Mentor or Coach: What’s the game plan?

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Teaching is one of the hardest professions in the world. So what’s the game plan to make it through a day in the classroom? In their book titled Coaching Classroom Instruction Tom Roy & Tammy Heflebower (2013) state that the most effective help commonly comes from coaching (p. 22). But what does coaching mean? First, it’s important to understand that coaching is a two way street between a coach and the individual being coached. Roy & Heflebower (2013) explain that multiple definitions and terms can be associated with coaching since it is a relatively new term. They go onto explain that terms particularly associated with coaching are coach and mentor (p. 23). Let’s take a look at a YouTube video to learn more about the difference between a coach and mentor.

One commonality between coaching and mentoring is that both are used to nurture the skills of those being coached. Coaching focuses on specific objectives while mentoring focuses on personalized growth. Individuals are assigned to a specific coach with coaching while mentee typically selects a mentor they feel comfortable with. The Coaching versus Mentoring infographic below goes into greater detail about the differences between the two.

When beginning a coaching relationship, trust should be the main focus. Elena Aguilar (2016) explained that in early stages of development the leaders primary role is to build trust so educators can have meaningful conversations about student learning (pp. 109-110). When I think of coaching relationships I’ve been apart of, the most meaningful ones were those where we both listened to and supported each other. We celebrated the positives and made a game plan to tackle the negatives!


Aguilar, E. (2016). The Art of Coaching Teams: Building Resilient Communities that Transform Schools. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.

LeanLab. (2017, May 31). Coaching vs Mentoring [YouTube]. Retrieved from

Marzano, R.J. & Simms, J.A. (2012). Coaching classroom instruction. Marzano Research Laboratory: Bloomington, IN.

2 thoughts on “Mentor or Coach: What’s the game plan?

  1. I found it very interesting that you immediately pointed out that coaching is a two way street. This couldn’t be more true! Trust among coaches and teachers greatly increases teachers’ willingness to make changes in their instructional habits or behaviors (Marzano, 2013). Therefore, forming a relationship between the coach/teacher is crucial to success. Additionally, Marzano (2013) points out that the real key factor of success us not the coach, but rather the people being coached.
    I really enjoyed reading your research on the similarities and differences of coaching and mentoring. The words are used interchangeably very frequently. I am guilty of this assumption myself.

    Marzano, R.J. & Simms, J.A. (2013). Coaching classroom instruction. Marzano Research Laboratory: Bloomington, IN.


  2. I completely agree with your analogy about the mentor teachers using the two way street approach. When I first started teaching my mentor was a 25 year veteran who had actually started working for Science in Motion. There were a lot of “Thoughts” on how to survive, but very little that actually made me a better teacher. Marzano and Simms told us in the text that effective coaching has trust, feedback, and choice, (2012, p. 10-11). You do not always get all three of these in a mentor situation, because school culture gets locked in on how the system works. Especially the choice, very rarely do new teachers feel like they have a choice when one of the school leaders gives them “advice”.


    Marzano, R. & Simms, J. (2012) Coaching Classroom Instruction. Marzano Research Laboratory: Bloomington, IN.


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