Teacher vs. Coach

On the way to school, bored by the current list of updated podcasts on my i-Pad, my son opened Kindle to read aloud from whatever happened to appear. In this case, it was Gabrielle Bernstein’s book The Universe Has Your Back. Gabrielle is pretty new to me and at first struck me as overly perky — as though she was me 15 or so years before big challenges to positive manifestation and faith teachings.

This initial impression reflected underlying cynicism way more my issue than hers. Gabby is indeed energetic and fast-talking in a way that I am when off-kilter, which does not mean she is off-kilter too. 🙂

My son began to read a portion of the book that describes Gabby’s friend Lance’s story of coming to terms with feelings of (in this case intellectual) inadequacy, but it was hard for him to take seriously. The chapter is written in an “On my summer vacation we went to the beach…” style that has frustrated him during the school years in which he wanted to be more daring but was corrected for things like decorating his titles or going on tangents.

Although his take was funny, I heard myself make an important distinction.

There are differences between teachers and coaches, which doesn’t mean no overlap. The relationship with a teacher is an intimate one; the idea is to be taught something you don’t know, to be shown something you haven’t seen, to gain a new way of seeing, being, even.

With a coach, you already know what they are telling you, but they stir you to bring what is known and needed to the forefront [of your ‘mind palace’ (a la Sherlock)], so that you can embody and enact. They help you midwife what is ready to be born. This too can be a very powerful role.


“Lance” seems generic and vague because he is meant to be. He is a template of sorts, not supposed to take you out of or away from yourself the way literature does.  In another chapter Gabby describes a copy-editor that continually neglected to send in an invoice, and I laughed with relief because that copy-editor was figuratively, me. Too many specifics about this woman and I may not have been able to project myself into her story and actually take bolder initiative like I eventually did.

I’m someone often reading a few books at a time, one almost always being a spiritual motivational book of some sort, which might sit right next to a Stalin biography, and an obscure Tibetan text. Each has its place and benefit.


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