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 9: The Juvenile Criminal
Riccardo has been coaching several teachers at this secondary school
for some weeks. This was a school with clear and multiple
challenges that were causing the teachers major worries. Students
would disrupt lessons, some would leave lessons without
permission, and roam the corridors getting into trouble. Some
students had been kicked out of lessons – the teacher had made it
clear that they were not welcome in their classroom. There was a
high turnover of teachers and headteachers.
Recently, the school board had employed two counsellors to support
the students during their last school years. One of the counsellors
was Jason, a middle-aged man, who had signed up for individual
coaching with Riccardo.
Jason opened the door to Riccardo. "Come in and have a seat," he
said, waving at the two sofas set at right angles in the corner of the
room. Jason’s busy hand movements reminded Riccardo of an
industrious bee. Jason had a pleasant face with almond-shaped rosecoloured
eyes. He was very short and had an athletic build. Riccardo
jealously eyed Jason’s thick, wavy, golden hair that looked like a
sunlit cloud drifting above his head. Jason’s wardrobe was
professional yet mysterious. He wore second-hand clothes from
another era, a waistcoat that was mostly green and a fine white
cotton shirt that rustled when Jason moved.
Riccardo sat down, ready to design the alliance that was needed to
support Jason in whatever it was he wanted to develop.
Jason asked, "How shall we get started?"
"Could you tell me something about your background?"
"I used to work as a social worker in the local housing estate. There's
a lot of unemployment, drug abuse and criminality there. Not to
mention the wife-beating and gang activity. We were a team of eight
social workers assigned to the area. We did what we could, but I
always felt that we could do better with earlier intervention, so I
looked for a placement at a secondary school. I started here a couple
of years ago. I'm beginning to find my feet now."
"What is it that you do here?
"I am the first contact for kids who have skipped class. I call them
up, go to their homes if needed and persuade them to come back to
school, and help them to catch up. Then there's the removals, the
ones the teachers refuse to have in class. I help them plan their own
lessons, to study in the library and keep up with the course. I don't
teach, except Maths and English. Sometimes I get help from other
teachers for that. Then there's kids whose violent tempers cannot be
controlled by discipline. Some are on medication."
"That sounds like you are a special needs teacher?"
"We have those at the school too, but they are overwhelmed with
cases. Basically, I help the kids be in school, do what they can, to
realise that they can do better. Hopefully, I can get them to aspire to
"What do you need from me?"
"I have most of my meetings with students in this room. You could
observe what I do, see what I do, give me some pointers on what I
could do better."
Riccardo baulked, "Pointers? I don’t give pointers; I simply listen
and ask questions, and then listen again."
Jason added with curiosity, "That sounds refreshing."
Riccardo wondered, "Having an observer will be interesting for the
student. What do they know about what we are doing?"
"Nothing. Haven't thought about it yet."
"It needs some thought but for now we need to focus on our
working relationship. What do you need to know about me?"
"You are a coach. That's a bit like a counsellor, isn't it?"
"Perhaps. What do you think is the same?"
"We ask good questions and we listen well."
"Thanks for the compliment. What else?"
"I don't know. What would you say?"
"At a guess, I'd say that we have confidentiality in common, and a
working relationship built on trust is important for us both,"
"That's true. Trust is a huge issue for some of the kids I'm working
with. It's taken me a whole year to connect with some of them, they
don't trust adults easily."
"Which is why I was wondering how an observation in this small
room would work out."
"It won't work with every kid here. But maybe one or two? One that
comes to mind, his name is…"
Riccardo interrupted, "I don't need to know his name. It's better if
you don't tell me. But you could tell me something about his
background? Not too much though. Just two minutes."
"Maybe it's enough to say that he recently got caught out of a lesson,
carry out a drug transaction in the school playground."
"His teacher was in pieces. She was torn between the needs of the
students in the class and the needs of this one student in the
playground. She sat there, on the sofa and cried about how
impossible it was to be there for every student," Jason described.
"So you counsel the teachers too?"
"Sometimes. When there is a need for it. And the parents. His
mother was upset to discover that her son was dealing drugs. We
think he is involved in one of the local gangs. He's been in trouble
with the police since he was fourteen."
"You seem to be involved in the whole social structure around each
of your students."
"In some cases, I know the parents from my previous work."
"And, this boy is one I could observe you working with?"
"Yes. We can all see exactly where this boy is headed, prison."
"What needs to happen before I observe you and this boy?"
"I need to speak with him, to make sure he's OK with you being in
"What will you tell him about what you and I are doing?"
"I will say that you are a coach, my coach and that you have come to
watch me work"
"So, you want me to be silent?"
"No, actually. Come to think of it. You could be part of the
"If I am part of it, it's not an observation."
"No, that's true," Jason agreed.
"There's something other than observation and coaching playing out here.
I wonder what it is?" enquired Riccardo's inner voice. "I will ask," replied
"What is it you really want?"
"What I want is for you to coach him and for me to observe you!"
"Wow. I wasn't expecting that. What do you expect will come of it?"
"A different perspective."
"If we could find a way to do that, for me to coach and for you to
observe, I would be relying on your relationship with the boy."
"We would do it together. We have had social workers and the
police in here with him before, on several occasions. We have all
warned him about where he's headed."
"How has that worked out?
"Perhaps he needs something other than a warning from us?"
"If we do this, how can we get it to work out for the best for all of
"I will tell him that you will be here, and that you are a coach, and
we want the best for him."
"How do we decide when you are counselling him and when I am
"I can start, then I will introduce you. And we can see where it goes.
Is there anything else you and I need to agree on?"
Riccardo clarified, "I want it to be clear that he's still your case, your
student. You are responsible for him. You are borrowing my
coaching expertise. And when you feel the timing is right, you take
over. I will move aside, no harm done."
"This feels refreshing and exciting. What do you hope to learn?"
"I want to see what happens when you don't give him any pointers. I
think you could get a different result that we have so far."
When the boy came into the counsellor, Jason's room, Riccardo
immediately saw he was an ordinary boy, except for the fact that his
eyes darted everywhere. He moved his head much like a bird, and
seemed to be looking for something, or looking out for something,
Riccardo wasn’t sure which. The boy radiated a lot of energy and it
seemed as though the room became both brighter and hotter as he
walked in. The boy looked Riccardo up and down, querying why he
was there, but not actually asking the question.
Jason introduced them and portrayed Riccardo as a coach, a life
coach. With this opening, Riccardo aimed to connect with the boy.
Riccardo faced the boy and said, "I work with people who are in the
process of making a decision, who want it to be the best decision for
their lives. I don’t give advice; I simply listen and ask questions, and
then listen again."
The boy looked around the room in silence.
Riccardo continued, "Is it okay with you that I’m here today? Jason
asked me to come in and give some support. We both want the best
for you, but it will be you who decides what the ‘best’ is, and who
can help you, or not. Is it okay that I am a coach here for you today?"
The boy shrugged and mumbled, "It’s okay I suppose."
During his attempt to connect with him, Riccardo tried to maintain
eye contact, but the boy looked away most of the time and scanned
the room instead.
"But is he paying attention?" asked the voice in Riccardo’s head. "Yes, he
is listening; he is using his eyes, not his ears."
"So what’s the choice we are making today?" Riccardo asked.
"High school," Jason replied. The boy laughed.
"Or a job," added Jason. "As long as it’s not prison," he blurted with
a warning tone.
Riccardo asked the boy with genuine curiosity, "How good a choice
is prison? What’s good about it?".
"That’s where he will end up if he doesn’t change his ways,"
Looking directly at the boy, Riccardo asked, "How does that sound
The boy replied, "No good, but I don’t care."
"The door is open," said the voice in Riccardo’s mind. "He cares. What
does he care about?" "I will find out," Riccardo replied silently.
Riccardo asked the boy, "What do you care about? What is
important to you?"
The boy looked at him, shrugged, and answered, "Nothing."
"Sometimes it can be difficult to find the best words to say what’s
important, especially when it’s important. May I make a
suggestion?" offered Riccardo.
"Okay," the boy’s eyes narrowed.
"I’m guessing, and it’s only a guess, that respect is important to you.
How important is respect to you?"
The boy seemed to hiss in reply, "You gotta get respect, you gotta
get respect. It’s important."
"What else?" Riccardo asked, and waited.
"Being strong, you got to be strong or people don’t respect you, it’s
"What else?" Riccardo asked, and waited again.
"I don’t know," the boy pulled away slightly.
"You’re losing him; you’re making him work too hard; you’re making him
work for you. Make him work for himself. Demonstrate the value of
knowing what’s important."
"These questions can be hard work I know. Let’s see whether Jason
can answer some of these questions." Riccardo directed his gaze to
Jason and prepared to pose the same questions. Jason shifted in his
seat. He appeared to have become uncomfortable.
Riccardo hesitated. "Before I ask you any questions Jason, perhaps I
should ask how important is it for you to know what is important to
Jason laughed. "Good question. If I knew what was important, really
important, I could focus on that and do nothing else. I’d get a lot of
things done; nothing would get in my way; I’d be really, you know,
"How clear are you right now on what’s important? I mean as a
"Well, maybe sixty percent," Jason said. "No, make that seventy
percent. Okay, seventy percent."
"That’s a lot of numbers," said the voice. "What about feelings?"
Riccardo quietly asked, "How do you feel about that Jason?"
"I feel like it should be eighty percent or ninety percent, I mean I’m
in my forties now. I should know what I’m doing." Jason paused,
becoming reflective and quiet. "It feels embarrassing," he concluded.
"That will do," noted the inner voice. "Now what about the boy?"
Riccardo turned to the boy. "You see. What I do as a coach is ask
questions and listen and ask more questions. I ask questions about
how happy people are with the choices they are making. I ask
questions that help people to hear what they are saying to
themselves. And I help them to see other choices they could make. I
don’t make the choices. That’s up to them. It’s their life and they can
live it as they wish. There are no right or wrong answers to the
questions. May I ask you some more?"
"Sure, go ahead," allowed the boy.
"What if you knew what was important to you? How would it help
you make choices in your life?" inquired Riccardo.
"I know what’s important to me! Respect, and strength, and power,
and money, and having a good time, and doing what you want,"
blurted the boy.
"What else?" Riccardo asked, and waited.
"What do you mean?" the boy replied. "Isn’t that enough?"
"Sure, it might be, and there might be more things, and some of the
things might be more important than others. Would you like to look
at that?" asked Riccardo.
"What do you mean ‘look at’ that?" demanded the boy.
"It can be difficult to juggle these things," Riccardo countered and
mimed juggling with his hands, "to hear what’s important more
than what you’ve already said. I have some suggestions. Would it be
okay if I show them to you? They’re on pieces of paper, and they’re
in my pocket. I always bring them with me. People tell me that it
makes answering the questions a lot easier. If you like, I can show
them to you."
"If you want." The boy threw out the words.
"Words on paper," said the voice in Riccardo’s head. "You have
moved from spoken words to written words. Clever!"
Riccardo had a pack of values cards in his pocket, cards with singleword
descriptions of fifty common values. He pulled out the first
card. The word "Money" was written on it. Riccardo asked, "How
important is money to you?"
"Really important, I want a lot of money. Millions." The boy laughed
and Riccardo gave him the card as though he were giving him
millions. The boy held the card tightly in his right hand.
Riccardo pulled the next card out of the deck. It read "Family."
Showing him the card, Riccardo asked, "How important is family to
The boy winced. "Not at all, not at all; I don’t give a damn," he lied.
Riccardo held onto the card and reflected back to him, "Your voice is
loud when you say you don’t give a damn."
"Yeah, well, I don’t have a dad and my mum is weak." The boy
yelled, "Family is not important to me; I’m never going to have
children; I don’t want them!"
Riccardo put the card face down off to one side, and pulled out the
next card. It said "Trust." Riccardo asked, "How important is trust to
The boy paused and thought it over. "I don’t trust anyone," he
"Does that make trust important or not important to you?" Riccardo
"It’s not important. But it is." The boy stumbled over his words.
Riccardo kept the card and reached for the next card in the deck.
"Can I have that one?" the boy asked.
"If it’s important to you," said Riccardo offhandedly.
"Yes, give it to me," demanded the boy,
They both paused to savour the moment, to understand.
Riccardo asked, "What just happened?"
"I don’t know," the boy replied. He paused for a long time, and then
asked, "What are the other cards?"
"You are holding onto control; maybe it’s time to let go," said the voice in
his head. "I will let go," Riccardo replied.
Riccardo inquired, "What’s the best way of doing this? Shall I go
through the cards one by one, or will you take all of them and
choose what’s important to you?"
"Give them to me," demanded the boy, grabbing for the cards.
Riccardo gave the boy the cards and pulled back a little to give him
space. Riccardo exchanged glances with Jason to check in on how it
was going. They nodded and smiled, as if in acknowledgement of
what had just happened.
Riccardo invited the boy to spread his chosen values cards out on
the table. As soon as they were spread out, it became clear why the
boy had chosen to join a criminal gang. That’s where most of his
higher values would be met.
"What are you going to do with this?" asked the voice inside Riccardo’s
head. "I will let the boy do the work," Riccardo replied.
Waving his hand over the cards, Riccardo asked the boy, "What
would be a good job title for all these?"
After a few seconds of study, the boy replied, "Police!" And then
after a pause, "Fireman!"
"What does it take to become a fireman?" Riccardo asked Jason, who
leaned forward and quickly began describing what a fireman does
and what must be learned to fill that role.
"Perhaps we could make it more visual?" pleaded Riccardo, having
realized the boy thought more in pictures than words. Jason looked
at Riccardo and shrugged.
"How much of this is yours to do?" queried the voice in Riccardo’s
head. "As much as is needed to empower these two to move ahead,"
"Can you find a picture of a fireman on the ‘net?" invited Riccardo,
pointing to the nearby computer equipment. Both the boy and Jason
quickly understood what was being requested, and why.
The boy found a suitable image, pasted his face into the picture, and
added his name beneath. Meanwhile, Jason located the website of a
local high school for the uniformed forces; courses for the Fire
Brigade, Police Force, and others were offered. He printed out a
checklist of the requirements and an application form.
Whilst Jason and the boy became engrossed in the application form,
Riccardo quietly left for his next appointment.
Although Riccardo never met the boy again during his brief time at
the school, he heard that he had received tuition during the Easter
Break in an effort to help him complete his core studies before he
was given a final grade. Several teachers made themselves available
during the break from normal school hours. As one teacher put it,
"As long as he keeps coming to [the school], I will keep on working
with him." There seemed to be an unspoken agreement that every
small effort at this stage would save a mountain of work later
should the boy otherwise choose to follow a criminal path.
Riccardo did not know what happened to the boy after he left
school. Until yesterday. Now they are sitting on a mountainside,
drinking tea, eating food, and emptying out Riccardo’s wardrobe of
stories, sharing his life experiences of coaching teachers. And he
knows the boy’s name is Anthony.