Last night I came upon an article called “What Relevance Does Adult Development Theory Have for Coaching?” It’s written by Dr. John Derry, and is a reflection on the practice of life coaching.
He writes, “Let us hypothesize for a moment that one purpose of coaching is to help the individual move from one stage of adult development to the next.” I write a lot about the importance of applying principles of human development when working with kids, but it occurred to me while reading this: When hiring teachers, our focus is almost entirely on their ability to deliver academic content to students. Why don’t we ever think about their path in developing themselves as human beings?
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While teaching in a traditional school, I once had a colleague who came into my room and pointed to a table where students were working on computers. She accused me of stealing the table from her classroom and demanded that I return it to her immediately. When I informed her that I hadn’t stolen the table from her but would gladly give it to her at the end of the day, she insisted that I make the students stop working and dismantle the computer workstations immediately.
Another colleague accused me of conspiring with students to intentionally humiliate her in the school newspaper. After we read the article together, I asked her to point out the offending language. She couldn’t, saying, “It’s all implied.”
Once, a colleague stood up in a staff meeting and accused me of allowing students to write malicious insults in the newspaper, and demanded I issue a public apology on the spot. Later, when we met to explore his accusation, he admitted that he hadn’t actually read the article and was merely responding to a rumor. I invited him to send an email out to the staff correcting the error but he declined. “It might make me look bad,” he admitted.
Kids notice these kinds of things. Teachers are role models, and their actions help shape kids’ understanding about what it means to be an adult.
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Derry cites research that explores six stages of human development. Stages zero and one pertain to childhood, and stages two through five deal with the extent to which the individual understands both himself and his role in community.
He writes, “A teenager at stage two, for example, might only view the world from the perspective of meeting their own self needs. At stage three the focus shifts to the community or group within which the adult lives: the individual’s needs are subordinate to those of the community . . . At stage four a new sense of self develops through increasing self-determination. . . . Stage five adults have shifted their focus outwards again, having a self-awareness that is both self-generated and based on how others experience them.”
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When we were hiring new staff last year, PSCS founder Andy Smallman told me, “Our first priority is to hire good people.” A primary focus of our volunteer program is on surrounding students with people of high character.