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The Tao of Instructional Coaching

This is Part I of a five-part series that will focus on reflection, non-resistance, compassion, and egolessness. The follow-up to this article is “Vitality and Positivity Are Enhanced with Reflection.”
By Derrick des Vignes and Jocelyn Wiley

Many had visited the sage over the years, seeking advice from the wise old man. On this day, a young man employed at the local shop arrived to speak to the sage.
“The boss has no respect for my talents,” he told the sage. “He doesn’t give me the authority I deserve and ignores any ideas I suggest. I’ve had all I can take of his rudeness. I’m going to march in, give him a piece of my mind, and quit!”
The sage asked, “How much do you know about the business? Do you know how they keep track of profits, expenses, or inventory?”
“Not really. Why do you ask?”
“If you resign right now, they will not see it as a loss because you possess no knowledge that has value to them. A much better way to wreak revenge is to learn everything about their business before you quit. Take advantage of them by using the shop as a free source of training. When you leave, your departure will come as a crushing blow, because you shall walk away with all their business secrets.”
“That’s a great idea,” the young man said. “I’ll make my boss eat his words. I’ll show him!”
He put the plan into action. He used stolen moments throughout the day to covertly learn the many aspects of the business. He cut short his breaks and stayed later than anyone else, perfecting his newly acquired knowledge.
One year later, the sage saw him at the market and greeted him. “How goes your plan for revenge? Have you learned enough to quit?”
“Yes, I have, but… my boss has changed completely! He values my work and frequently compliments me. In the past few months he gave me important assignments, a promotion, and a raise! Everything is different now, and… well, I don’t really want to quit.”
As the young man learned, if you truly want to succeed, you must put in the effort to really work at it, making the necessary sacrifices. In this way, you show your value to others. Thus, instead of you chasing after success, success will follow you.
This Chinese parable reflects many day-to-day interactions between people seeking support or motivation in the form of coaching. Guided strategies can allow individuals to seek answers to their own personally meaningful questions. An objective of this journey to self-discovery and personal fulfilment is, as Sun Tzu expresses in The Art of War, in the end, when a person’s work is done, they will believe they have achieved success on their own.
During the last decade, researchers such as Jim Knight, Diane Sweeney, and Elena Aguilar have helped to advance a vision of pedagogical leadership and capacity building recognized as Instructional Coaching.
Their models provide a transformational approach to self-improvement that can be applied to the education system as a whole or to the individual needs of educators. This is how we ought to frame our approaches to teaching and learning in the future.
My relatively new journey into Instructional Coaching has allowed me to connect research with my own personal and professional beliefs, attitudes, and approaches to advancing teaching and learning.
Transformational coaching, as defined by Aguilar, draws from ontological coaching and the philosophical study of being. This encompasses how we manifest ourselves in what we say and do, as well as in how we feel (Aguilar).
Fundamental Taoist understandings about personal and professional self-fulfillment, considered in combination with research published in the area of positive psychology in education, all contribute to forming this holistic approach to teaching and learning, designed to advance student development.
I’d like to offer a different lens through which we can look at Instructional Coaching. Compassion, reflection, non-resistance, non-competition and egolessness are five pillars that guide my instructional leadership to nurture, empower and inspire others to achieve success based on their own goals and vision.
As a father, husband, teacher and educational leader, my mission is simple: to add value to the lives of others, while simultaneously adding value to my own life. These five pillars, and these three goals of nurturing, empowering, and inspiring, reflect Taoist principles that are designed for harmonious and virtuous living that permeates all that we do on a daily basis.
I recognize that studies have been conducted on the influence of Zen in various fields, including education. However, that was Zen; this is Tao.
Derrick des Vignes is the Coordinator for Instructional Coaching at Ridley College, Ontario. Jocelyn Wiley is an international educator who has worked in Canada, Bermuda, Mexico, and Abu Dhabi.
Aguilar, Elena. The Art of Coaching. Jossey-Bass: A Wiley Brand. San Francisco. 2013.
Tzu, Sun. The Art of War. Dell Publishing, New York. 1988

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