This is part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life. Find out more, and join in here.
Yesterday was my first day “on the job” as an instructional coach. After a meeting, a few emails, and a stop at one of my schools, I headed over to the PIIC conference and spent the rest of the day with over 100 Instructional Coaches. Talk about a first day! Surrounded by people who actually know what they are doing was wonderful of course — and I also found myself going “meta.” I kept thinking about what I was thinking — what it felt like to be new. Honestly before this year I had never even heard of PIIC. Walking into the conference I had no idea what to expect, and I paid attention as my brain took it all in. When is the last time you were in a totally new situation with all new people? It doesn’t happen to me very often. If I’m in a new situation, I usually try to bring a friend. Or, I research it a lot so I know what to expect. But if I think about it – the last totally new situation I was in was when I started taking yoga last year. I just don’t do it very often… because it’s scary! When you are new, you walk in and you think everyone else knows… knows each other, knows the content, knows better. Sometimes one or all of those assumptions are correct, and sometimes none of them are.
I noticed my brain as I sat at my assigned table with all new people. I was trying to take it all in, frame my brain to this culture and its norms and inside jokes. I held my breath and hoped not to be “voluntold” to answer a question because my brain was still working to catch up with the “new.” After the introduction, I stayed for “Coaching 101,” while the rest of my district colleagues went off to their choice sessions. I was at a table full of people who were at their first PIIC conference too, but they had much experience as instructional coaches. On each table was a picture of a vehicle, and we were asked what it represented in terms of instructional coaching. I laughed at what was sure to be the first of many conversations where my voice would be quiet and non-essential! When my turn came to share, I simply said “Well, that car looks new! I’m new too. This is my first day.”
I said a variation of that many times over the course of the day. The response was generally astonished delight. “How lucky to start at this conference!” and “Nothing like throwing you into the fire!” were common answers. (Also, “Don’t expect snacks like this every day on the job!”)
This morning it occurred to me that this has happened before! Soon after getting my first job and finding out I would be teaching second grade, I was sent to a conference with a 2 other second grade teachers – a conference all about second grade! I had no idea what I was getting into then… and that was a great year. So, there’s hope!
When I walked into the conference today the quote on the screen was appropriate:
“Your comfort zone is a place where you keep yourself in a self-illusion; nothing can grow there. Your potentiality can grow only when you can think and grow out of that zone.” – Rashedur Ryan Rahman.
Well, nobody could say I’m in my comfort zone this week!