You've made it to my site, now why not gain a deeper understanding of why I do what I do and how I can help YOU do what YOU do! This episode shares exactly that- my why, my what, and my how (full disclosure- I have a hiccup in the very beginning of the episode... let's see if you can catch it!).
As an instructional impact consultant, I focus on partnering with schools to collaborate around high impact strategies that solve the problems that programs and products aren't solving. Yes, that's right, I said it- programs and products are NOT solving the problems that come up again and again in our schools- lack of student engagement, motivation, and ownership; low morale due to overwhelm; an overabundance of resources; minimal gains in student achievement or increasing gaps; and lack of knowledge transfer and application.
But as an attempt at a quick fix, we bandaid the problems we encounter with curriculum programs and technology products. Imagine the time, effort, and money spent on these things that have only minimal lasting and positive impact, or worse, NO positive impact! The solution to these problems does NOT lie in the THINGS we purchase. The solutions lie within the walls of our buildings- in our leaders, our educators, and our students.
But what we know is that taking a step back to analyze the effectiveness of our people can be daunting work. Each individual in an organization comes with their own perspective of problems and solutions, alike. This can make it challenging as a collaborative group to get to the heart of the real challenges at hand, much less the real solution to the challenges. And THIS is where I come in!
I'm able to take a seat in the balcony of your school to analyze the challenges your school faces from all perspectives. I ask the instructional leaders the right questions to get to the real challenge. I have the right conversations with teachers to gauge the school culture and mindset. And I observe students and classrooms with just the right lenses to analyze the current reality. Finally, I strategically and intentionally partner with teams to facilitate collaborative learning around the strategies that will have the highest impact on student achievement and teacher empowerment.
A great deal of what I do revolves around not only facilitating collaboration, but more specifically modeling and explicitly teaching about collaboration. Why? Because I believe that the greatest instructional impact lies in our ability to and our success in collaborating with colleagues and students. I believe that collaboration can be hard, complex, and challenging work- but this kind of work is often the most inspiring and empowering. And I believe that products and programs DO NOT empower and inspire.... PEOPLE empower and inspire.
It is through successful collaboration that our continual problems can be solved. And I would love nothing more than to partner with you and your school to solve the problems that products and programs aren't solving!
I don't often dwell in regret. It's not a great feeling to hold onto and can easily transform and grow into something else entirely. This is not to say I don't make mistakes every single day- things that I would have done differently in hindsight. And these mistakes are usually easily addressed and simply make for a better future ahead. In those instances, the regret is short lived. I leave the situation feeling grateful to have learned from it. But there is one thing this year that has stayed with me... something that I think about often... something I wish I could go back and have a "do-over". Let me paint a picture for you.
It is imperative to note that the teacher in this scenario is of the utmost quality. This is a teacher that you hear students share about years down the road as one who cared about them and made an impact on them as a learner.
It's the end of the third nine weeks. Students have recently finished their nine-week benchmarks. As an instructional leader, I have decided to meet with teachers to take a brief look at the data and see what their thoughts are instructionally for the nine weeks ahead as I work to support them. I walk into the classroom to visit with the next teacher on my schedule and notice there are a few students in the classroom. These students are working to finish some assignments before heading off to the next part of their schedule. I offer to come back another time, but the teacher (that I adore), so graciously invites me to stay and visit with her at the back of the room while the students work.
Small Regret #1: Instead of insisting on coming back another time, I accept her invitation to stay. Not a big deal, easily fixable in the future.
We move to the back of the room to a table in the corner. As per usual, I ask, "So what's on your mind in regard to the nine-weeks assessment?" We visit about what went well for students, what skills may need to be retaught, and what commonalities we notice in the data based on standards. (Seems harmless, right? No foreseeable regrets, right?) Looking at the data is not a problem. But we all know that behind each set of data is the face of a child- a child that the teacher so adamantly wants to support as a learner. And so naturally, the teacher begins sharing about specific individuals.
Not So Small Regret #2: Instead of pausing the conversation until there were no students in the room, I allow the conversation to continue.
The teacher shares about some students that surprised her, both positively and negatively. The few students completing assignments in the classroom continue on, seemingly uninterrupted by us... seemingly unaware of our conversation that's becoming more personal... seemingly uncaring of the data we're discussing. And then one of those students and his data, specifically, becomes the topic of conversation.
Bigger Regret #3: Yet again, instead of pausing the conversation, I let it go on.
The student seems oblivious to our talk of him. The teacher continues, we wrap up our conversation and consider next steps for her instruction in the weeks to come. I move on to another classroom.
[Fast forward one week...]
I'm heading to the cafeteria to visit with a colleague on lunch duty. Students from this teacher's class are lining up as they have finished lunch. The aforementioned student, the one whose data became part of the conversation while he was in the classroom working, is at the front of the line. I nonchalantly ask him how things are going and we engage in easy small talk. I ask if he was able to finish the assignments he was working on in said teacher's classroom a few days back. He simply says "Yes", and then he pauses for a moment, clearly contemplating what he wants to say next... and this is the replay of that conversation that has stuck with me so closely that I couldn't even begin to pry it off with the jaws of life:
Student: I heard what (teacher) said about me the other day.
Me: What do you mean?
Student: I heard what they said about me having potential to pass this year, but not potential for middle school.... I don't know how to feel about that? (concerned look on face)
Me: Tell me more...
Student: Yeah, I don't know how to feel about what they said.
Me: Well, tell me about what you're thinking. How do you think you feel?
(Student notices teacher walking down the hall to get the class from lunch.)
Student: Uhmm, ya know... uhmm, nevermind. Nevermind...
The biggest regret of all... The one thing I regret most: I didn't address it with the teacher. I didn't go back to further visit with the student. And time went on as though the moment had never existed... But it did, and it still does. It exists in my mind and in my heart. And what's worse, what I regret most, is that this moment exists for that student.
I share this story and paint this scene not to simply confess my regrets to the world. Rather, I hope that my attempt at being so completely vulnerable leads to better practices ahead for myself and for anyone that has happened upon this post.
It's a moment that should not be forgotten and dismissed. This moment tells us as instructional leaders that students are always listening. And yet somehow, we believe that they are incognizant of our conversations, or that they are unable to discern meaning from our coded teacher language, or that they even care about what we are saying. Perhaps the opposite of that is also true. Perhaps some educators believe that our students should be hearing what we are saying, even those negative comments, in an attempt to spur motivation in them to work toward "success" (which we know is not an effective approach).
Regardless, it is our duty as instructional leaders to provide adequate professional learning that addresses these kinds of situations- professional learning that not only focuses on instructional practices, but that which focuses on supporting the whole child. Because the pure fact is the teacher in this situation is completely unaware of the effect she had in that moment on this child. This teacher didn't know any better... and that's completely my fault. What could have been a learning moment for the both of us simply turned into regret and an unchanged situation. I end by saying this: don't let this regret become your reality!! Support teacher understanding of how our nonchalant and perhaps unconscious habits and behaviors must be monitored so that we are instead creatures of intentional and positive habits that support ultimate student growth.
Learn more about how our language affects children's learning with this fantastic book by Peter Johnston (linked in the picture).
The winner of this free book will be announced on May 10th, 2021!
When Jealousy at Work Bites You...
AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT!
Guest Post Author: Michelle Ruhe
We educators go through some definite phases. The first year, we think we know far more than we do, and we just know we’re going to change the world. Years 2 and 3 we realize how much there is to learn, and we grow. A LOT. Years 4-7, we feel like we have a pretty good handle on things. We refine our practices, get better at things, and really start to feel comfortable. This is when many of us try our hand at different grade levels or entirely new practices. After year 10, we feel confident and ready to get creative, and because we’ve learned so much, we can begin to really think outside the box. We start to hone in on specifics, and begin to “own” some things. Getting to this stage takes years of deep reflection, untold amounts of time spent learning, and a tremendous amount of trial and error. Getting to this level is hard-won. Getting to this place took a fair amount of sweat and many tears. It’s at this later stage that we begin to take on more, to share our expertise, and often when find ourselves acting as support and mentor to many.
Unbeknownst to us, someone is watching all of this. Usually, that someone is in a position very close to yours. You notice that this person shuts you out. They keep you at arm’s length--sometimes through their actions, sometimes their words. Sometimes, you’re even outright snubbed.
I know how this feels, because there are three distinct times in my 20+ years in the field that I have found myself here, and it’s awful. It weighs you down and sucks the joy out of your day. It’s heavy on your mind and heart and leaves you feeling alone. And deflated. All. The. Time.
You feel lost, because you have absolutely no idea what you did to deserve it.
But I’m here to tell you: It’s not you. It’s them!
There’s even a term for it.
I first heard it this year, 21 years in, from Gerry Brooks, that hilarious YouTube principal with the overly-exaggerated southern drawl. He was a keynote speaker at this year’s National Reading Recovery conference. When he explained it, it hit me hard. I realized, in that moment, that it wasn’t ever me. Then, because the world works in very mysterious ways, I heard it again, a couple months later, when Steve Barkley alluded to it on his podcast (posted at the end of this blog post!). And I read about it some more, serendipitously at about the same time period, in Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead.
It’s called professional jealousy.
So as it turns out, it wasn’t me. Because, as I’ve learned from Angela Kelly Robeck, principal-turned-life coach, our feelings are created by our own thoughts. Our thoughts are completely controlled by ourselves. But the reverse, then, is also true--we cannot control those thoughts, and therefore those feelings, in others. It’s completely, 100% out of our control. The way other people feel, which is driven by their own thoughts, is completely on them.
So stand tall, friend. Know that your hard work, your growth, and your devotion to students is worthy. It’s BIG. So big, in fact, that at some point, someone who feels insecure will be jealous. Let them. It’s on them. And then shift your thoughts. Remind yourself that because of all that you’ve accomplished and learned and experienced, because you are in that hard-earned place, others will look to you. How they handle their own feelings is not your concern. They have some growing to do, and hopefully in time, they will. Forgive them for not being there yet, and gracefully move past it. Because you definitely will.
And that phase is the best phase of all.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Michelle spent 15 years as an elementary teacher in multiple grade levels across several states before becoming a reading specialist for an additional five years. She now happily serves as literacy coach in a K-5 building in South Carolina. As a literacy coach, she connected with Casey via the New to Coaching Facebook Group and The Breakthrough Circle, and enjoys frequently thinking and learning about all things literacy with her.
Welcome! I am Casey Watts- teacher, mentor, leader, mother, and wife aspiring to be much more!