The Advice Booth: Opportunities for Growth--Cohort or Coach?

I have been a classroom teacher for the past few years, and this year things are feeling stale. Even though I update the curriculum every year, I feel like I am stuck in a rut. What can I do to mix things up? How can I continue my education and learn new techniques or methods of teaching while balancing everything else?


It sounds like your career is at a crossroads, and you’re looking for some sort of growth or change. Here are some questions to explore: Where do you see yourself in five years? Are you on a path to get there? Do you see yourself as a teacher, teacher-leader or perhaps an administrator?

There are a number of programs available to help you expand your educational knowledge and leadership skills. The programs can be broken up into two main categories: cohort-based learning or one-on-one coaching. The learning environment must be well suited for the learner.

Cohorts enable you to develop relationships with peers as well as instructors and facilitators. Your peers can provide you with different perspectives, problem-solving skills and communication skills. Different perspectives can broaden your worldview and enable you to be a more capable and understanding leader. Observing different behaviors and problem-solving skills can make you better equipped to handle similar issues in the future. Having an audience of peers allows you to put yourself out there and enables you to get comfortable asking questions. Most importantly, it helps create a valuable network that you can lean on when a difficult problem presents itself.

Cohort-based learning is also beneficial since a larger group of learners can attract top innovators in the field and thought leaders, you will develop a network of amazing people who can help you get out of your personal rut.. It can also help establish professional relationships that can benefit professionally in the future for both support and growth.

However, there are disadvantages to this model as well. The student’s relationship with facilitators is diluted when there is a large cohort. The curriculum is set by the program and not always tailored to your individual needs. You do not receive the close attention that a coaching relationship can provide.

A coaching relationship can be extremely successful if you are highly motivated and know what it is you want to learn. It is important to note that finding a coach with the right chemistry can be tricky. You should test out a few before you settle and begin a relationship.

Honesty, support and guidance are important factors for growth. A coaching relationship will allow you to focus on your unique issues and talk you through problem solving, or even point you to new recourses. A coach can help point out your blind spots or bring awareness to beliefs or perspectives that may be holding you back. A coach will be be radically candid when others might not feel so bold.

A coaching relationship gives you one person’s (expert) perspective; a cohort brings the value of many perspectives. Cohorts enable peer networks that are difficult to build on your own, and allow a place for vulnerability and support. Cohorts allow you to learn from others on issues that you are not yet dealing with.

There are both benefits and drawbacks to each learning modality, but both will empower you to shake things up and grow in your position, or to move forward into a leadership position. As an educator dedicated to educating others, you should attend to your own education as well. To quote Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”


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Shelly Sadon
Leadership Dispositions