Surgical Coaching

A lot of you lovely readers sent me this article, from the New Yorker. Thank you! It's circulated pretty rapidly in edu-bloggy world. Atul Gawande writes:

I’ve been a surgeon for eight years. For the past couple of them, my performance in the operating room has reached a plateau. I’d like to think it’s a good thing—I’ve arrived at my professional peak. But mainly it seems as if I’ve just stopped getting better.

So Gawande hired a coach. Someone to teach him how to be a better surgeon.

Later he writes:

The concept of a coach is slippery. Coaches are not teachers, but they teach. They’re not your boss—in professional tennis, golf, and skating, the athlete hires and fires the coach—but they can be bossy. They don’t even have to be good at the sport. The famous Olympic gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi couldn’t do a split if his life depended on it. Mainly, they observe, they judge, and they guide.


Many teacher-coaching programs concentrate on newer teachers, and this one is no exception. All teachers in their first two years are required to accept a coach, but the program also offers coaching to any teacher who wants it.

Not everyone has. Researchers from the University of Virginia found that many teachers see no need for coaching. Others hate the idea of being observed in the classroom, or fear that using a coach makes them look incompetent, or are convinced, despite assurances, that the coaches are reporting their evaluations to the principal. And some are skeptical that the school’s particular coaches would be of any use.


Novice teachers often struggle with the basic behavioral issues. Hobson told me of one such teacher, whose students included a hugely disruptive boy. Hobson took her to observe the boy in another teacher’s classroom, where he behaved like a prince. Only then did the teacher see that her style was the problem. She let students speak—and shout, and interrupt—without raising their hands, and go to the bathroom without asking. Then she got angry when things got out of control.

Read the whole thing.

Larry Ferlazzo's related thoughts, via GothamSchools, are here.