I am not a new teacher. In fact, this is my twenty-third year in my school district. Eighteen of those were spent teaching seventh grade language arts (and sometimes US history) and four of them were spent as a literacy coach.
As a coach, I worked with the teachers to improve literacy instruction across the curriculum. Surprising as it may seem, I spent most of my time working in math, science, and social studies classes rather than in the language arts classes. I loved going into these classes and thinking with the teachers about the challenges of incorporating reading, writing, and choice into their curricula and then working with them to implement the ideas we came up with together. I was always amazed at how we could take my knowledge of research in literacy education and pair it with their content expertise to find new ways to engage students in the hard work of learning.
Now, I'm back in the classroom, and I'm finally able to put all of the things I've learned over the past four years into practice. I know so much more about teaching and learning than I did when I first stepped away. I've had the opportunity to watch teachers and kids and think about engagement and learning. You'd think I'd be the best teacher I've ever been, right?
I am much more aware of limiting how much I talk so that my students can talk and think more. I provide my students with opportunities to make choices about their learning over the course of the school day. The feedback I give my students is clearer and more targeted than ever before. You'd think I wouldn't need to work with the literacy coach in my building.
You'd be wrong.
I've spent the past two months working closely with my coach because I want to continue to grow. Having Luanne come into my room to work alongside me provided the opportunity for me to discuss my teaching and my students' learning with a highly knowledgeable peer in a setting unrelated to my professional evaluation. She could make recommendations for next steps with particular students and small groups because she was in my class, getting to know the students as readers and writers, and we had many conversations about what to do to move students forward. This time with her in my class was important to my growth. In some ways, it validated me; it helped me to see that I DID remember how to teach after being in a support role. In other ways it challenged me by reminding me that my way was not the only, and perhaps not the best, way to approach a topic. I'll miss having Luanne in my room several times a week. She's now moving on to work with other teachers in our building.
I know not all teachers are lucky enough to have instructional coaches to support them in their work. But we can seek out coaches and mentors on our own. I know that I rely on one of my teammates to help me plan my math instruction - trust me... I need that help as I've never taught math before! I seek out Twitter chats such as #g2great and #3rdchat which focus on instructional practice in order to "meet" other teachers who are smart and innovative and help me push myself. This desire to continue to grow as a teacher is as strong as ever. It is important for all teachers to have this growth mindset. We need to be models of curiosity and life-long learning for our students. We need to keep up with the research and new thinking in our field.
So I think the thing I've been trying to write through today is the idea that as a teacher, I can never stop learning. I can never know all there is to know about my craft and there is always room to grow. Need a friend to read and discuss a professional book? Email me. I'm always a willing participant. Have a problem you need someone to think through with you? I'm your girl, as long as you'll do the same for me. Read a great book about teaching and learning lately? Tell me the title so I can buy it.
Because I honestly believe you can never learn too much.