Every day for the past two weeks since starting my new coaching position my husband has asked me this question. Only knowing me as a classroom teacher for the past seventeen years, I think he is trying to wrap his head around what exactly it is that I do all day. I think I am too.
It feels foreign to not have a group of first graders waiting for me to get there each day. I didn’t have to prepare a classroom for Meet the Teacher Day or think through how I would spend the first few days building community. It is the weirdest feeling to walk on campus each morning and realize that no one is waiting for me. This is freaking me out a bit. I have all these insecurities and questions rolling through my head. What if the teachers think I am doing nothing while they are in the trenches with kids? What if my administrator thinks I am doing nothing all day because I don’t have lesson plans written or a room full of children? What do I have to show for how my time is spent at the end of each day? I’m pretty sure that my husband keeps asking because he is worried after leaving my “safe” job that maybe if I’m not looking busy enough unemployment is just around the corner!
This is why I am now holding on to, Chapter Sixteen: Nuts and Bolts-Scheduling and Budgeting, for dear life. This chapter answers and confirms that my insecurities might not be far off. That if I want to be perceived as an equal member of the school community, I have to find a tangible way to reflect the intangible things that have kept me busy and exhausted each day. That teachers ARE probably thinking, What does she do all day? Here are the things I have started working on and thinking about to keep myself accountable and to document my time so that all of those questions mentioned can be answered quickly and easily.
First, I am creating an amazing literacy space for teachers and students that started out two weeks ago as a room filled with boxes of books and empty shelves. The mascot of our sweet little school is the Knights. Therefore, I decided the space where the kids and teachers will come to find books and resources needed to look and feel like a castle. It will be called, The Knight’s Nook, and children will be summoned by a princess (the head of our lower school) to come and be dubbed the Knights of the Reading Round Table (thank goodness that is the shape of the tables that got left in the room). The transformation of this space is something tangible everyone can see and the fact that we are surprising everyone with a big reveal builds anticipation and excitement around reading. This will be my first gift of literacy to the school.
Second, I have made it a goal to have my schedule visible to all by the end of the second week so everyone knows where I am and what I am doing. The first few weeks I wanted to give the teacher’s time with their students to get to know them, finish assessments and build a classroom community before I inserted myself. In the meantime, I have been stopping in, offering teacher’s coverage for bathroom breaks or to refill their water bottles and reading aloud to the kids so I can begin to get to know them in my own way. I have been complimenting the amazing environments teachers have set up for students, noticing how much they know their students already and empathizing over how tough the first few weeks of school really are. This has helped teachers see that although I haven’t started my “real” job yet, I am not sitting in a room by myself doing nothing while they are in the trenches.
Third, I have been collecting questions and ideas so that when I meet with my administrator we can have a specific, smart conversation about my role as the literacy coach. We can decide bottom lines, non-negotiables and where I fit. She will be able to see through these questions and observations how I have been spending the last few weeks-knee deep in observation and reflection to help decide next steps.
Finally, I am going to take Jennifer’s advice and start documenting my day. Even though I will have a visible schedule, it will be important to write down all that I am accomplishing in a day when I am not in a classroom. The conversations, the planning both short and long-term and the gathering of resources. I want anyone who asks to see how valuable my position is to the literacy reform of the school. To quickly see that even though my day is more flexible, it is full.
In doing all of these things as my next steps, in this new position in a new school, I am hoping that my day is transparent, people see my worth and are excited and able to trust me to help them grow as literacy leaders themselves. I am hoping that this will calm my anxieties and the questions running through my head (and my husband’s as well). So, what did I do today? Sit back and get comfortable, I’ve got a lot to tell you!