July 3

5 Reasons I’m Heading Back to the Classroom (After Instructional Coaching)

This year I have the opportunity to transition back to the math classroom after two years of instructional coaching, and I’m taking it!  While the decision was not easy, I felt a longing to return to the classroom since the day I left. I wondered if the feelings stemmed from a lack of experience and transitioning from being a veteran teacher to a novice coach.  I had shared with my team 

and administration that I wanted to return after the first year, but after listening attentively to me, they encouraged me to stay saying they felt I was well-suited for the role and perhaps with more experience and confidence, I might feel differently.  However, my administration said they’d support my decision to return, if that’s what I wanted.I decided to spend another year serving my school as a coach.  There were MANY things I enjoyed about instructional coaching, and I plan to share them in another blog post.  But, let me share the key reasons I’m returning to the classroom.

  1. Kids  Without a doubt, the number ONE reason I want to return to the classroom is my desire to work with kids.  When I walk down the hallway, I well up with the empathy I feel for students whose eyes reveal their insecurities.  I want to engage in their conversations; speak truth and encouragement into their lives. But, I’m always one step removed.  Even when working in classrooms, I was the lady who came into their class for a day, and at most, a few days. It’s hard to build drive by relationships.  After being out of the classroom for two years, the number of students with whom I had relationships had significantly dwindled and the thought of getting to a point where there were none was devastating to me.  
  2. Party Planning  While I’m no Angela Martin (Office reference), I love planning the party and watching the magic of learning happen.  In coaching, you help to plan someone else’s party for someone else’s students. I miss designing creative ways to engage MY students and watching the joy of MY students as they learn.  It’s entirely selfish, I know. Perhaps a person who is more selfless would be more comfortable riding in the sidecar, but it was a tough transition for me.
  3. Focus I LOVE to learn, and coaching allowed me to open up my learning to include all content areas.  I have an increased passion for literacy strategies, the NGSS practices, best practices in co-teaching and other content areas as well.  But, I miss being able to have one focused passion.  I LOVE MATH! A colleague once shared with me how she remembered when I was in the classroom, I had made students love math, too.  Yes! That’s what I want–for them to love it with me; to build their confidence in a content area that opens countless lucrative opportunities for them.   
  4. A Full Toolbox While I am nowhere close to being a perfect teacher, I’ve spent the last two years building my toolbox of strategies.  You know what’s no fun? Having a lot of tools without being able to use them. In coaching, I’d share the strategies I’d learn and watch other people use them.  That always brought me joy. But, I’d like to give them a whirl myself. Again…selfish, I know…
  5. Beginnings and Endings  Yes.  In coaching we have a beginning and end to each year and there are timely PD opportunities we like to offer teachers.  But, there is nothing like a brand new class list, planning for community building, and getting excited for a first day.  Likewise, there is no greater relief for a teacher than closing the books on the year, knowing you’ve poured yourself out as best you could for students.  I love a clean slate. I missed it in coaching.

All this being said, I hope my school knows that I have loved serving them as an instructional coach the past two years and am so grateful to have had the opportunity.  I appreciate my administration’s encouragement and the confidence they’ve had in me. I’ve grown so much as an educator and I hope to share my experience as a coach in my next blog post.  

September 22

4 Reflections on Authenticity in Instructional Coaching

Always growing.  One of my favorite things about teaching is that it NEVER grows old.  Each year you’ll meet new students, new colleagues, perhaps teach a new course.  Circumstances aren’t the only things that change with each passing year, our thoughts about teaching and learning change, too.  That is, if we continue to grow and learn.  I have a ravenous appetite for new ideas.  Thanks to the internet (predominantly Twitter) there is no end to the creative ways I can teach students.  If it was something that worked well in class, I would burst if I didn’t share them.  As a classroom teacher, I’d like to think I was generous with my findings, but as a coach it’s my job.  The luxury to scour the internet and think systemically on how to best encourage and support good teaching school wide is not lost on me.  I feel blessed.  

img_4503I LOVE to talk shop!  I find most teachers do.  Even teachers who might not admit it if you asked them.  If you start bringing up issues related to teaching and learning (growth mindset, PBL, etc), the ideas and opinions will fly.  Mixed in those opinions are arguments for pedagogy and philosophy that influence practice.  This sharpening of irons spurs growth.  Ironically, at least in my building, there is precious little time for productive teacher talk.  

Coaching lets me talk teaching all day.  The only difficult thing is that by nature people (including yours truly) are reluctant to change and can be initially defensive when their regular practice is challenged in anyway.  However, I’m hoping most teachers ruminate on constructive criticism and come back willing to try new ideas.  I love this quote from Elena Aguilar, “The art of coaching is the art of nudging without leaving bruises.”  So true. I want to push to the point of “cognitive dissonance” but without closing relational doors.  I do believe this is an art and I’m hoping to master it.  I’m nowhere near an artist.  Right now, I’m a two year old with crayons.  

LOVE is my quintessential core value.  “Above all, put on love which binds us together in perfect unity,” Colossians 3:14.  My hope is to be loving and kind in every interaction, to believe the best, seek the best for and encourage the whole teacher.  My motto this year has been “teachers are people, too.”  We have personal battles, health crises, families that need our attention and, let’s face it–teaching is hard!  I hope that teachers feel as though I’m on their team–even when they resist change–I’m FOR them!  Coaching gives me the time to listen and empathize with their concerns.  As a teacher who tried to do that for students all day, I often didn’t have time to stop and give undivided attention to my colleagues.  I can and do make time for that now.

A Unifying Force.  I love how Colossians 3:14 says that love “binds us together in perfect unity.”  As a coach, I can be an agent for positive change.  We can help to resolve relational conflict and find systemic gaps.  The goal–a healthy learning community.  This is the messiest part of coaching.  People and relationships are a mess.  I once read a book entitled Relationships:  A Mess Worth Making.  Isn’t that so true?  We are better when we join forces, but only if we can move in the same positive direction.  We won’t always agree and we’ll be better for it.  I often think of Hegel’s Dialectic:  how the debate of thesis and anti-thesis bring us closer to the truth. We’re better together if we can debate these things in a loving, self-less, humble way.  “Love binds us together in perfect unity.”

August 6

Why I hate the first week of school (and other positive thoughts)

Typically, I would say that I am a POSITIVE person–cup half full.  You know the type…annoyingly so.  In fact, I’m absolutely sure that there are some teachers that are curmudgeons by nature at my school that find it difficult to even be in the same room  as me.  That being said, last year I finally admitted it:  I HATE the first week of school!  It’s not that I lack excitement about new possibilities or methods I might try.  I do!  That makes me excited about the school YEAR.  I’m talking about the first WEEK.  Here’s why:

They don’t know me.  My students, that is.  We haven’t established trust and rapport–we aren’t family yet.  I’m some stranger to them.  They may have heard about me.  I don’t know…they just seem cynical at first.  Like they’re saying, “Sure you care…prove it!”  That’s exactly what I go about doing day in and day out until the work of trust is firmly established.  But it’s hard work and it is just a given later in the year.  I remember, on the third day of school last year, one of my students said (read in teenage girl voice), “Are we going to do any lessons?  Like, will there be PowerPoints?”  I thought to myself, “Have I not been teaching for the last three days?”  It takes time for them to get to know me and how I operate–which is often different from their previous teachers, which only makes them even MORE skeptical of me.  Most importantly, I have to convince them that what I do is good.  I start to doubt myself and think, “By the end of the year, they’ll get me and, hopefully, math! RIGHT?”

A lost puppy.  Just as much as being positive is my nature, I’m a girl of routine.  I need to know where to be to be productive during prep and lunch periods.  I spend the first week, looking for those places–access to copier, not too many people so that I get caught up in nonsense chatter (which I am also VERY good at!).  I’m like a lost puppy and each night I go home saying, “I got nothing done at school today!”  Augh…Can’t wait!

Unrealistic expectations.  I think it’s a “mom thing,” but each new year I tell myself that I’ll be able to still make dinner nightly, workout, have quiet time, etc once school starts.  For the first week or so, I try to make sure that is the case.  By late September, I’ve long given up the dream.  My children return to their self-proclaimed status as “dinner orphans” and honestly, we’re all happier for it!  But that first week, I kill myself trying to add in an after school workout, making dinner and doing school work I neglected to do while wandering the building looking for a place to work.

No worries, though.  I know that the first week in each new year is like a newborn baby.  I will get to that happy place where they KNOW me…no more proving myself, I’ll stop spinning my wheels and, maybe this year, I’ll leave dinner up to my kids on that first week.  You’d think I’d learn after all these years!  Here’s to realistic expectations and a great SECOND week :).