Working with adults is hard. We all know that. This is true. My good friend and colleague, Amanda Hartman, says the best staff developers are often the best classroom teachers. I tend to agree. Why? The best teachers love and believe in all of their kids, not just a few. I believe that I have to love ALL of my teachers, not just the strong ones. Which brings me to this blog, and the reason why I started it. I met with a principal this week who said something to me that took my breath away. She said, “I don’t think one of my teachers believes that you see them as highly effective.” Why did this take my breath away? Because she was right. Me? The girl who always says “you have to love all your teachers” doesn’t love this teacher. Or at least she doesn’t believe I love her. At first, I was upset–then I realized how wrong that was on so many levels. Yes, for example, the principal has one particular teacher that has a different philosophy about teaching and learning than I do, but she is a “highly effective” teacher. Or I would rather say she is an amazing teacher. I worked with her that day, and tried desperately to show her how much I respected her and the work she does every day. I will be doing that with her and (hopefully) ALL the teachers I work with. But to keep me honest, and let’s be real here, to get support in this very hard thing, I needed to do this blog. I need all of you to help me keep this promise I made to myself…all teachers need to feel loved and respected and honored for their work no matter their level, philosophy, or even work ethic. I need to believe in them, push them, and support them every step of the way.
I started telling my partner in crime about this moment, and I said “I need you by my side. I need help on this journey.” So Monique Knight has agreed to partner with me on this journey of blogging and becoming a better coach. Why did I ask her? Because she thinks like I do…that teachers are amazing and we need to build them up.
Please join us as we try to hold each other accountable to meet this goal.
When I think of the title, Coach, I think back to specific moments in my life when I was coached by coaches; sitting in sessions with my acting coach as a young child, my cheerleading coach shouting and coaching our cheering team from the basketball court sidelines in my teens, and then getting my very first classroom and receiving mentoring and coaching in everything from literacy instruction to ways of getting my class out quickly and quietly during a fire drill. All of the coaches in these examples had an important characteristic in common. They believed in me. They coached “as if” they expected me to exceed and excel. They also knew the ins and outs of their area of specialty expertise and had a vested interest in my success. What also stands out the most about these coaches is the level of trust I had in them. In order for me to take risks and try the ‘hard moves’ I had to trust.
In my current position as a literacy staff developer, I often think back to how they won that trust in me. What was their secret? What methods did they use? I wasn’t coached under situations of duress or desperation, although I did begrudgingly attend the acting classes all because of my mom and I wasn’t really into the whole cheerleading thing to begin with. However, what I remember most was slowly wanting and wishing to become better. There was a point in each of these instances, where I believed because of their belief.
Literacy Coaching involves a similarly important layer of teaching. Day to day, we’re in classrooms and leading faculty meetings, asking colleagues to dig deeper, change their methods or practices and sometimes pushing teachers to reconsider their beliefs about something they’re passionate about- teaching. In order for our work to take hold and to blossom, there needs to be a seed of trust planted in the relationships we form with the adults. Whatever relationship we build- professional, personal, private- trust is essential. I never flourished in an environment where trust is lacking or ambiguous. As a staff developer, I intend on bringing that level of trust and belief in my interactions with schools, leaders and teachers.
I have learned a lot of these lessons from my dear friend, Christy Curran. I have watched her coach teachers and administrators and I’ve received coaching and mentoring from her as well. There is an art and style to coaching. I have witnessed Christy’s approach to adult learners and am always intrigued by her art and style. I am thrilled to begin this journey with her of looking back through reflections and looking ahead through our conversations and our writing. We invite you to take this journey with us here, in our blog.
Why this? Why now? to COACH, actually!
Christy & Monique