Tag Archives: Goals and Motivation

What Coaches and Teachers Can Learn from Peyton Manning

You might not know this, but the Broncos and Peyton Manning have a BIG game coming up this weekend.

Yep. It’s us vs. the Packers, two 6 and 0 teams going head-to-head, Peyton vs. Aaron Rodgers. And guess what…the Packers are going dowwwwn!!!

I know what you’re thinking – okay Kristin, settle down now. We get that you like the Broncos and Peyton Manning. But what the heck does that have to do with coaching and teaching anyway??

Well, a whole gosh darn lot actually. Peyton’s work on and off the field provides some great insight into leadership traits that reach beyond the football field and into schools and classrooms and the work we do everyday.


In fact, Peyton’s spoken about these traits before, referring to them as ‘Game Changers.’ So let’s take a look at what they are and how we can use them to inspire our own work.

1. Learn to Thrive on Being Uncomfortable

Isn’t is great when everything is going just swimmingly?

Well, yeah.

But then what happens when it doesn’t?

Your principal wants to observe you, you just found out you have to facilitate a giant PD, or you were asked to work with that tricky teacher in the building…and all of a sudden, you become very, very uncomfortable.

It happens to Peyton all the time. An interception, a sack, an arena full of screaming football fans. But do you see him fall apart and hide behind the Gatorade table? Nope.

Because he knows that when he’s uncomfortable, he’s getting better.

So let’s take a lesson from Peyton.

Instead of running from those uncomfortable situations, let’s run towards them. Bring it on!

2. Devote Yourself to Intense Preparation

This is a big one for Peyton. Even though this is his 18th season in the NFL, he still works his
be-hind off like it’s his first year. Peyton reviews tape intensely, works out like a madman, and works to figure out all the variables so that on game day he is as ready as possible for whatever the opposing team may bring into the stadium.

And that’s how it should be for us too, especially since we have such a high stakes game to play everyday.

Make sure your lessons are tight, copies are made, and all materials are accounted for.

Make time to plan for your coaching convos – think through the focus questions you want to ask, anticipate what your coachee might say in response and how you’ll direct the conversation from there. Identify a small, actionable next step that will really make a difference

3. Be Prepared to Adjust

The reality is, that no matter how well planned you are, things won’t always go just as you had envisioned. And you’ll need to adjust.

The ability to adjust, is the ability to be responsive to whatever you may have observed or anything that has changed in the moment you’re in.

This is a skill, and it’s a good one to practice. Trust your instincts, your professional judgment, and make smart “in the moment” decisions to move your team (students/teachers) and yourself forward.

And this applies to bigger picture stuff too. There may be a change in leadership or a new curriculum to roll-out. Things are always changing, especially in education, but that’s ok.

We’re prepared to adjust.

4. Invest in a Coach

Since Peyton’s been playing so long, you’d think he wouldn’t need or want a coach anymore right? Nope.

As Peyton said in his Leadercast talk, “As soon as someone stops wanting to be coached, taught or mentored they are in trouble. The landscape of the sports field changes, just as the landscape of your business.  Coaching keeps you on the top of your game.”

Say it Peyton!

And coaches, don’t forget – we need coaches too. Do your best to seek this out. Ask for feedback, learn from others, and keep working to get better.

5. Become a Master Observer

As coaches, we have the unique opportunity to visit several classrooms each week. To see different teachers deliver different lessons, and then watch how kids engage in the work.

As teachers, we have the special opportunity to be a part of a classroom full of unique learners, sorting through all kinds of different work and learning.

And there is so much to learn from each of these moments.

You just have to pay attention.

When you become a master observer in this way, as Peyton is, constantly seeking to figure things out, you’re able to gather so much super valuable “data” that will help you be a better leader for your team.

6. Build Relationships and Instill Trust

“Trust does not come from the position occupied by the leader. It is earned by example and over time.”

Oooo. That’s a tweet-able. Tweet tweet.

Building relationships and instilling trust is the foundation of all the work you do in classrooms and with teachers. Without it, you don’t have much.

So, what do you think – are you one of the Game Changers in your school?

Let me know which of these traits really hits home with you in the comments below.

For me…I’m not sure I’m Peyton Manning status yet, but I’m going to keep working at it.


And you better know I’ll be rocking my Peyton Manning jersey at school today, and also screaming loudly for a Broncos victory this weekend.

Go Broncos!!




P.S. If you thought this post was fun to read, and others might enjoy reading it as well, I would really appreciate it if you shared it with your friends using the buttons below. Thanks!

P.P.S If you don’t like Peyton Manning or the Broncos…say what??!! But ok, fine. We can still be friends. Maybe just not this weekend :)

What An Educator Can Learn From A Cyclist

This weekend I went for a bike ride with my friend Anne.  As we were cruising through the back roads of Boulder, Colorado I couldn’t help but think how similar cycling is to teaching.  Allow me to elaborate…

Cyclists live in one of two seasons: the on-season or the off-season.  During the off-season they take time to rest and recover, reflect on accomplishments made during the on-season, and set their sights on larger goals for the season ahead.  As educators, we experience our off-season during our summer breaks.  We walk out of school on the last day and allow ourselves to deeply exhale.  We reflect on the progress made with our students or with other teachers we’ve worked with (for us instructional coaches).  Hopefully we are honest with ourselves during this time of reflection and can clearly see what worked and what might need some shaping up next season.

After each off-season for us educators, we have the great opportunity to return to school and start fresh.  As we head into this school year, here are a few things we can learn from the sport of cycling that when applied to our teaching lives may serve to strengthen our own on-season.  Let’s ride!

Hills Make You Stronger

As Anne and I were cruising along one of the flat, straightaway sections of our ride, life felt good.  I was in my comfort zone, my body felt strong, and my mind felt focused.  After rounding a bend though, the road started to change.  It started to go up.  Before I knew it I was climbing one heck of a steep hill.  My legs started to slow down, my bike wobbled underneath me, and my mind felt anything but focused.

These moments not only exist on the road, they are also very real occurrences during our days in the classroom.  A student who you feel like you’ve finally gotten a pretty good handle on all of a sudden explodes because of an argument over a pencil and the calm in your classroom turns to chaos.  The copier breaks just when you need it most or a lesson you spent a good deal of time planning totally bombs.  Sometimes these “hills” string together and you feel like you’ll never make it to the top.

Whatever you do…don’t stop pedaling.  Dig deep and keep cranking.  Once you’re off the bike it is significantly harder to get started again.   Just when you think you can’t go anymore, guess what…YOU CAN.  When you do arrive at the top you’ll be stronger and wiser as a result.

Ride With Others

Going on a ride with others is just more fun.   Team rides can motivate you and improve your skills.  You can also be sure there will be someone there to help you out in the case of a flat tire or a forgotten granola bar.

Teachers have an enormously complex job with a crazy number of responsibilities.  Working together as a team (grade-level, administration, specialists, school wide) matters.  Our fellow educators can inspire us, support us, laugh with us, or just grab a coffee with us.  Research shows that relational trust among teachers and school leaders improves student achievement.

So this year remember to smile and say “hello” to other teachers in the hall, assume positive intent, and stop to help when you see another teacher with a flat.  Little things like that make a difference.

Set Goals, Train Hard

If you were to ask just about any cyclist who has completed a century ride how they were able to accomplish such a feat, I would be willing to bet they would say it involved goal setting and some serious training.

Setting goals for yourself and your students using all current data (formal and informal) that you have ensures that you have a clear target to aim for.  Without that do you really know where you’re headed in your day-day work or why you’re headed there?  Concrete goals inspire us and tracking our training or our progress motivates us.  If you can involve students in tracking their OWN progress towards clear learning targets, even better!

Our instruction in the classroom must be strategic, precise, and engaging to make “century ride” results a reality.

Coaching Counts

Competitive cyclists care about results.  They realize that few can sustain their best performance on their own.  This is where coaching comes in.

I recently read a great article that spoke to this truth about coaching.  In it the author discusses the importance of coaching in becoming your “personal best.”  The following excerpt from this article aptly describes the important role a coach plays in doing so:

Élite performers, researchers say, must engage in “deliberate practice”—sustained, mindful efforts to develop the full range of abilities that success requires. You have to work at what you’re not good at. In theory, people can do this themselves. But most people do not know where to start or how to proceed. Expertise, as the formula goes, requires going from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence and finally to unconscious competence. The coach provides the outside eyes and ears, and makes you aware of where you’re falling short.

Through a variety of approaches (co-planning, demonstration, descriptive feedback) instructional coaches can help push your thinking and your practice.  Letting someone into your classroom to observe you can feel like an intimidating risk.  Taking important risks like this however can pay off greatly for you and your students.  So this year open your doors, invite in your instructional coach and see how far you and your students can climb.

Rest and Recover

Rest and recovery are essential for high-level performance.  This is true for both cycling and teaching.  One of the best things you can do for yourself after a long ride is to eat a good meal, kick up your feet and take it easy.  This is great training advice for us educators as well.

Cyclists know that when they don’t build in enough days for rest and recovery, they’re at risk of suffering from overtraining syndrome – a difficult condition to recover from.  Likewise with teaching, if we’re not careful about creating some balance in our lives, we are at risk of teacher burnout.  This condition isn’t fun for you or your students and is also very difficult to recover from.

Remember to take care of yourself this year.  Pack a healthy lunch, pause during your hectic day just to breathe, and maybe even enjoy a nice glass of red wine at the end of your day.  I’d say you deserve it.