Saturday, December 9, 2017

Breaking Down Walls

In my last post, I talked about “seasons” of the school year and how coaches can adapt their coaching to help teachers through each one.  I mentioned that November is a time when you see teachers hit the first wall of frustration, doubt, and uncertainty.  It is a tough time. is an amazing thing when you can see those same teachers break through those walls like the Kool-Aid man used to do in those commercials you’d watch on Saturday morning.  That’s what I’ve gotten to experience the last 2 weeks-walls being demolished-by amazing, brave teachers willing to overcome their fears and try.

Since Thanksgiving break,  I have seen intermediate and middle school teachers willing and wanting and attempting to do guided reading.  I’ve seen high school teachers excited about getting books for their classroom libraries.  I’ve seen teachers using anchor charts and language frames like they had been using them for years. I’ve talked to teams who said planning had become easier and more focused, and I’ve visited classrooms where the STUDENTS are the ones doing most of the work! I’ve also heard teachers questioning and evaluating their resources with more thought, and I’ve seen way less test prep materials being used.  These things are happening because teachers decided to try something different. Without knowing exactly how. Without being completely comfortable. Without even fully understanding what some of the practices or tools were.  And that is brave!

My first 2 blog posts ever were based around two books that have continued to influence my life and approach to coaching: Ish, by Peter Reynolds and Walk Through Walls by performance artist Marina Abramovic.  Ish reminds me that perfection is not the goal.  When a teacher is trying something new, look at it through the “ish” lens.  It may not be a perfect guided reading lesson, but is it guided reading-ish? After all, it’s only December.  If it’s “ish”, then we can be pretty proud of that.  “Ish” takes effort. Walk through Walls reminds me that it is the ideas you are most afraid of trying are the exact ones you should. So, even though it may seem second nature to you to use read alouds as a high school teachers, it may be a completely foreign concept.  But if they attempt it...good for them! They’ve broken through a wall.  That is brave.

For the coaches out the holiday break is approaching, look for places where you can see cracks in the walls and acknowledge teachers’ attempts at knocking down walls.  Sometimes just a word of “I can tell you are trying to_____” is all that is needed to help them bust through the first brick. Help the teachers who are busting through to see how many bricks they have already knocked down.  For others, help pull them out of the rubble...after all, busting down walls is messy, and it usually requires a team effort.

So, to all of the wrecking ball teachers and coaches out there….have a wonderful holiday break, and I can’t wait to see what walls get busted down next year!