Research shows students and players retain information based on the following methods: 5 percent of what they hear, 25 percent of what they see, 75 percent of what they do and 90 of what they teach. Students that have been taught by effective teachers achieve three times the academic gains throughout a year as compared to those students being taught by ineffective teachers. Athletes that have been instructed by great coaches experience vast increases in their level of self confidence and ability to harness their emotions.
Great teachers and coaches share character traits of true leaders. Forbes magazine recently listed the top five character traits shared by leaders which include: integrity - following their own moral code of conduct; trustworthiness - trusted to do the "right thing"; emotionally intelligent - awareness of the needs and feelings of others; openness - open to ideas, people, risk, challenge, opportunity and experience; and motivation - be persistent, accountable, energetic, committed, lead by example and be accountable for their actions.
A great teacher takes great care in constructing each lesson so it has purpose and is connected to the overarching learning goals of the course. The atmosphere of their classroom is one that encourages discovery and the pursuit of solutions to the challenges they are faced with. This does not include harsh criticism for incorrect answers, but encourages students to share how they came to their decision, celebrating the critical thinking process while correcting any misunderstood facts. They encourage a collaborative atmosphere where each learns from another.
Great coaches help students develop the fundamentals involved in playing their sport. They help each athlete increase confidence in their abilities, not by the use of embarrassing them but by offering specific instructions to improve their performance (i.e. not yelling "play harder"). Great coaches understand each player, their strengths and weaknesses, and put a high priority their personal growth. These coaches check their ego at the door, putting the players'/team's needs above their own. They are strong two-way communicators with the ability to be both an active listener as well as inspirational.
Coaches and teachers encourage their students to challenge their intellectual, athletic and emotional limits. They help students move into uncharted waters, helping guide them through the challenges and adversity they encounter. These are skills they are not born with, they can't be acquired by taking a pill, but they can only be developed through experience.
John Wooden, a famous teacher/coach, displays the heart of a great leader in his quote: "I believe it's impossible to claim you have taught, when there are students who have not learned. With that commitment, from my first year as an English teacher until my last as UCLA basketball teacher/coach, I was determined to make the effort to become the best teacher I could possibly be, not for my sake, but for all those who were placed under my supervision."
There are 275,000-plus coaches, both volunteer and compensated, in the United States and more than 3.7 million elementary and secondary education teachers employed full time throughout our nation. Those earning the distinction of "Great" make up a minority of these ranks, making them a valued commodity. When you are lucky enough to witness one in action in the classroom or arena of competition, make sure you let them know they are appreciated for impact on youth. Their worth is truly priceless.
Editor's note: Steve Patchin is the director of the Center for Pre-College Outreach at Michigan Technological University.