I just wrapped up a semester long coaching cycle with a new teacher. It’s her second year teaching, but her first in 5th grade after transitioning from 4K! What’s more, the move happened less than two weeks before school began. Talk about nerve-wracking. Today we reflected on student growth, which was seriously rewarding. As I walked away, however, my heart and mind were on how we as teachers grew throughout this coaching experience.
This year, my curriculum director and I decided that with all the new or transitioning teachers in our district, my priority needed to be to support and grow them. In my opening email to find coaching clients, I made this loud and clear. And even though it’s not the coaching model I’m accustomed to, new teachers were more or less told that they would be working with me. This caused a bit of anxiety at first, but once we got to work, I know they were grateful to have a partner. I’m grateful, too, that we still have teachers drawn to the profession, despite a seeming lack of respect and esteem for educators. I want to make sure that we hang on to this new generation of teachers- we need them!
So as we wrapped up today, I can say assuredly that this teacher has grown enormously in her confidence to teach and reach students of this age, in her confidence to make the decision to move forward or to slow down, and in her knowing when to ask for help. This is big. Today, she knows her writing rubric well, she can carefully observe student growth in their writing and in their process, and she celebrates (we both celebrate) student success and the “stickiness” of her teaching.
As for me, I made some mistakes along the way. The biggest: in my desire for her to meet the expectations of outside literacy consultants, I pushed too hard, too early. Not only did I lose sight of our goal, I was not thinking about what this teacher was ready for. This caused anxiety and perhaps even some mistrust~ my intentions were for her to have a positive observation, but in the end, I made her doubt herself. We took a step backward and this was all on me. I reflected, embraced this failure, apologized and re-centered our work around our students and our goal. I failed forward. Failed by example.
When I think about my role with coaching clients and about teachers’ relationships with their students, failing by example can be a powerful thing. I don’t always make the best decisions in the moment, and neither do teachers. I don’t know everything or the “right” way to do it all. But I do know how to reflect. I know to think carefully about the person or people in front of me and the possible perceptions I might portray with what I say and what I do. After all, we are in this together. Our growth as professional and as humans depends on shared experiences, relationships, and belief in one another.
As I move on to new coaching relationships, I will forever carry this one with me. I believe my greatest responsibility is to help lift teachers up… and to recognize when I’m falling short. I want every teacher to truly believe it when I say, “I’ve got you!”