22 March 2008

Of Ring Rust and Good Instincts

This week, I organized and presented my first staff meeting in nearly a year. While classroom teaching is its own form of presenting, I had to shake off a bit of ring rust where working with adults is concerned. This is still very much a new-to-me staff and we are learning how to play well together. I did the kinds of things I would normally do---made sure that treats were available, set out some supplies (highlighters, sticky notes, pencils...) within reach at every table, and constructed a short powerpoint using a pretty template. There was some music playing as people wandered in. We had some opportunities to vent about some things and laugh about others. I don't know that I hit a home run, but I think we all learned a lot about working together along the way.

I learned that I planned one too many activities, but at least I know where the line is now. I learned which person on the staff is the barometer---when that person starts to show stress, it's time to pull back and wrap things up. I now know who The Paper Grader is and have identified those who are going to hang in there with things every step of the way. I know where people expect to sit. Those are all good things for me in my presenter/facilitator role to keep in mind. But I also learned more about what a dedicated group of teachers they are. This is not a group to make excuses about why kids might not be learning---this is a group who looks for solutions.

In the meantime, I'm pleased to be finding out that I have very good instincts for this coaching gig. There's a lot that I don't know---it is, after all, an elementary school and I have been in secondary for my whole career. It's a different district with its own unique demographics and approach to supporting student learning. But the issues which are getting tossed my way seem to have simple solutions---which I find later to have been the right choices to make. This includes everything from how to work with kindergartners on their abilities to distinguish which quantity is larger/smaller to helping second graders recognize when it's okay to play with the math manipulatives and when it is time for math business to developing some talking points so one teacher has the confidence to work with another on testing decisions. I am sure to make some wrong choices here and there, but overall, I'm not as afraid that I'm going to be a total screw-up.

There is a lot of fun to be had along the way, too. I got to watch a gym full of second graders do The Chicken Dance this week. I saw some first graders get their very first Easter baskets. I laughed with my principal and met many of our families at this week's Math Night festivities. I helped a kindergartner tie his shoe while he excitedly told me all about his new Spiderman shirt. I think once my staff development ring rust is finally gone and my instincts for elementary honed more finely, there will be even more joy to find in the job.

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