I recently had my last day of the year working with a district. Prior to this last visit, we had established partnerships. This was a pilot year of launching writers workshop for the district, and they decided to have two teachers from each grade level participate in this pilot. The partners were soul mates in the teaching of writing for the entire year.
On this last meeting, we celebrated. Often with celebrations, I ask teachers to bring in a literary gift for their partner–something small, like a decorated quote or poem, nothing too expensive.
We went out for a long lunch (something educators never get to do) and celebrated. I gave each writing teacher a quote on writing, and then told them to exchange their gifts with their partner. Before they wanted to do that they brought over a HUGE bag for me to open. I sat there stunned. “This bag is for me?” I asked. The bag was spilling over with gifts that reflected the school, the town, (and of course) writing. It took my breath away.
Then each teacher gave their writing soul mate a literary gift. And let me tell you what, these were gifts. I could not get over how extravagant these gifts were. From gift certificates, to inspiring bracelets, to journals, and even a beautiful canvas bag saying “Writers Rock.”. It turned out that these partnerships were more than writing partnerships, they were close friendships. And now I am fortunate enough to have that whole Laurel community as my close friend.
This literacy work is hard. When I first started teaching reading workshop, I had to have a partner. I would have given up without one. My partner, Holly Slaughter, and I would greet kids at the door at the start of each day (her room just across from mine) and chat about reading workshop. What is your teaching point today? What read aloud are you using? What part of the read aloud did you use to help you teach that? What about the active engagement? What did you have the kids do for that? We were always talking reading. We were always trying to figure things out. We are forever partners in literacy.
Who is your partner? Find one or two or three. And help create and nurture other partnerships. As coaches, we can create partnerships in a building. We can invite mentorships, or simply nudge two people to be part of an inquiry. We can give them a professional read (Katherine Bomer has a great new book coming out this week The Journey is Everything: Teaching Essays That Students Want to Write for People Who Want to Read Them), meet together and discuss it, and send them off to practice with their kids. Invite them to meet periodically about their findings and then come back and meet with you. We might encourage a partnership to write and submit an article around the study. In two months time, you (the coach) have created a lasting partnership, empowering teachers, and engaged, excited learners. This model can be done in every grade staggered across the year.
Literacy leaders have lonely jobs. We need to stay passionate about teaching and learning and literacy, but that can be difficult when you are the only you at your building. Get energy from your staff in creating these kinds of models of partnerships and relish in the fact that you created these models. But also take the time to create something for yourself.
I have been consulting on my own for two years now, and even though my districts are the best and most beautiful that I have ever worked with, I am lonely. I have strong relationships with my schools, and they feed me, but I need something more. So I decided to form a group of strong, smart, loving women to be my partners. We all have different strengths. We are all have slightly different jobs, yet we are all strong, smart, and loving. That last part really mattered to me because I wanted to be around women who would support me, not tear me down.
Leading, teaching, and coaching, are all lonely jobs. Find someone to support you so you have the energy to do the best work of your life. After all, we are doing big work—don’t do it alone.
Always partnering, actually~
Christy & Monique