Category Archives: Reflections on coaching

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





#sol16 March 12 A slice of Saturday

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! 

 

I started a slice over 6 hours ago – when the Advil and Sudafed had finally kicked in. I took my books and laptop out to the deck while my kids played in the yard. I read a bit about vocabulary instruction, underlining passage while I watched my children get to know the neighbor kids. It was a slice for sure — my reading about teaching while I parented. So I got my laptop out, and started to write.

And then…

And then E fell and bumped his head, I got ice, kids went to the neighbors, I had an actual conversation with my husband. The kids came back to eat sandwiches before racing back to play.  I tried to listen from my spot on the deck to make sure my kids were playing nicely. Then L called me over to look at a cool swing. I stayed to watch the boys play basketball, then to talk to the neighbors. Then E fell again and hit his head at the bottom of the slide. Kids played some more and we met the neighbor’s dog. When we got home, we watched some Netflix, made some dinner, watched some more Netflix. (Hey! No netflix judging!  Did I mention I’m sick?) I tried and failed to solve some sibling conflicts and then got everyone ready for bed. E said he felt dizzy, so I was worried (re-read the head bumps part above). Mr. Thought reassured me that E’s just tired. But, E was too busy making up riddles to sleep.  Most of them started with “There’s a man stuck in a room with nothing in it but….How does he get out?” I knew I should tell him that it’s time to go to sleep… I knew I have to write my slice. But man, he was so cute and serious about these riddles.

Mr. Thought kindly brought me my laptop. I told E that I have to write my slice. He asked “What’s a slice?” and as I explained he curled up near me. “Oh, so it’s called a slice because it’s a slice of a story? Can I tell you another riddle? There’s a man stuck in a room  with one window, and all he has is a shadow. How does he get out?… I didn’t tell you what the shadow was! It was the shadow of a tree, and he climbs out!”

Soon, he was asleep, and then I wrote my slice.

49 hours of PD! Jennifer Serravallo Reflection 1

Jennifer Serravallo asked us, a conference audience of over 400 educators, to think back on our experiences as reading students. As teachers chatted for a minute about their memories, Jennifer walked around, listening in before she brought our conversations together. We laughed as we collectively remembered. There were SRA kits and trying to get to the aqua card.

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Who can forget round robin reading when we counted lines so we could practice our part instead of listening to anyone else read? I know there were reading groups in elementary school, but I don’t remember if I was in the red robins, cardinals or blue jays. I was a fluent reader early, and I do remember being bored. I read ahead because I was either just reading at my quicker pace to lessen the boredom, or to make sure there weren’t any tricky words or names that would be stressful to read aloud. (Michael vs. Michelle, for example was a huge stressor for me!) Reading practices have grown since we were in school as students, and looking back feels like a good reflection as we examine our instructional practices.

According to research cited by Jennifer, “When things are challenging (And what could be more challenging than teaching in today’s educational climate?) we are more likely to revert back to how we were taught, than how we were taught to teach.” Take a moment with that idea. I did. (It probably applies to how we parent too!)

Now reflect on Jennifer’s next point: It takes 49 hours of professional development to outgrow your current practice, before you are trying new things that impact students. 49 hours! This number put me in immediate reflection mode: Is there enough time for teachers to learn? What slice of that 49 hours of time have I helped with as a coach?

 As a new instructional coach these past several weeks, I have have been immersed in differentiating reader’s workshop professional development for teachers. Teachers choose a selected component to learn about and work on. They may want to learn more about conferring, small strategy groups, assessment or mini lessons, for example. As I plan for sessions centered on reader’s workshop, I spend hours learning more about the components. I read, listen to podcasts, watch example videos, take notes, etc. I know I’ve spent over 49 hours immersed in these workshop topics.

Teachers want varying levels of change — to tweak or to try something completely new. One thing seems consistent with all the teachers I’ve been lucky to work with: They always want to do what’s best for their students and what makes sense to them as teachers. As I spend 2 half days with teachers, along with their other grade level inservice time, I wonder about how quickly we can expect any tweaks or changes to happen. I know when I’m teaching, I often think I should be able to do something new right away  — my coach would remind me to chill out when things weren’t working exactly how we envisioned it the first time. We need to be patient, coaches and teachers together. Learning is a journey, right? It’s going to take us at least 49 hours to get where we want to be –so let’s buckle in and enjoy the ride!

I learned so much at the conference with Jennifer Serravallo, and I hope to reflect on many parts of that learning in the days to come. I must have had a great time, as this was my reaction to meeting her. . . 

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Celebrating Kindergarten

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

You are a new coach, trying to pop into as many classrooms as you can in between meetings and planning and other work. It’s amazing how much you learn popping into classrooms. You celebrate getting to work with so many amazing teachers every day.

You decide you need to pop into Kindergarten. You haven’t really been there yet, and it just seems like a good day to do a little pop in visit.

You walk into the first kindergarten with an open door.  Children play blocks and lincoln logs as they start their day.  (Every time kids get to play, you celebrate.)

You make plans with that teacher to stop by in a few minutes for reader’s workshop, and  walk across the hall to pop in to another kindergarten: Everyone is dancing! You didn’t want to intrude, so you hang back at the door until the teacher smiles and invites you in, “Ms. Thought, you can join our game!” So you celebrate and dance with the 6 year olds: you stop and start with the music, and  try to be as cool as these little dancers. You stay for a morning message, and calendar complete with a mystery shape game! And then  literacy workshop begins. You take in the beginning literacy signs all around, with words and letters, pictures and cues: all made with fun and creativity. You listen to energetic and clear directions (Kindergarten teachers know how explicit directions need to be!) Students will go on a hunt for animals around the room, and spell them on their recording sheet when they find them. But wait! Before they go, they have to make sure they won’t be cold. Their teacher shows them a bag “Reach in without looking, pull out a scarf!”

It’s hard, but you get up, thank the teacher and walk next door, telling yourself that you’ll just pop in there for a few minutes. Reading workshop is beginning and students are choosing their first work. You stroll around, check in on the iPads, listen in to the Words Their Way lesson, and then sit on the carpet to see what books the students are looking at from their new collection. A boy sidles up to you, and you ask if you can read with him. Looking through books together, you help him with some letters, read some pages, and notice when he starts to hold your hand.

When students gather between their workshop rounds again, he sits next to you, and a few other students do to. You decide to stay for one more round. Another boy comes up and asks you to come with him to the teacher station, so you ask the teacher. “Can I come hang out with you? This friend invited me…” and she smiles, nods and reminds you not to be fooled by those eyelashes! Too late. You sit and watch the kids excitedly spell pot, mud and map in “adult spelling.” with letter tiles. You tell them they are ‘spelling superstars!’ and that you are very impressed. Mr. Eyelashes says “Me? I’m a spelling superstar?” Oh yes. He is.

You celebrate these kindergarten superstars by staying for just a little longer. You read with kids, who flock to you: you’re fast friends now.  You read, you listen, you point out letters, and even try to pronounce all of the spanish words in one of the ABC books. The girl sitting with you finally says, “That’s okay- don’t worry about that one.” Your new friends sit next to you, put their arm around you, ask to sit in your lap, and ask for one more story. You partner read with one girl, and keep accidentally reading her pages. She reminds you to take her turn, and you both laugh.

You read about trains and teddy bears, dogs, coconut trees, fairy tale characters, and ABCs.  You celebrate the books and their kindness. As you get ready to finally say goodbye, you tell them, “Friends, thank you for making me feel so welcome in your classroom. I had such a great time reading some of your new books with you. You were so kind to me, and that meant a lot to me. Thank you. I can’t wait to come again.” You look around at all their genuine, sweet faces. Their teacher asks them, “How does that make you feel? Here?” and taps her heart. The kids look happy, some are tapping their heart and saying “It makes me feel happy!” So you celebrate with them and feel happy too. You start to get up and Mr. Eyelashes looks up at you, “I wish you were my mommy.”

You probably deserve a medal for not crying, and you go through the rest of your day with a smile, celebrating Kindergarten!

I believe I have homework.

My coaching team gave me homework. It’s due tomorrow: What do I believe about coaching? What do I wonder about coaching?

I’m thinking that it won’t quite get the big-thinking job done if I say, “I wonder what I believe.”  (Maybe an A+ for creative effort?)

I believe I have a lot to learn.
I believe listening is powerful.
I believe I need to 
shut myself up more
I believe that silence can be scary,
that not knowing what someone is thinking is hard
but that listening to understand matters

I believe I will need a daily reminder:
"It's not about you, Mrs. Thought"
so that I won't take things personally
and I will lose the ego,
be open to everyone's positive intentions
relationships matter

I believe I will learn much
from many 
amazing
people
1 day in classrooms, and I have a list started: "Fabulous ideas to take back to myclassroom!"
I believe teachers matter 

I believe I will love my time with kids too
Today I laughed with primary students,
and later hugged almost 50 of my 6th graders (yes, they will always be mine!)
I believe kids matter 
(plus they're fun...Scene:classroom mini lesson on surveying text. Teacher asks, "what does 'survey' mean?" Student responds, "It's a type of non-dairy ice cream." ...pause, questioning glances... Teacher asks,"Really, is it?" Student thinks and then says, "Oh. That's sorbet.")
Smiling matters, laughter matters, fun matters.

I wonder
Will I help?
Will I be able to focus in?
Will I mess up my google calendar?
How long will I be living outside of my comfort zone?
Since wondering matters, learning matters, and stepping outside of your comfort zone matters... I believe I'll keep wondering. 

 

A Slice out of the Comfort Zone

Slice of LIfe

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!