Category Archives: Reflections on coaching

#sol18 March 23 Goodnight 

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! 

Goodnight: a haiku typed on my phone

Downstairs closed and dark
Laptop tucked away down there
Upstairs quiet calls

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#Sol18 March 20 Kindergarteners

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’m ready for Kindergarten.

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Thanks to help of another coach, I have an interactive writing lesson planned for this morning. Thanks to a kind kindergarten teacher, I have a bunch of kids to practice with! Thanks to my love of sticky notes, I had just enough to cover my mystery pictures.

Last night I practiced with Mr. Thought. I needed to make sure I had the flow of the lesson down. As we peeled sticky notes away, he wasn’t as excited as I hoped the kindergarteners would be. But, he cooperated as we labeled a few important parts, and came up with some sentences to go with our eagle picture. 

“That was a little boring,” he told me. 

“Maybe that’s because you already know how to read, past a kindergarten book!” I said and I scowled a little, hoping the kindergarteners won’t think it’s boring. 

Despite my boring practice session last night, I am ready for kindergarten.

As I sit with  kindergarteners, I can’t help but think,  “How lucky am I?”

We do so much in our small group meetings. They are definitely more excited than Mr. Thought was.

I knew we would guess what pictures are, label important parts, analyze the details, sound out words, write sentences, count words, sound out more words, and read our pages. I wasn’t planning on kids saying they want to label the fish “prey” not just “fish,” and those who add, “Well, then we need to label predator too.” (That’s a hard word to sound out cold with kindergartners…)

 

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Original Image from here

I knew I’d be trying to get them to see what our whole book was about. I wasn’t planning on the boy saying after the first look, “This must be a book about the Food Chain!”

I knew we would need to go over some norms for talking. I wasn’t planning on the girl saying emphatically, “So we will take all our ideas and work together?” (“Yes, please!”)

I knew they would want to make decisions about what we put on our page. I wasn’t planning on the group who brought their pencils and are so disappointed that I am holding the pen today. Their disappointment quickly turns to excitement when I give them each a small yellow sticky. At first this causes a chorus of “How do you write….” but as soon as I remind them to use kid writing, they are on a roll. Of course, I do smile a little when the kids who wrote “nachur” and  “tlug” (tongue) insist that their friend add the ‘k’ to “roc.”

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Original Image from here. 

I knew that kindergartners were brilliant. I wasn’t planning on the group with a different perspective. Their first page includes the sentences “The fish are swimming away from the whale shark.” and “The whale shark is determined to get the fish in his mouth!” They want each page to have a sentence from both the prey and predator perspectives. “Determined?” Way to go with the vocabulary! Later, another group will insist on the word “pouncing!”

 

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This group added questions to their pages! Original Image from here.

I knew there would be kids who interrupted me with things like, “I got this new bracelet, do you like it?” I wasn’t planning on the boy asking, “Which mommy are you?”  I remind him that although I am a mommy, I’m actually also an Instructional Coach. Then, I thank the group for letting me come to practice in kindergarten today.

“Am I doing okay so far?” I whisper.

They all lean in, and nod. One child whispers back, “You’re doing great!”

I knew I loved Kindergarteners.

#Sol18 March 16 Writing with Kids

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 wrote with 5th graders today.
I invited them to write a  “Right now I am…” slice, 
first we practiced together 

I have missed the feeling of a class 
shouting out a brainstorm
challenging me to try new things
wondering what I’ll do next

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There’s something about 
writing with kids
writing in front of kids
talking about writing 
joking with kids
teaching with friends
laughing with a class

In just a half an hour we explored
writing, yes but also
verbs
poetry
stamina
running starts
mentor texts
revising 
writing habits
and more

They asked great questions like, “How did you do that?” 
And, my favorite, a hopeful sounding pair of 5th graders asking,
“Will you be teaching at the middle school next year?”

 

Celebrating A Good Start

celebrate-image So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! What are you celebrating

 

I’m celebrating learning today because I’m at Teachers College’s Coaching of Reading Institute. I always know I’m going to learn so much when I get the chance to come here. I am never disappointed.

I am especially celebrating good starts. There’s so much power in a good start.

This morning started with a new notebook, and a session with a title that made me want to shout, “Amen!”

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We started with a few minutes of a Ted Talk, and then the amazing Katy Wishow took us through the Essentials of a Learning Community. These are things we know students need in our Reader’s Workshop. . . but they are true for our own teacher communities too:

  1. Embracing Risk (which means, embracing failure too!)
    Ask for help, be vulnerable
  2. A Shared Spotlight
    Build up your team, turn your spotlight to others
  3. Team Mentality
    Everyone gets what they need
  4. Joy and Celebration
    We celebrate with kids, how can we build this with teachers? 

When you start a day about coaching with a session about how we need communities to learn and grow, about how we need joy and celebration… that’s a good start to the day. That’s a great start to a Coaching Institute. That’s something to celebrate.

Thanks for the great start, TCRWP!

Celebrating a few Themes at TCRWP

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

So much to celebrate after the 93rd Saturday Reunion at TCRWP.  Of course the day is full of all kinds of learning, and that is a huge celebration for me… a true gift. Another gift that I love about every Saturday Reunion I’ve been to is that there are always a few themes and connections that I follow the whole day — at the conference and sometimes around the city itself.

Here’s just a handful of celebrations from my time there this weekend…

Celebrating Writing and Teaching…

Arriving in front of Riverside Church just a little early (okay, an hour early) we had time to walk around, and bump into Jack Gantos. Well, by bump into, I mean…

Me: I think that’s Jack Gantos
Friends: No…Oh wait, is it?
Me: Googles picture of Jack Gantos and shows it to friends
Friends: Nod.
Me & Friends: Silently wish we had the courage to stop him, ask each other why we didn’t stop him after he walks by, and decide it would have been rude anyway…

Don’t worry. We snuck up after his keynote to shake his hand and say thank you.

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Picture by Kris Hall

Jack Gantos started his keynote looking out into the audience of teachers and saying, “We have so much in common. We are agents of positive change. When you are an agent of positive change, you get it back!”

Then, he talked about writing, his new book called Writing Radar, and effective writing instruction.

“The world right in front of me.” He said. “The first person world. That is the world I should be writing about… That’s the real stuff.”

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Jack Gantos speaking at TCRWP Picture by Kris Hall

Later, after many trips on the hotel elevator, the three of us were trying to figure out why we could never find our floor number. Why was the 26th floor button always somewhere different? We knew this would make an excellent math problem, so we were taking pictures of the button panel to compare with our other button panel pictures.

We turned to the only other person on the elevator with us.

Us: We just want to figure out exactly what is happening with these numbers.
Man: I know! Number 16 is always in a different place!
Us: Well, we’re teachers so we have fun figuring this sort of thing out.
Man: (exiting elevator, turning towards us one last time.) You guys are teachers? Thank you for being teachers. I have children.
Me: I’m writing that down

I think this is what Jack Gantos said to write about … this is the real stuff… and teachers are agents of positive change. Nice to be thanked. Go thank a teacher next time you see one. 😉

Speaking of being an agent of change…Celebrating Cornelius Minor.

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My new favorite picture. Love connecting to the powerful force that is @MisterMinor. (Picture by Kris Hall – Thanks, Friend!)

I can’t pass up an opportunity to see Cornelius speak. I went to his session last year and was happy to hear him again. Cornelius spoke about change, he mentioned it is evolutionary not revolutionary.  He told us that “everybody wants to make a difference. Not everyone gets invited to do so…We need a posse to help… and that can just be one other person…Change takes time.”

Later, walking the High Line, we couldn’t help but notice the story of 2 neighborhood leaders starting the fight against demolishing the high line. Now, the old abandoned railroad tracks are a beautiful garden path. Those leaders had a posse!

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Celebrating Revision…

In Lucy Calkins’ session, she talked about writing expecting revision. “Breathe in, breathe out. Draft, Revise.” She shared writing quotes with us that resonated.

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Later at the Strand Bookstore,  I saw a sticker that I think captured some of that, in a different sort of way.
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Celebrating each other…

At Lucy’s closing, she told us that this work we are doing is noble, and she reminded us of the importance of standing by each other. For our workshops to flourish, we need to rally together and support one another. “How we are to each other is most important.”  After spending the weekend with a couple of amazing teachers whom I get to call friends… I couldn’t agree with her more.

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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. 

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!)