From Education to Life Coaching: Making the Transition Smoothly
For many people, teaching is more than just a profession – it's a calling that holds deep meaning. Being a great teacher requires a blend of compassion, empathy, and a dedicated commitment to guiding and educating future generations.
However, being a teacher, while fulfilling and rewarding, can also be challenging, emotionally demanding, and often undervalued. The role comes with its own set of difficulties – limited resources, large class sizes, administrative burdens, and often a lack of appreciation or support. For some educators, these conditions can lead to burnout and frustration.
Perhaps you're a teacher thinking about making a shift to a new career path, one that still allows you to leverage your innate strengths and passion for guiding others, but also offers the opportunity to develop and utilize new skills and perspectives – and get paid for your talents.
If this resonates with you, a transition into professional coaching might just be the next appropriate step in your career journey.
Personal Reflections on Making the Jump from Education to Coaching from Lumia Alumni Jen Ammenti
I loved being a teacher, but after ten years, in K-8 classrooms, I felt a pull towards exploring a new side of myself professionally. I knew I wanted to be in education, and I felt a desire to work with teachers but was unsure where to begin. I started with graduate school, where I studied the history of U.S. education, thinking that a zoom out might help me find my place in a system that had defined my entire life. Upon graduating, I got a job working as a program consultant with a national education non-profit. One of my many roles was working as an instructional coach with teachers in a small school district. This was where I was introduced to and began to develop my skills as a coach.
Something that had always struck me as a classroom teacher was how little I was prepared to consider the impact of my identity, life experiences, and belief systems on the learning environment that I was responsible for. It was only through my own curiosity, coupled with incredible colleagues and a series of serendipitous events that I would begin this exploration on my own, with the support of others. It was here that I came to understand that my unexplored racial identity as a white woman was unconsciously impacting my teaching practices and relationships with students. It was deeply uncomfortable to examine these parts of myself that did not align with my conscious mind but the more I unraveled the deeper my relationships and more inclusive my teaching practices became.
As a new Instructional Coach, I found myself often getting stuck with clients as we tried to develop teacher practices from a technical stance– lesson planning, assessing student work, classroom environment systems. I was finding teacher mindsets to be fixed on student behavior as the problem and no matter what we changed structurally the challenges remained. I started to get curious about the backgrounds of the teachers I was coaching, their life experiences, what brought them to teaching, their own experiences as students, their mindsets towards learning. We were still addressing their technical needs, but we were approaching them through a relational lens. Our work was deepening and transformations in their classrooms were occurring.
I was finding my stride as coach and then I unexpectedly got laid off. It was a painful and dark time for me. After close to six months of unsuccessful attempts at trying to find a new job where I could continue to utilize these skills in educational spaces I decided I needed to think differently. It was here that I discovered Lumia and decided to expand my skills into life coaching with the hope of eventually starting my own business. Lumia held me in so many ways. It offered me a professional community when I was feeling deeply disconnected from my professional self. It built my coaching skill set in a relationally diverse way while also grounding me in the core competencies. And it gave me the structure I needed to build the foundation of my business. I am so grateful for my clients who trust me with their most vulnerable selves allowing me to witness their own growth and transformation. It is a gift and an honor and that will never be lost on me. I never could have imagined that this is where my career would lead, but as someone who values self-discovery and life-long learning it makes perfect sense that I found my way to a coaching practice.
What are the similarities between coaching and teaching?
While the roles may seem distinctive and do have some major differences, both professions aim to help individuals reach their full potential. Here’s just a few of the qualities they hold in common:
Facilitating Growth and Development: While teachers tend to focus on academic development, life coaches focus more on personal, professional, and emotional growth.
Customized to Individual Needs: Just as teachers must adapt their teaching styles to meet the diverse needs of their students, life coaches tailor their coaching methods to serve the unique needs, goals, and circumstances of each client.
Empowering Humans: Educators empower students with knowledge and skills, while life coaches empower clients to make positive life changes. Both roles involve helping individuals to gain the confidence and tools they need to navigate challenges and achieve their goals.
Active Listening and Communication Skills: Effective communication is vital in both education and life coaching. These skills help in understanding the individual’s needs and in providing appropriate guidance and support.
Goal-Setting and Achievement: Setting realistic goals, developing plans to achieve them, and then working towards these goals is central to both fields. In education, this might involve academic or developmental milestones, while in life coaching, it could include personal or career objectives.
Continuous Learning and Adaptation: Educators need to stay updated with the latest teaching methods and curriculum changes, while coaches must stay educated on developments in the field, new coaching techniques and shifts in ethical approaches to coaching humans.
Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment: Both educators and life coaches work to create a space where individuals feel secure, respected, and valued, which is essential for growth and change.
Feedback and Reflection: Educators provide feedback on academic progress, while professional coaches offer insights on personal development. Both encourage individuals to reflect on their experiences, learn from them, and use that knowledge to improve.
What are the differences between teaching and coaching?
Primary Focus and Goals: Education is focused on academic goals and follows a structured curriculum aimed at imparting knowledge and developing critical thinking skills. Coaches can assist with academic goals, but often focus on goals outside the educational field, helping clients identify their personal or professional goals and develop strategies to achieve them.
Approach and Methodology: Teaching is structured and often standardized with strict educational standards that must be met for a large group of students. The approach may feel more directive, with teachers imparting knowledge and guiding learning processes. Coaching is highly personalized and flexible. Coaches use a client-centered approach, with the coach drawing extemporaneously from a variety of frameworks, intervention, and tools. The emphasis is on facilitating awareness and insight, and tailoring the methods to each individual client’s needs and learning style.
Relationship Dynamics: For teachers, generally, the relationship with students is more hierarchical, with educators acting as authority figures and students as learners. In coaching it’s an equal partnership, where the coach and client work collaboratively. The coach does not hold themselves as an authority but rather as a guide or partner.
Scope of Work: Teaching covers a broad range of academic subjects and skills development. Coaching focuses on personal development, including career guidance, motivation, self-esteem, and work-life balance.
Outcome Measurement: Success in the world of education is often measured through tests, grades, and academic achievements. Success in the realm of coaching is more subjective and is measured based on the client's personal goals and growth, which might be less quantifiable.
Duration and Frequency: Education lasts many years and follows a set academic calendar with scheduled classes and subjects that must be covered. The duration of the coaching relationship can be one session or many sessions. These sessions, and the timing of them, are more flexible, arranged according to the client's needs and goals.
Environment and Setting: Teaching almost always takes place in formal settings like schools or universities. Coaching can happen anywhere – on a hike, outdoors, offices, online platforms, or informal environments like coffee shops.
What is the difference in salary for a teacher vs. a life coach?
Average pay for a teacher
The salary of a teacher depends on the educational level (elementary, middle school, high school, college), type of school (public vs. private), geographic location, years of experience, and level of education (such as a master's degree or doctorate).
In the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Elementary school teachers' average salary is $61,620 and high school teachers' salary is $62,360.
Pay can vary widely by state, district and whether you are teaching in a private or public school. Those with advanced degrees or in administrative roles can earn significantly more.
Average pay for a life coach
It can be hard to get an exact number for life coaches as the field varies widely depending upon a coach’s area of specialization. The International Coaching Federation conducts an annual study of coach practitioners and they found that the average pay for a life coach in 2022 was $67,800 in the United States – but many coaches are making well over six figures.
In North America, coaches with more than 10 years in practice are charging, on average, $300 an hour. But they may be working with business or corporate clients. Life coaches serving individual clients are earning an average of $130 per hour.
The factors that play a role in what rate a coach can command include the niche or specialty of coaching (e.g., executive coaching, relationship coaching), years of experience, geographic location, clientele base, and whether they work for an organization or have their own private practice. Certification (from institutions like the International Coaching Federation) also play a role in earning potential.
Using Your Existing Teaching and Education Skills in New Ways
Transitioning from teaching to life coaching involves shifting from a primarily instructive and facilitative role to a more proactive and guiding one.
As a teacher, you have honed a deep understanding of human behavior, learning styles, and what impacts the learning experiences of students across diverse backgrounds.
These skills – particularly empathy, attentive listening, and observation – are highly applicable to life coaching. Effective coaching is centered on helping clients progress from their current state to one of flourishing.
Rather than primarily imparting knowledge or offering advice, you'll act as more of a co-creator working alongside your clients as they discover the best way to create change in their lives on their own timeline, and on their own terms.
This is achieved by assisting clients in identifying their aspirations, overcoming obstacles, and devising practical plans to realize their ambitions.
Training and certification
Though your background in teaching has given you plenty of practical, real world experience, it's still important to invest in specific training for life coaching. Similar to how you need to attain a teaching credential, you’ll want professional training from a reputable coach training organization in order to gain the necessary tools and skills to work with coaching clients rather than students.
An ICF accredited coaching program can provide you with the skills and tools specific to coaching, and give you the opportunity to attain a certification. And if you so choose, pursuing an ICF credential will give you additional skills and credibility as a coach.
Professional Distance as a Coach vs. an Instructor
Empathy is a key component of your role as a teacher, but when working as a professional coach, it's crucial to maintain a balance between this empathy and a degree of professional detachment.
In teaching, your involvement is often more directive and hands-on due to the structured nature of education and the direct needs of students, life coaching requires a different approach.
In life coaching, the client sets the direction of the sessions, sets their own goals and is accountable for implementing change in their life. As a coach, your role is to encourage and facilitate, but the ultimate responsibility for change lies with the client.
Continual Learning and Development
Just as the field of education is constantly evolving with new methods for instructing youth and adults, and different ways of approaching subjects, life coaching has advancements and opportunities for growth and learning as well. Once you’re a working coach, you’ll want to continue to stay abreast of the latest strategies, participate in workshops, and seek new methods to enhance your skills.
Your experience as a teacher equips you with a distinct ability to impact lives and effect meaningful change. Transitioning from teaching to life coaching is not only feasible but can also be an immensely fulfilling journey that leverages your unique skills and gifts for helping others change and grow.
Considering Making the Switch from Teaching to a Career in Coaching?
Launch your coaching practice right! Check out Lumia Life Coach Training - a program that's every bit as unique as you are. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and fellow students dedicated to becoming a force for good in the world of coaching.
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