Monday, July 16, 2018

Return to the Blogosphere and Slaying the Dragon...

My oh, my has it been a long time since I've blogged!! I have to be honest and say it feels a bit like the first time I posted; I'm nervous and anxious and wonder if my words will be of any use to anybody out there in the cyber world.  So what sparked this return you might be was a book...ok maybe two books, but one really has me thinking about ways I can put myself out there and to share my learning and hopefully spark some of the same passion in others.  What books you ask? The first was Jimmy Casas' Culturize: Every Student Every Day I love Mr. Casas! He inspires me to be better, to help make our schools places where students are given a voice and we are all working toward making a difference. The second was Be Real: Educate from the Heart by Tara Martin. Tara's words made me cry in spots and man oh man did she make me think. Being REAL is something we all need to work at.  There is enough fake in the world; it's time to drop the masks and lose the suits of armor and fully give our selves and our talents to those around us. If you haven't read either of these you can use the links above to hop on over to Amazon and check them out. You won't be disappointed!!

Dave Burgess, PIRATE Captain extraordinaire, penned the forward to Be Real. In the second paragraph, I swore he was talking directly to me when he wrote:

"Fear is a formidable dragon. When that beast rears its ugly head and breathes the fires of doubt, trepidation, and timidity, instinct tells us to cower and run rather than stand and fight. Who doesn't fear the risk of vulnerability? Who wouldn't dread baring one's soul and exposing the rough and rocky reality of the road that leads to the dragon's cave."

I swear he hit me right where it hurts. With that paragraph, I realized that is where I'd taken up residence sometime in the last year and a half...right there in the dragon's lair, cowering, locked in, afraid to go out and do what I wanted, no needed to do.

For the 2016-17 school year, I took on a new position, leaving the comfort zone of my classroom I opted to become one of our district's new instructional coaches. I was taking classes in educational leadership and thought this would be a natural next step and believed I was ready to leave the classroom to have a greater impact on students and teachers. But I forgot a key lesson, CHANGE is HARD!  Not only was it different for me being out of the classroom where I knew what to expect because I was in charge, it was tough for my peers as they'd never had a resource such as the one I could/would be providing.

I thought the relationships I'd built while on the fourth-grade team and with others throughout the building were solid enough to bridge the transition. For some that was true, for others not so much. That first year as a coach the work I did with teachers felt very superficial. "Can you find these resources?" "Do you have time to make my copies?" "Can you watch my class so I can plan (or use the restroom)?" Don't get me wrong, there were moments of more in-depth work too, but it was few and far between. I never said no to the smaller requests; I wanted to help teachers and I hoped these small things would lead to bigger more student-centered work. At the end of the first year, we were required to have staff complete a survey on how helpful they felt the teacher leadership roles (mentor teacher, curriculum leaders, and instructional coaches) were. The feedback was a bit less than stellar. Now I know that it takes time to build new initiatives and perceptions vary for each individual but OUCH some of the comments really hurt. Where I thought I was helping out by pitching in with the small things, the perception from staff was that it was a superficial position or for some, the role was seen as administrative. With my confidence shaken, that awful dragon of fear grew a little bit bigger.

Here's a fact: instructional coaches are dependent on the teachers we serve.  In our district, if teachers don't want to work with a coach, they are not required to. If teachers didn't want to work with me that must mean I'm not up to this task right? I must not have what they need or want in a coach. Self-doubt, anger, fear that I wasn't enough, and a good old-fashioned dose of self-pity set in. The truth is I was struggling and didn't know how to fix the situation.  For me, not being able to fix something is tantamount to failure. By nature, I'm a fixer, a problem solver but I wasn't able to solve my own issues when it came to coaching.

Year two began with this advice from Diane Sweeney, author of Student-Centered Coaching and our mentor/instructor in getting coaching started, "Go where the energy is." Her five words gave me permission to focus on the teachers who sought me out and wanted my help and not worry so much about those who shut their doors in my face. With teachers who willingly opened their classrooms, we were able to go further and dig deeper, but I still struggled. Why couldn't I seem to get the others to join us? Teachers shared out the work we did together, students stopped and asked when I'd be in to help in their rooms, my administrators said I was doing great work, I was busy, but still, it felt like I wasn't doing enough. The fear dragon grew and blew even more fire my way. Several times this year I was ready to throw in the towel and resign; head back to the classroom and do what I knew I was good at, teaching students. 

The second end of the year survey was better but some of the comments were still hard to take. It seemed coaches had made gains in some areas and fallen back in others. Though I reflected long and hard about that survey data, it wasn't until after an interview for an administrative position in another district and that I really came to terms with a major part of my coaching dilemma: RELATIONSHIPS. 

Despite my belief that we are all on one team, that doesn't ring true for all my peers. Some see my coaching position as administrative and therefore puts me "on the dark side." Yes, I have an administrative degree and yes, I strive to be a principal someday but that doesn't mean I'm on a different team. In my book it doesn't matter what title you may wear, we are here for the students. My passion is to serve students and teachers so that ultimately they are able to achieve their greatest potential. With this realization, I know I need to work on building or in some cases re-building connections with teachers that help them see that my purpose is to serve them. It's time to stop letting the dragon of fear hold me back from accomplishing that.

So like every year in the classroom, I'm starting with a new slate.  I'm drafting new goals, making action steps for how I plan to reach them and will share them with all I serve. The dragon of fear will still no doubt be breathing down my neck, but I've got an awesome PLN to turn to, along with a terrific crew to work alongside. Going into the new year I'm embracing Tara Martin's mantra. No matter what, I'm going to lead and follow my heart and Be REAL: Relatable, Expose my own vulnerability,  be Approachable, and Learn through Life.

"Great teachers crave growth, and they seek challenges that will help them evolve as educators." Sparks in the Dark by Todd Nesloney and Travis Crowder. Great instructional coaches do too! Here's to growing and evolving!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Monday Made it...but posted Wednesday :)

I am soooo disappointed in myself!  I was super pumped to share the little projects I managed to get finished last week for Tara's awesome Monday Made It linky, but time and the start of summer school made for a little procrastination (read my fingers pinched really close together LOL) and the post didn't get written until today.  Better late then never right?

Made it # 1 & 2
Hand-painted mason jars!  And a watermark! I am trying to find some new ways to organize classroom supplies besides the numerous plastic bins and drawers I already have, so thought I'd try out this little craft.  It was so easy and I LOVE how they turned out.  I wanted my jars to have a sea glass look but not end up looking as if they were painted.  The paint, instead use Elmer's glue, food coloring and a drop or two of water.  As you first put the colored glue solution on the jars looked kind of cloudy and I wasn't sure I was going to get the look I was going for, but once they dried they looked perfect!  My kids thought I bought them that way.
Made it #2 is my brand new watermark.  After watching Megan's super helpful video over at I Teach. What's your Superpower, I just had to try it.  I'm just tickled at how it turned out! :)

Made it #3- a remake/remodel:
A few weeks ago on Clutter Free Classroom, I read a post about black pocket charts.  I really loved the how the black seemed to make everything else on the charts stand out.  I looked at purchasing some new, but could not find the largest pocket chart that I use for mailboxes.  I'm a touch OCD when it comes to my decor, so if I couldn't do one chart I wasn't going to change.  Then I got the bright idea to try to paint the chart I had.  Two cans of black spray paint later, I have newly colored pocket charts.  I made some new numbered tags to match the blue and green that are the primary colors of my decor to finish it off.

It was a pretty productive week.  I have one more project in the works to share for next week hopefully.  I started teaching summer school this week, so my unlimited craft and leisure time has become limited.  That's it for now, off to get a little reading time in while it is still quiet at my house.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Blog re-entry & June Currently

Hello All!  It has been far too long since I've written.  Summer vacation has arrived and with it the opportunity to regroup and start anew!  So with that in mind what better way to jump back in by participating in Farley's June currently link up and doing a bit of end of the reflection along with it.

Love my walking playlist!  Right now it's a bit of Pitch Perfect-who doesn't love that movie?!  All the songs on this list make me want to move plus they put a smile on my face while I'm chugging along with the dog. I have a new walking goal going- trying to hit 150 miles by the end of the month.  I've been a bit lazy the last 2 days though so will definitely have to get out of this chair and get moving once I finish up this post. :)

Loving summer vacation!  The weather has been sunny yet cool here lately, the perfect days for getting a little bit done but also for lazing on the patio too.  We have an INCREDIBLY LONG summer break this year, so have lots of plans!!

I've been running this past year through my brain for the last couple of days.  It was one of those years that started off on a rocky note and I felt like I was in survival mode more often then not.  Now honestly it wasn't a bad year...the kids were great;  just a lot of changes that caused some upheaval, unfortunately some of that was rough. Something that has come out of this year is my decision to go back to school in the fall to pursue a second Masters Degree in Ed Leadership. (Hence the need to do some re-evaluation and plan accordingly- more balls to juggle LOL).  It's one of those things I've thought about for a while and when push came to shove this winter it made me decide now is the time to go far it. I know it will pose a challenge at times but think this is the right thing for me to do. (For sure it will be an adventure!)

The sun is shining and the patio is calling my name but I promised myself I'd tackle at least one job on my summer to-do list.  (I read the whole day yesterday...oh I love summer!)  Today's chore is to organize the kitchen cupboards.  Does anyone else have the issue of lots of plastic dishes but no lids that fit?  I think it might be related to the whole missing sock know where two go in the laundry but only one comes back?  Anyway I have a WHOLE cupboard of plastic that needs my attention!

Summer lovin'- my i-phone- sad to say but my life is on there- walking app (& others), tunes, pics, and of course my friends. 2nd up is books- can't have a summer without them!  I have a deep stack by the bed plus multiples on my kindle; a little professional, a little naughty- all of them for relaxation and enjoyment! 3rd but most important spending time with my family and friends!  My lil' sis is remodeling a building to move her wine lounge into come July so will be getting a lot of girl time in as we get her ready to go.

It feels good to get back into blog-land.  I can't wait to re-immerse myself and get reacquainted with old friends and hopefully make some connections with some new friends.

Until next time...