Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The More You Know

This year is my second year as the literacy coach in my 6-8 building.  Last year I survived.  This year, my goal is to do more than survive; it's to thrive.  I'm being strategic in my schedule.  I've come up with an organization system for my coaching plans and notes.  I am reaching out to teachers in many different content areas.  I'm reading.  I'm watching.  I'm listening.

Today, Ellin Oliver Keene, author of many books including Talk About Understanding and co-author of Mosaic of Thought came to work with a group of teachers in the building.  A colleague and I realized we had been working with Ellin since our daughters, now in 7th and 8th grades were in K and 1st.  We relish the opportunity to learn alongside Ellin and to have her push us in our thinking.  Mrs. M., the teacher who hosted our observation agreed to have Ellin coach her in the moment while she taught.  Mrs. M. is also a coach (of the sports variety), and she understands that sometimes coaches have to give instruction to players during the game or even in the middle of a play.  The other teachers who were part of our group would have the opportunity to experience this type of intense coaching vicariously and the students in the class would get to view their teacher as a learner.

While I love watching Mrs. M. teach, I was in that room with a different purpose.  I wanted to watch a master coach coach.  I wanted to learn from Ellin how to be a better coach than I was last year.

Now, tonight, after having some time to process, I feel like I have so much more to learn.  There were things that Ellin saw that I missed, words she used that I wouldn't have thought of.  During the reflection time following the observation, I realized I still observed with a teacher's eyes, thinking about how I could take various strategies and language and adapt them to my own classroom.  Well... now I'm a coach.  My eyes and thinking should be tuned to the teacher, her needs, and the needs of her students... not necessarily my own.

This type of reflection and learning is important.  Thinking about my practice helps me to understand what I need to do to improve in my now not-so-new role.  I have some ideas about reading, talking, and thinking I want to do with MY coaches, and luckily I know where to seek those resources out.

The more you know, the more you realize how much more there is to learn.  Isn't that great?

This post was written as part of the Tuesday Slice of Life series sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.  Want to read what others are writing?  Go check it out!


  1. Lucky you to have Ellin Keene to watch! I've been retired five years and I'm still learning. Learning is an amazing journey, we never finish.

  2. How fortunate you and your colleagues are to learn from Ellin Keene! And your right, the learning never ends!

  3. I'm strucky by the level of trust all around in this situation. It takes courage to be coached in the moment like that. Everyone involved seemed to be willing to accept risk for the sake of improvement, including the courage involved in sharing one's reflections. That's really impressive. Thanks for sharing your insights.


  4. Ellin gave a workshop at my school a while ago & she was wonderful. Lucky you to get to work with her in this way, Mindi. I'm a coach too, but as our school is quite different, the advice shared in some of the coaching books isn't always helpful. I wish I had a group to share with (independent school). Yes, I'm always learning, especially various ways to work with different teachers-a bit of a dance isn't it? Thanks for the insights here!

  5. I'm a little jealous of the time you spent with Ellin. She is a remarkable educator. There is a shift in thinking you make as a coach. Thanks for reminding me.