Peter Greene borrows concepts from sports and business to explain what teachers should be and what reformers want them to be.

He writes about the transactional coach and the transformational coach.

The transactional coach wants to win. He views each of the players for their capacity to contribute to a winning game and season.

The transformational coach tries to bring out the best in every player. The goal is developing every player’s potential, not racking up points on the scoreboard.

He writes:

“Advocates of education reform have, intentionally or not, worked to redefine teachers as transactional coaches. We are supposed to be there just to get that good test score out of each kid. We should use test prep, rewards, threats– whatever works to get the student to make the right marks on the Big Standardized Test so that we can have that easily measured, numerically-coded win. Charter schools have the additional freedom to sort students based on which ones can best complete the transaction and which ones need to be benched. And since the transaction is a fairly simple, we have no shortage of ideas about how to have it broken into short, simple competency-based transactions that can be handled by a computer.

“Transactional coaching is simple, clear and can provide distinct short-term rewards. It is also narrow, shallow, and ultimately subordinates humanity and the value of individuals to an artificial and ultimately meaningless excuse for a life purpose. Transformational coaching is way to see the pursuit of athletic excellence as a means of pursuing human excellence and giving an athlete the tools to pursue whatever goals they might set for themselves. A transformational approach puts humanity at the center, setting goals that recognize higher values than the simple pursuits in front of us. A transactional approach sets up an artificial goal and holds it up as a god to be worshipped and pursued at the expense of any human beings who stand in the way. Can there be any doubt that education should be transformational?”

I don’t often disagree with Peter, but in this case, I think the King of Metaphor is not right. If he refers to a life coach, he makes an important point. If he refers to a sports coach or a business leader, the metaphor fails. The business wants to make a profit, and the CEO has to produce or be fired. In sports, every school or university wants a winning team, and they care more about the results, the scores, than human potential.

Teaching is not sports, not business. It is the profession of developing children into responsible young adults.