— Ben Wilkoff (@bhwilkoff) January 12, 2016
Tonight, a new improv team I coach had their first show. While I understand the difference between coaching and teaching, today’s question made me flash on a recent email I’d sent as an introduction to the team letting them know I’d be their coach. I made the following three commitments:
- For each show and rehearsal, I will push you to be better improvisers at the end than you were at the beginning.
- I will give you direct, concrete feedback.
- I will help you set and work toward personal improv goals.
It was surprising, 4 years out of the classroom, to look at my commitments and realize they were the same things I would tell new students at back to school night.
“I’ll be your English teacher,” I’d say.
Student would sheepishly look at the floor and either student or parent would admit to the student not being a reader or writer or both.
“I’ll help you with that,” I replied.
That became the goal. At the end of the year, I didn’t need my students to consider majoring in English or start envisioning themselves as English teachers. I wanted them to want to claim the titles of reader and writer because they’d felt themselves get better, and because they saw the two activities as parts of who they were.
If they grew up to be engineers, tremendous – so long as they grew up to be engineers who read and wrote. If they grew up to be waiters and waitresses, good on ’em – so long as they were servers who read and wrote.
I am hard-pressed to think of a vocation or profession where my mind wouldn’t be put more at ease when I heard it was a position filled by a person who identified as a reader and writer.
This is how I always have and always will measure my success as an educator. At the end of the day, do you see yourself as closer to or further from identifying as a person who practices whatever I’m charged with teaching you?