How are teaching and Life Coaching different as practices? This is the question I hope to tackle in this article. As someone who has been a university professor and teacher for over twenty years, the transition to Life Coaching has not been as seamless and smooth as I had imagined. Now, I have never been one of those Top-Down kind of teacherly types that Paulo Freire talks about, so my teaching mostly has always been sensitive to the needs and aspirations of my students. But despite my progressive leanings and critical pedagogy practices, I still had to unlearn a lot of my entrenched teaching habits in order to craft the identity and praxis of a Life Coach. In this brief article I will discuss this transition–from a teacher to a Life Coach–with a hope that my musings might be useful those who might be in the process of making this transition.
Teaching and Life Coaching: How are they Different?
So, let us consider teaching first. The teacher-student relationship, despite our best efforts, is inherently hierarchical. This implies that in most of the cases, the teacher takes up the place of the “dispenser of knowledge” and the student, by and large, acts as often passive but sometimes active recipient of knowledge. This inherent inequality, despite our best efforts, somehow defines the teacher-student relationship.
The teacher also has an agenda: to impart subject expertise (Math teacher teaches Math and the English teacher teaches English) so the teacher enters the pedagogical relationship with a pre decided mission to “accomplish” some goals; these goals are either set by the teacher or by the institution where they are teaching. In most of the cases the student has no choice in deciding the curriculum, the desired results, or even in suggesting a proper mode of knowledge delivery. This makes teaching a highly directive and unequal relationship.
Now, there are modes of teaching, like the problem-solving method explained by Paulo Freire or the current models of Critical pedagogy, but even these methods fail to efface the inherent inequalities and imperatives of a teacher-student relationship. Thus, even when the teachers are being progressive and egalitarian, the classroom activity is still governed by the policies and decisions beyond their control. In such a scenario, the students are never considered someone who can craft a solution to their own problems: they constantly need monitoring and evaluation to prove that they are capable of reproducing what has been taught to them.
From Teaching to Life Coaching
Now if we move from teaching to Life Coaching, the differences in the basic assumptions about the role of a coach and the nature of a coach-coachee relationship are almost completely opposed to a traditional teacher-student relationship. First of all, coaching is an “equal relationship” in which the coach and the coachee work together as equals to craft a program that enables the coachee to achieve their short and ling-term goals. In this relationship, the coach does not come in with a list of possible solutions to a given “problem.” The coach and the client work together to figure out what the client needs and how best can they achieve it. It is an equal, non-directive, and intrusive relationship. It is also a relationship of trust! (not that teaching is not a relationship of trust)
So, for a teacher making a transition from teaching to coaching, it is this letting go of the “teacherly” habit of “having the answers” that is essential. In my own practice so far, I have constantly tried to restrain myself whenever I attempt to propose a solution, for my job is to help the client come up with the solution and not to coerce or induce them into solutions that I myself might have created. I also have to remind myself to restrain from “advising” as that also involves an imposition of my will over that of the client. So, I think the biggest lesson for all teachers is to remember the dictum: “The client has the power to think, articulate, and act on their own solutions!”
From Teaching to Life Coaching: My Main Concern
As you might be aware, one of my areas of Life Coaching is Academic Success Coaching. It is in this area, that I struggle the most. Since the clients come to me to work on their academic projects, I have found myself sometimes slipping into my “teacherly” role, where I find myself offering my own suggestions and opinions about their work. So, in the future, if really want to inhabit the persona of a Life Coach, I will have to constantly train (and maybe restrain) myself when I am working with the clients in this particular academic success niche. In way, then, I am relieved that I am at least aware of this and maybe that would be the beginning of a larger and more positive change in my performance as a life coach. I also think that I will have to explain the academic coaching sessions better so that the future clients clearly understand that it is not a private tutoring session but rather a coaching session between two equal parties: the coach and the client.
So, overall, these are some of my thoughts on my own transition from teacher to a life coach. Please do share if you have experienced something similar, or, more importantly, if you have some suggestions for me to continue improving my approach to coaching.