Sunday, November 6, 2016

Whatever you are...

My niece attends the elementary campus where I am an Instructional Coach. When I picked up my kids at my mom's house the other day, she was there and was drawing a picture for her teacher. I nonchalantly mentioned that I knew her teacher would love it. I also said that since I'm not a classroom teacher anymore, I don't get very many, "love notes," from students.

Two days later, I was in the crosswalk directing before-school traffic (Coaches often perform other duties as assigned) when my niece came to the curb. "Aunt Mandy, I made you this." It turned out the be the very best part of my day, as well as the inspiration for this post.

"Since you became a whatever you are..."

I am in my second year as a campus Instructional Coach. It is safe to say that I had zero idea what I was doing last year. I read books by Elena Aguilar, Jim Knight, and Jennifer Allen. I tried to be all things to all people, I felt sad when I wasn't well-received, and I doubted my decision to leave the classroom as I struggled with an identity crisis that was expected, but still very difficult. I believed there was an ideal coach, some model that I was searching for, but even though I was committed and read all the right books, I was still very much lost.

Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't count the year a complete loss. I tried really, really hard. I read and researched, advocated for kids, and tried to work with individual teachers and teams to accomplish the goals they had set for themselves and for their students. I modeled lots of lessons and tried to meet the needs of the teachers, the campus, and the district system. But still I wondered...was I trying to be what I thought everyone wanted me to be instead of trusting myself to be what my school really needed?"

The ambiguity of instructional coaching can cause confusion for more than just our students. Countless kiddos at my school think I'm the counselor because she visits their classrooms, too. I had a parent stop me in the hall the other day and ask, "What exactly do  you do here? My son said you were in his room and were a super-nice sub, but his teacher wasn't absent."

One of my favorite Instructional Coaching shirts

The other day, I found this post on an Instructional Coaching blog I follow. When I read it, I immediately agreed with the author, Cory Roffey when he said, 

"Clearly defining your role as an instructional coach takes a strong understanding of the varied and dynamic roles of a coach, but an even stronger understanding of your school site and both are essential in becoming the instructional coach that your school needs."

This year, my school needs support as teachers work to adapt to new administration, a new state accountability system, and new district initiatives. Our teachers and administrators have identified focus areas and I am busier than ever trying to provide support, build relationships, and facilitate a new fact fluency assessment system. 

While my precious, thoughtful niece may still have no idea I what I do, and as I struggle through the ultimate identity crisis, I take comfort in the idea that I can learn from my mistakes, set goals and work to attain them, and that every day, something happens that makes me so happy to be exactly who and where I am.