Teaching One-to-One: Stop teaching, start coaching!

Do you find one-to-one teaching frustrating?

Do you find it hard to keep your students interested and motivated?

Do you get the feeling that they are not really satisfied with your classes?

Do you and they feel they are not making progress?

If your answer to any of the above questions is YES, maybe you should stop teaching and start coaching.

What is teaching?

Many of us feel that teaching is related to the transference of imparting of knowledge. The teacher is an authority who knows all the answers.

What is coaching?

Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximise their own performance. Timothy Gallway. The Inner Game of Tennis (1975).

Coaching adopts a different approach. The learner already has the resources to find out the answers. The teacher’s (or coach’s) role is that of a catalyst – an instrument of change.

The other key difference revolves around the nature of the questions.

In traditional teaching, the teacher asks the questions, the learner answers correctly, incorrectly or fails to answer, and so the teacher corrects or provides the answer.

But, in coaching, the teacher may begin by asking leading questions which motivate the learner to discover what questions to ask and answer their own questions. In short, the learner not the teacher sets the agenda.

But, I hear you ask, what does all this have to do with one-to-one classes?

Well, I believe that we do our private students a great disservice if we assume the role of an authority figure who knows exactly what they need. It is not our job to tell the learner what they need – they should be telling us!

Private students, in my experience, know what they need and what they want…..the irony is that many of them don’t know that because they see themselves as passive consumers rather than active participants in the learning process.

This is why the teacher’s leading questions are so important and there are really only 5 of them:

  1. What do you want from these classes in the long-term?

  2. What do you need from these classes in the long-term?

  3. What do you need right now?

  4. What do you want right now?

  5. How do you think we should begin then?

Just by asking these five questions, we can make that switch and put learners in the driving seat.

One-to-one teaching is like being a co-driver: we may read the map, change a tyre, keep the driver’s spirits up, but we are not the ones with the hands on the steering wheels and we certainly don’t decide upon the destination.

In coaching, clients are ultimately responsible for their learning and actions. Maybe we teachers need to relinquish some control.

As Socrates said: “I cannot teach anybody anything – I can only make them think.”