Category Archives: Reflections on coaching

Celebrating. . . Children speak in poetry

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So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend!  (In a better late than never sort of way. . . )

I want to celebrate going outside to write slices of life with second graders.

We walked outside, a monarch butterfly to release, and slices of the butterfly garden to write. After a brief butterfly lesson, we sent them off to notice and wonder and write about the things they saw. Their teacher and I looked at each other and decided we couldn’t write with them … we would be too busy supervising, conferring, helping…

And we were busy… but later, as we gathered the children to go back inside, we both confessed that we had put pencil to paper…we couldn’t help it.

These children speak in poetry! I kept crying out to them, “That sounds like a line in a poem! Write that down!” And they did. They wrote their words down (after speaking them to their teacher, to their friends, to me). As I walked around, I heard these kids noticing and wondering, and saying lines that belong in poetry and on inspirational posters.

Goldenrod Butterfly
       Children speak in poetry

We found red berries
This is the perfect spot for monarch butterflies
And also spiders

Write it down, friends! 
       Children speak in poetry

Follow me!
Another path!
I know where everything is in this school

Write that down, the things you say are lines of slices
       Children speak in poetry

This leaf feels like wool
I see nature all around me
I notice, I love nature
Trees, plants give us oxygen

Say it to the page, boys and girls! 
       Children speak in poetry

Oh! The monarch's still here
A path full of plants
Even though some plants are pokey
You should want them to live. 
It's nature

Goldenrod, Butterflies
     Children speak in poetry

I almost wrote down everything. 
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Slice(s) of Elementary

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

How are you? Without a classroom? How are you?

I’m fine! I’m good! It’s weird, It’s different. But I’m good.
I am in constant wonderment of the teachers around me
My eyes are teary because
I don't want to sound dramatic, but 
elementary school is magic 

Little people walk through the doors
Each morning -- Hundreds of them 
The first day, they are dressed up ---
Bows in their hair, little ties, dresses, tutus 
Even the 5th graders are dressed up -- 
Dressed up by dressing down 
just so
casual 
Oldest in the school now, leaders -you can tell by the way they walk and talk
I don't want to sound dramatic, but 
elementary school is magic 

And the littlest ones,
New to school, they look for their kindergarten teacher 
Who greets them, of course, like they are 
The one they have been waiting for
(because they are the ones they have been waiting for. All 20 of them) 
First graders hug their kindergarten teacher from last year before walking down the big kid hall
They carry their backpacks and their breakfasts on little trays 
They look happy. They look worried. They look excited. They look nervous. 
A fifth grader walks by, 
looks at her friend, and all around the hall
"I've missed this place." she says, shaking her head with joy.
I don't want to sound dramatic, but 
Elementary school is magic 

I spend my days popping in and out, slices accumulating in my tired brain….
A second grader looks at me with utter confusion, each word emphasized with a furrowed brow.
"Who are you?" 
A kindergartner makes plans for catching the gingerbread man who got away today. 
"I have a cage. I can build a security camera." 
A fourth grader says "Can you help me spell division?" and then in almost a whisper, "Are you H. Thought's mom? I'm Abby from school. I started a new school now." 
I walk with a first grade class to recess 
a sweet boy talks to me about his star wars game, 
He quietly grabs my hand as we walk
I don't really know him yet, but I love him. 
I don't want to sound dramatic, but
Elementary school is magic

 

Celebrate the Remarkable.

celebrate-image So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! 

What was remarkable about your day? I’m noticing and celebrating all the remarkable things this week. And, if you’ve ever spent a day (or an hour really) with teachers getting ready for the school year… you’ll know the definition of remarkable. Quick!  Go thank a teacher, any teacher. If you need to find a teacher, look for the people at target, looking tired, but still loading their carts with school supplies before they go back to school this weekend.

I had a remarkable first week in my new role as an instructional coach. . . So much to notice…

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What was remarkable?
New team, children and teachers at the heart
(#truth)
Time is always short
No tired like beginning of the school year teacher tired
…but coach tired is a thing too

What was remarkable?
Feeling welcomed in new places
Hugs, smiles and even cheers
The old song keeps coming into my head, like I’m 5 years old again
Make new friends, but keep the old…One is silver and the other’s gold

What was remarkable?
Listening to learn about
people
classrooms
grade levels
schools
leadership
collaboration
confusion

What was remarkable?
Questions I can’t answer
So many questions I can’t answer
The learning I need to do
Jumping in
And holding back

Love this quote that came in my inbox today. . .

A slice of getting ready

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

Every time I go to target, I find myself looking at the dollar spot. I look at the cute wooden signs, and the fun mini clips.

“I don’t need any of these things!” I whine to my kids. (Which, Mr. Thought would argue is what I should always say when I think I should get something for my classroom.)

Summer is a weird time for a classroom teacher with no classroom of her own.

Every time I read a blog, a school idea floats through my brain, or I see a great deal on colorful pens, I pause. I wonder a little about my choice to take a break from the classroom and move to an instructional coaching role for awhile.

Seems silly, for sure — that a few mini clothespins with cute pencil tops could make me question my life choices — but I think it speaks to my love of creating a home for my students and me. My mom might raise her eyebrows here — she knows I have a deep love for office supplies that lives alongside my altruistic teaching heart. However, I think my school “nesting” each year is a way for me to ready my brain and my heart for a new year.  The Reggio Emilia approach to education tells us that the environment is the third teacher, so I try for a bright, organized, calm and inspiring space in hopes that it will help students learn and work. (Considering how hard it is for me to concentrate on writing this right now, on the tiny space I’ve carved for myself on my dining room table in the middle of the mess of a new floor installation … I tend to think the environment really does matter!)

Lucky for me, almost every time I’m at Target, I bump into a teacher I get to work with for the next few years! Usually it is one teacher in particular, but I’ve bumped into several. So, even though I might stare longingly at the book bin labels, a few minutes later I will be reminded of how cool this job is! These teachers are amazing!

When it’s almost August, and my teaching year is on the horizon, I like to think about the 50 kids I’ll be spending the year with. I look at the class list, and make conferring forms and checklists. The promise of a blank-slate-school-year always feels exciting. So, I reorganize my classroom library, and get ready for back-to-school night.

But, now it is almost August, and it’s my coaching year on the horizon. So I’m thinking about the teachers I get to spend the year with – the creative, hard working, smart, kind, welcoming, kid-loving teachers! And guess what? Each of those teachers spends their day with 25 kids or so… so the reality is, I get to spend my year with about 35 teachers, and about 875 kids. How lucky can you get?

 

So I’m readying my brain and my heart in a new way. I’m helping a friend set up her classroom – it’s getting those organizing and setting up needs out of my system.  I’m reading a lot of resources, and focusing myself on learning across a breadth of grade levels, I’m working on curriculum writing teams, getting to know the curriculum, and the teachers. I’m turning my brain into my classroom, I guess! (Hey, the analogy works, until you realize that my brain doesn’t have any cute paper clips.)

…I may have also bought some cute ABC and ruler ribbon from Target, just in case I need to wrap up a little mini “Back-To-School” treat for teachers. I couldn’t help myself.

Celebrate change (again)

celebrate-image So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! 

I’ve celebrated this before! This week, I accepted the opportunity to leave my classroom for a few years and coach again. 6 months of coaching last year was a great taste, and I’m excited to do it again, for “real” this time! I loved my work with teachers and students last year as a coach. I can only imagine how amazing it will be to build those relationships and learn more about how to best support the work and growth of teachers and students. I’m looking forward to the challenge!

And, it’s still hard to leave my classroom, and my (amazing!) team.

When I told my class that I wouldn’t be back in my room for the next few years, they were more upset than I had predicted.

“What does a coach do?” They asked and then quickly added, “Where will your classroom be?”

“I won’t have a classroom.” I told them.

“What? Where will you put all of this pinteresty stuff?”

“My garage.” I shrugged, imagining the current state of my garage disaster, wondering how on earth all this stuff will fit.

“Oh!” a student shouted. “Set it all up! We will just go there for school.”

I’ll stay! I should stay! I’ll just be your teacher forever! 

Later, another student looked at me with confusion. “You’re going to take down all the stuff from the walls?”

“Yes.”

“All of it? The walls will just be plain? White?”

“Well, mostly. Gray I guess.” I nodded.

“But this is my favorite classroom! You can come in here and just feel peaceful.”

I’ll stay! I should stay! I’ll just be your teacher forever! 

“I’ll always remember you for you reading Rain Reign, and making us sob, and for your beautiful classroom.” One of my students told me. Another one piped up, “I’ll always remember you for being a good teacher.”

I’ll stay! I should stay! I’ll just be your teacher forever! 

Earlier I had told my team that I was leaving, and they were happy-mad. “I’m happy for you! You’re going to be an awesome” they each said, but their eyes did just a little bit of “I can’t believe you’re leaving us.”

I’ll stay! I should stay! I’ll just be your teammate forever! 

After school this week I started to pack my room. June is always about cleaning my room… but it’s different to pack up all my personal things because I won’t be back for 3 -5 years. I didn’t realize how much of my classroom library I have personally collected. Wow. Crates of books are ready to lug to my van. And the baskets. Oh the baskets. People always make fun of me for my baskets (and borrow them!) but really, I do have a lot of baskets.

I’m not going to lie. It’s a ton of work. This week I told Mr. Thought more than once, “I don’t think I can do it! I can’t pack up this room by the 16th! It’s too much work!”

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I’ll stay! I should stay! I’ll just live in this classroom forever! 

Change is hard, transitions are hard. Saying goodbye, or even see you later is hard. Packing up a classroom is hard. Starting a new job is hard. Filling the shoes of the coaches that are leaving is more than hard. All in all, though, it is a thing to celebrate.

On Friday I had the chance to go to the schools I will be working in. One of the schools is new to me, and the other is one I worked in last year during my 6 month coaching stint.

Friday morning, I got to do math with a third grade class. I watched a master coach and master teacher. I talked about math with kids!  I met teachers I haven’t met before, and got “Welcome back home!” hugs from others.

These are lovely, amazing people I’ll get to learn with, and that is something to celebrate.

I have so much to learn, and that is something to celebrate.

I get to (try to!) rise to a new challenge, and that is something to celebrate.

I am so excited, and that is something to celebrate!

(My boys want to go to my classroom with me this morning to help me clean and pack, and that is also something to celebrate!)

So, here’s to change! (Again!)

A slice of a Coaching Memoir

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers.

On my last day as an Instructional Coach, I joked that now I can write a “tell-all memoir” entitled  Instructional Coaching: 6 Months on the Inside.

Although, after just 6 months on the job, there are so many things I still don’t know about being an instructional coach.

I don’t know how to open a teacher’s closed classroom door without an invitation – sometimes it’s even hard to knock. I don’t know how to tell for sure if someone is excited to try a new resource, or can’t believe I’ve mentioned one more idea. I’m not sure if now is a time to show my vulnerability too, or if I should show only my confidence. I don’t know if this is the best time for a mentor text suggestion, or if just one more moment of quiet wondering gives the opportunity for a self discovery. I’m not sure when to offer my help, and when to wait for an invitation. Is “help” the wrong word for some because it might make teachers think I think they need help?  Should I say “collaborate” or “work together?”  I don’t know.

My tell-all memoir would be full of insider information. Like did you know that everyone I worked with at the curriculum office really does put students first? That the work they do is authentically authentic? Did you know that when they ask teachers for information, it’s because they need it to help teachers and kids? The respect for the teachers is palpable and my time with my new lens on the district made me appreciate the work we all do even more than I already did.

 

I would also have a part of my book that tries to summarize the learning  I’ve been lucky to experience in this job. As I planned for reader’s workshop professional development sessions, I had the opportunity to read books, attend conferences, and reflect with colleagues. I would have a section of my tell-all called “Teaching Reading: What research says.” It could be way too long, but I might be able to boil it down to something like: Have your students choose books to read, give them time to read, talk to them about their reading, give them tools to become even better readers, all while helping your class become a community of life-long readers, and being one yourself. Wow. Even boiled down, that’s a tall order. Step away from classroom teaching for even 6 months and your widened lens will remind you how hard teaching is.

I’ve been wearing my”gratitude” bracelet every day, because I believe in the power of gratitude, and I sometimes need to be reminded.

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On my last day as an instructional coach, my coaching team gave me a new bracelet. They say it wasn’t because my gratitude  bracelet was looking a little worse for wear

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I’ve been thinking about this new word and wondering: How can we inspire each other?

When I first put my new bracelet on, I didn’t take my old one off. As I drove home I glanced down to an updated message:

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My time as a coach has definitely inspired gratitude in me. I’m so grateful for the time I spent learning, the time I spent with teachers, and the coaching team. It has been a great slice of my professional and learning life. Experts say it takes 49 hours of professional development for you to outgrow your current practice, before you are trying new things that impact students.

I don’t know how many hours my 6 months of coaching has accrued, but I know it’s more than 49. Time will tell what impact it will have on my future students. We will find out after August when I welcome my new class of 6th graders. I’m sure my students will inspire me, as usual.

A selfish Celebration

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This post is part of Ruth Ayres Celebrate Link up. Thanks, Ruth for this great opportunity to celebrate.

 

A selfish celebration. 

It’s April
and I’m not getting ready to proctor
state testing

I’m not
covering bulletin boards
reminding students that
testing days are different than normal day
and I won’t be able to help them
there will be no collaboration
no choice. 

I’m not whispering to kids that 
on testing days
I will seem mean, strict, stressed
but I will still love them. 

I don’t have a class. 
I’m not giving any speeches that
“This test 
doesn’t measure
your worth.”

I’m not reminding any 12-year-olds of all the work they’ve done
of how proud I am
of their 
daily
authentic
true
learning.

I’m not in charge of any students
I won’t be pacing my classroom
sending a not-so-subtle message: 
“I used to trust you, but today I’m not allowed to.” 

I haven’t had to roll my closed eyes
or take calming breaths
while listening to reminders to
cover posters
collect scrap paper
never open your computer
put up privacy screens
and a “testing in progress” sign.

I have this testing season “off.” 
No proctoring for me. 
That doesn’t mean I can 
be quiet.

To the teachers in the trenches:
It will be okay.
You have done so much.
Thank you. 

To the students:
It will be okay. 
You have learned so much.
I’m sorry the state is wasting your time.

To the state 
It. Is. Not. Okay.
Please spend your
money 
on something else 
Here are some ideas: 
books
more teachers
healthy food, clothing, shelter for those in need
art supplies, instruments, 
fill in the blank
Did I mention books?

Next year, I’ll be back in the classroom. 
I’ll follow the rules.
I always do. 
I’ll keep speaking out.
I always will. 

 

#sol16 March 21 A Slice of Synthesis

Slice of LIfe  I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing! 

 

On my way to school my mind was spinning with all of the inspiration from The Saturday Reunion. I was trying to synthesize it all. I was thinking about love and acceptance of my kids, both at school and home. Andrew Solomon’s words resonated with me as soon as he spoke, and then last night we read Michael Hall’s Red.

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Have you read this? I hope you have, and if you haven’t – go buy it now. Then buy a copy for every parent and teacher you know. Or, I guess you could lend your copy out… but wouldn’t it be fun to just start handing out this book about love and acceptance and being your true self? Give it to everyone you know who works with children…

Thinking about Red led me to think about Lucy Calkins quoting Maya Angelou. IMG_7296.JPG

Which of course made me remember the rest of Lucy’s talk,which is only partially represented in my notes:

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I started dreaming of the traditions I can start when I go back to the classroom next year. I reflected on my beliefs about reading and writing and how school needs to be an authentic place for challenge and for joy.

As I walked into school, I smiled dreaming up the toolkits I can make, a la Kate Roberts. I was brainstorming skills, strategies and processes that I can pull together, using the structure that both she and Cornelius Minor demonstrated on Saturday. Cornelius reminded us that teachers have tenacity and we need to take what we do invisibly as readers and make it visible for students. Kate showed us tangible ways to do that with purposeful, practical tools.

I made my way to my office thinking about Carl Anderson’s message that assessment means to “sit beside.”

Then BOOM. On a nearby door, I’m hit with another message:

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Oh, Pennsylvania Department of Education… Please go to a Saturday Reunion. Listen to Lucy. Help teachers “build worlds in their classrooms,” where students can find their power as readers, writers and learners. Lead teachers “not with mandating, but with influence – bring out the great talents of your people!”

I know it’s just a little yellow sign. But it made me wonder if there is an emergency TCRWP hotline. Kate Roberts? Cornelius Minor? The departments of education in this country could use a little shaking up. I’m not afraid of working hard, and I expect my students to do the same. “There’s no easy in being an effective teacher.” Kate said it. I agree.

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So, tonight as H drew a superman sketch, E practiced drawing cubes and Mr. Thought challenged L to draw different emotions, I started taking some more notes on my Saturday Reunion learning.

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I know I’ll learn more as I synthesize, and I also know that I’ll never ever get the markers back in order. That’s okay. Learning is messy.

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Then before bed, E read me Little Quack. As I listened, I realized Mama Duck has been to the Saturday Reunion. She loves and accepts all of her children. She is in the water with them. She knows her ducklings, and her content. She breaks down the skill and encourages them to jump in, to just start. She even has a mini lesson. (Look closely, and you’ll find some math too.)

I decided that this was the perfect way to synthesize my day, because a book and a bedtime snuggle might be the best tradition of all.

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#sol16 March 20 Slice: Select All. Delete.

Slice of LIfe  I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing! 

 

 

Type type type type type type type

Select All.

Delete.

I’m inspired. But, I have to sleep.

Oh –  I want to tell you about New York. I want to tell you about my Beyoncé day, my friends, my sessions, my learning. But my thoughts are still scattered in my notebook, my iPad photos, and the google docs my friends have shared with me. So, I type type type type type. Select All. Delete.

I’m so tired. But, I have a slice called “Left! Curb!” One called “The bad french fries.” and even one I like to call, “The Cupcake Engagement.” Plus, I know you can’t wait to hear me gush about Kate Roberts and Cornelius Minor – and I even have pictures that illustrate how they are my new BFFs.

But every time I type a slice, it doesn’t work. So I type type type type type. Select All. Delete.

I have to sleep. But I have good stories to tell! Like, last night,when we couldn’t seem to find a bathroom even though it was desperately needed. I want you to help me count the Starbucks that we tried, and tell me why I can get coffee in my hometown late at night but in NYC Starbucks closes at 6:00.

It’s a good story, but after I type type type type type, I just select all, delete.

I’d love to slice about how I almost got out of the city but veered the wrong way, so we drove back in. But you know… select all, delete.

 

 

 

#sol16 March 18 A slice of Ready to Learn: TCRWP Saturday Reunion

Slice of LIfe  I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing! 

 

TCRWP Saturday Reunion is tomorrow!
bags packed
snacks packed
iPad charged
pens ready
car washed
car vacuumed, mostly
maps printed 
yes, printed 
(better safe than sorry) 
TCRWP app downloaded
(there's a schedule on there!)
slice written