.
Vicky Jo Varner, PCC, CPCC, for repeatedly and
meticulously proofing and commenting on the later
Jenny Geuken, for the original cover artwork.
What is a Coaching Approach?
Certified coaches use a coaching approach, on the inside. A coaching
approach names what is happening inside their bodies and inside
their minds, while they are coaching. It could be called the hidden
skill of coaching, because it’s hidden. It is not always visible in what
they do, nor audible in what they say. It is, however, apparent in
what they do not do, and what they do not say. Certified coaches do
not, for example, judge the person they are coaching. That takes
practice. Nor do they offer their opinions or experience. That takes
even more practice. Not judging and not giving advice are two of
the most powerful hidden coaching skills. There are coaching skills
that are visible and audible, they include: asking great questions,
and listening actively.
Teaching using a 'Coaching Approach' is carrying out the work of a
teacher and 'making use of the skills of a coach'. The combination is
Teachers who use a coaching approach, interact with students in an
authentic, self-developing, reflective manner. A description of the
coach's mind-set appears gradually in all the stories in this book, an
especially in Anthony's notes at the start of each campfire story.
Developing your coaching approach skills
Whatever your professional background, the best places to start
developing your coaching approach are the the hidden skills of:
Holding back personal opinions and advice
Being comfortable with not knowing what is right or wrong
Not knowing what will happen next.
The Coach in the Classroom
Chapter 2: Attitude Makes a Difference
Riccardo prepared for one of his first lecture assignments at a high
school. The email that Harriet, the English teacher, had sent him set
out the purpose of the lecture as providing the students support in
giving presentations, in English. She had asked Riccardo to talk
about 'Criteria for Effective Presentations' or 'Essential Presentation
Riccardo was prepared to give a talk. He was also willing to give a
presentation and receive feedback from the students according to
the predetermined criteria. He was prepared to do that, or to be
guided by whatever questions or issues that surfaced from the
students during the lecture.
Riccardo made his way to the high school by public transport as
The teacher, Harriet, met Riccardo at the staff room where she
offered him a cup of coffee. Harriet was a tall woman of about thirty
years, with long blonde hair that hung over her fresh, wild face. Her
narrow amber eyes, set lightly within their sockets, scanned
endlessly over Riccardo’s face. As Harriet walked Riccardo to the
classroom, her flawless navy blue skirt catching the breeze as she
moves, she shared with him her concerns about her students’
unwillingness to give presentations to the rest of the class.
Her voice betrayed a sense of submission, "This school is located in
an area that has a high proportion of families with one or both
parents unemployed, you know. Everyone knows that teenagers
who leave this school after their compulsory education, go directly
into unemployment, where they remain until they move away from
the family home into subsidized housing and start families of their
own. The school has a reputation for having poorly motivated
students who obtain few passing grades and receive low grades in
the core subjects."
Riccardo smiled and waited.
Harriet’s voice grated on Riccardo’s ears as she set herself up for
some kind of admission, "At this school, all the experienced teachers
have worked here forever, for more than fifteen years anyway. The
younger, recently-qualified teachers, like me, likely stay for a year or
two before moving on to other less-demanding posts elsewhere."
"Then why was I really invited here?" wondered Riccardo.
Riccardo asked, "What's your reason for inviting me?"
Harriet rallied as she gave the official reason for inviting Riccardo,
"It's important for the students’ language development to be able to
give a presentation of some kind. And, it's part of the school’s
assessment process that the students are expected to stand up and
speak in front of an audience. They have tried giving presentations
three times now and it went from bad to worse. At first, only a few
of the students tried, but after the feedback none of them wanted to
try again. The presentations will affect their grades and I cannot
Riccardo inquired about Harriet’s relationship with the class as a
whole. "What are they like to teach?" he asked.
Harriet replied with a few well-chosen words. "Sullen. Aggressive.
Hurtful." she said. "In most lessons, they don’t listen to each other,
they interrupt and are generally rude. When it comes to
presentations they become quiet. A moody, sullen silence falls over
them and they can become vocal and aggressive when I pressure
them to prepare to give a presentation."
"So what’s really going on here? What is it like for this teacher to give a
presentation to the class? How do the students feel when listening to their
teacher?" asked Riccardo's inner voice.
When they arrived at the classroom, the students were already in the
room, mostly seated in their places. Harriet asked for quiet and then
presented Riccardo to the class. Riccardo stepped to centre stage and
"My name is Riccardo. I am a business communications consultant.
In my work, I give presentations and I train other people to give
presentations." Riccardo projected the first slide 'Criteria for
Effective Presentations' and waited.
The few students who were looking at him seemed unimpressed by
his initial words. Riccardo scanned the room for the informal
leaders. There were several candidates; some returned his gaze with
curiosity, others were keeping eye contact with their classmates,
occasionally looking over at Riccardo. Their facial expressions and
body language telegraphed that they felt confident in front of their
Riccardo shared a little more. "Presentations are my ‘thing’. I’m here
to share with you what I know about presentations. He showed the
next slide 'Essential Presentation Skills' and paused.
"But first let me ask, what would you like to know?" Riccardo asked,
and waited patiently.
Their silence spoke volumes about their lack of willingness to ask for
what they wanted or needed. Their looks left Riccardo with a
mixture of fear and dread in the pit of his stomach.
"I feel their fear," the voice observed. "It’s time to bring that fear into the
light," Riccardo replied. "There’s no point telling them not to be afraid;
there is no point telling them that being afraid is a big disadvantage in
their lives. I will have to make the point another way."
By turning the concept of 'fear' inside out and finding 'courage,'
Riccardo realized he needed to help them to be courageous.
"Yes, courage would be a positive way forward," Riccardo’s inner voice
But telling them wouldn’t help matters; it would be much better to
demonstrate, to inspire them to be courageous.
"So I will look for the courage in the informal leaders," thought
Looking into the students’ faces, Riccardo declared, "The best way
for me to share with you what I know about giving presentations is
to give a presentation." Riccardo laughed, and added lightly, "and it
would be even better for you to give the presentations." As he said
the word 'you', Riccardo eyed each of the informal leaders briefly. So
what I’m looking for is somebody to volunteer to give a presentation
for a couple of minutes so that we can give some feedback. In fact,
I’m looking for three people. Who are the three most confident
people in the room?"
The students looked around at each other, their eyes aiming in the
direction of the informal leaders, who slowly began to sit up and
face Riccardo. It took a while. Three individuals finally rose and
grinned at him.
"Great, we have three volunteers. Come to the front of the room and
I will give you your instructions," encouraged Riccardo.
They strode towards Riccardo, growing in size as they did so. Two
were taller than Riccardo so he invited them into a huddle so their
heads were all at the same level. He asked their names.
Eric, who wore glasses was the tallest and thinnest of the three,
seemed to be very nervous for someone who had volunteered.
Joseph was physically athletic, spoke slowly, choosing his words
with care. Lonny the broadest of the three, gave the impression he
could knock down walls with his shoulders.
Riccardo guided the three volunteers to where he wanted them and
turned them to face their classmates. One by one, he invited them to
share their names and how comfortable they felt standing at the
front of the class.
"Eric, how does it feel to be standing here?"
Eric looking down at the floor, replied, "It’s OK."
"How about you Joseph?"
Joseph kept eye contact with Riccardo as he replied, "No problem.
No problem at all."
"And Lonny, how does it feel to be here?"
"Alright," Lonny answered, grinning and looking at his classmates.
Riccardo huddled with the three volunteers again, and gave them
instructions. "What I want you to do is give a very short talk about
what you were doing yesterday, or last week, for two minutes, no
more, just two minutes. Can you do that? Then we will give you
some feedback to make your presentations even better!"
All three agreed to the assignment.
"Now here’s what I want you to do. Go outside and prepare your
two-minute talk. Oh, and by the way, I want you to talk with each
other and decide who is the strongest one. That will be the person
who will come in first when I ask for somebody to come in. The
strongest one. Do you understand?"
They understood, and grinned at the challenge of deciding who was
the strongest of them. At the back of their minds, they were thinking
about the two-minute talk they were going to give. At the front of
their minds was the question of who was strongest. They left the
room. The door closed.
Riccardo turned off the projector. "Okay, now listen," he said in a
conspiratorial tone to the rest of the students. "We are going to play
"Are you ready?" asked the voice inside Riccardo’s head. "We will soon
find out," Riccardo giggled, as he replied.
The students hushed and leaned forwards, intrigued by the promise
of a game to play. Obviously, it was going to be a bit naughty,
hopefully exciting, and probably more interesting than listening to a
boring lecture about giving presentations.
Riccardo set up the game, continuing his conspiratorial tone.
"Whoever comes in first, we are not going to like them. We’re going
to ignore them; we’re going to be a bit rude to them, but not in an
obvious way. You know what I mean? You know how to be a bit
rude without being too obvious, right?"
The students looked at each other, their grinning faces and raised
eyebrows clearly betraying their delight at the thought of playing
"Whoever comes in first is the strongest of the three; they can take it;
they can take us being rude for two minutes. But, if they catch us
being rude, we lose the game. The trick is to be rude without being
caught. Are you ready?"
They certainly were.
Riccardo called for the first volunteer. Lonny walked in, head high,
looking around the room and checking that he had the attention of
his classmates as he walked to the front. Riccardo stood to one side,
facing the audience, and nodded to Lonny. "Okay Lonny, you’ve got
two minutes, away you go."
Lonny started to speak, "You know how hard it is to get fireworks,"
he said gleefully, waiting for some agreement from his classmates. It
didn't come. He blushed, his hands shook, he continued, "and you
know how they check how old you are," he said with a begging
tone. His face went pale, "and you need an ID card…" he stumbled
over his words and managed to keep going for a few seconds more
before losing momentum completely.
"Please continue, Lonny," coaxed Riccardo, "for two minutes please."
Lonny braced himself and made a brave effort to continue speaking,
looking desperately at his classmates for support, but not getting it,
"Well, I er, I have a ..." he stammered, blushing for a few seconds
and going pale the next.
"He’s hurting," said the voice. "Is it time to step in?" "Probably," said
Riccardo interrupted and said, "Lonny! You are done, you’re
finished, we have heard enough. We also have to tell you something.
We have been playing a game with you; we have been very rude.
Did you notice?"
Lonny’s face fell. He had not known.
"What the hell!" he clamoured, "What the bloody hell?"
"It's all my fault," Riccardo interrupted.
"And you just sat there and ignored me," he accused his classmates,
pointing a gun finger at them. "That's not nice," he threatened, "not
nice at all."
"They were following my instructions, it was me," interjected
Riccardo inviting Lonny to focus on him instead. "I believe you were
the strongest most confident person in the room?" Riccardo stated,
reminding them of the deal at the start of the lesson. "And we are
learning about giving presentations," he continued, "What can we
learn from this?"
"What did you tell them to do?"
"I invited them to be a bit rude, to ignore you and not get caught
"They were bloody rude. I could see that they were ignoring me."
"How?" asked Riccardo.
"They were looking at me with empty eyes."
"And what else?"
"They didn't react when I told them about fireworks. I thought they
"And how did that feel?"
"Like shit!" exclaimed Lonny.
"If you can, tell us more about that."
"I felt angry, embarrassed. Betrayed!"
"Betrayed by what?"
"They are supposed to be my mates," he said waving his gun finger
at them again."
"And what happened to you when you felt betrayed?"
"It made my head spin. It felt like I was going to be sick."
"And what happened to your presentation?"
"I couldn't speak. It was like the words would not come out."
Lonny alternated between anger and relief as he complained about
how awful it felt to be ignored by his classmates. The
communication lesson was being given by the strongest person in
the room, the young man who had volunteered to give a two-minute
presentation to an audience who had been rude and ignored him.
Riccardo acknowledged, "Lonny. Thank you for giving us a most
powerful lesson about what can happen when the audience ignores
you," Riccardo acclaimed Lonny, "You are a bold, courageous,
young man who deserves to be listened to. You explained the point
of the lesson much better than I could have done."
Lonny returned to his seat, stopping to bump fists with several
classmates on the way. He sat down with a thump and turned to
glare at Riccardo.
Speaking to the whole class, Riccardo asked, "Do you want to
continue the game?" They did! "This time, whoever comes in, there
are two of them, remember, we are going to love them, we are going
to be attentive, we are going to listen to every word they say, we’re
going to be encouraging, and we’re not going to get caught doing it.
The game is to encourage them without them noticing we are doing
it. Are you ready?"
Riccardo invited the second volunteer in. Joseph walked in, keeping
his eyes on Riccardo as he walked up to where he was going to give
his short presentation.
Riccardo said, "Okay Joseph, you’ve got two minutes, away you go."
Joseph began talking about his weekend, "I went to the match this
weekend, with my dad and my uncle. It was great," he smiled
grandly, the audience smiled back, his eyes widened. His voice grew
as he continued, "We got seats right behind the goal, you could see
everything like you was the goalie …" and he enthusiastically
continued the story for a full two minutes.
Riccardo interrupted and said, "Okay, Joseph, you are done; we
have heard enough." As Joseph moved to take his place among his
classmates, Riccardo added, "Joseph, we have something to tell you;
we’ve been playing a game with you. Did you notice?"
No, Joseph had not noticed they were playing a game. "How did it
feel to give the presentation?" asked Riccardo.
Joseph beamed, "It felt great; everyone was listening." The other
students all laughed. Joseph looked puzzled.
"Lean in," encouraged the voice. "Dig a little deeper."
"Tell us more."
"It felt like whatever I said, everyone was interested. I felt strong. I
was nervous at the start because you know, you were gonna give
some feedback or something, but it got easier."
"What made it easy?" enquired Riccardo.
"Everyone was listening"
"Right, they were. We were also playing a game, that's why they
Riccardo rounded off this part of the game by saying, "I will tell you
the game we were playing after we have played with the third
volunteer. Please join in and we will talk about it afterwards."
Joseph walked back to his place, bemused by what had just
"Follow through, complete the game," reminded the voice.
Riccardo started the third round. "This time we will do half and half.
For the first minute you can choose to be rude, to ignore, or you can
choose to show love, to listen. Then in the second minute, you swap;
if you were rude, now you listen; if you were listening, now you’re
rude. And to win the game, we have to do all this without getting
They were ready.
Riccardo invited the third and final volunteer, Eric to come in. He
entered the room, his eyes following the lines on the floor until he
got to where Riccardo was pointing, inviting him to give his
"Eric, will you speak for two minutes and we will give you some
feedback to improve your presentation?"
Eric looked at his notes, "I want to tell you about the match last
weekend." Half the audience groaned in silence, the other half
smiled, eagerly awaiting his story. Eric spoke for a while, looking at
his classmates from time to time and, after one minute, noticed
something was different and stopped speaking.
"Eric, please continue," said Riccardo, "for two minutes please."
"Something is going on," Eric said.
"We have been playing a game with you," declared Riccardo.
"I knew that," Eric said. "You got me very confused. Some of you
were with at me at the beginning, and then you wouldn’t look at me.
It was impossible to carry on talking. What were you doing?"
By way of answering that question, Riccardo led the students in a
debrief of the three rounds of the game. He asked Lonny, who was
still visibly angry, to share how he felt to be ignored. Lonny told his
classmates that he had expected their support, that it’s hard to stand
at the front of the room giving a presentation. He understood that
something weird was happening because even his best classmates
had looked away from him whilst he was talking and they had not
laughed at the joke he had tried to tell.
Riccardo invited the teacher Harriet to work with him, "Could you
help me with the next stage? I think we are ready to suggest some
ways we could make the presentations work out better."
"Yes," said Harriet flicking her long blonde hair behind her ears as
she prepared to take charge of her class again. She walked briskly to
the front of the room to stand beside Riccardo who made himself a
little smaller by lowering his shoulders. She spun round to face the
class, her blue dress fanned out as she did so, and brought the class
to rapt attention.
Harriet began by acknowledging the class, "You do, in my opinion,
you do already have almost enough skill in speaking English to give
the required presentation." Then she admitted, "I had not realised
what was holding you back, until now." She gave a nod in
Riccardo’s direction by way of thanks.
Together they asked what would have made the situation better.
Harriet began, "What can we do that would make these
"What do we need to add or take away?" added Riccardo. The
students' suggestions came quickly:
"Do we have to present to the whole class?"
"Can we present to a small audience of friends?"
"Can we record on video?"
"Can we record just on audio?"
Harriet took note and agreed with all the suggestions, "Sure. No
Riccardo fished for suggestions beyond giving presentations, "What
else would you like to add about supporting each other in getting
the best grades you can?" His comments were aimed mostly at
Knocking down the walls that had stood between the students in the
room, Lonny suggested, "Be honest, and be kind."
At the end of the debrief, Harriet took over the reigns and continued
the class discussion about finding ways to get the best results from
presentations. Riccardo made to leave the room. Eric, who had been
following Riccardo with his eyes since his presentation, stood up to
open the door for Riccardo. It was clear from his face that Eric was
still confused about what had happened when he had given his
presentation earlier in the lesson. Riccardo took him out of the room
for a moment. When Riccardo asked him to share his thoughts and
feelings Eric was unable to pinpoint the reasons for his distress,
except to say, "First some of them had listened, then they had not
Riccardo gently asked a couple of questions, "How much attention
do you give to your audience when speaking?" and "How much do
you allow the audience reaction affect your performance?" Eric
looked surprised at first, but the wheels in his mind started turning.
He had not considered these matters before.
Leaving Eric to spin on his own, Riccardo walked away.