This year marks my fifteenth year in education. Fifteen years?!?!?!?! I know what you're thinking. It doesn't even feel as if I have been in this profession this long. Why? I truly love what I do. Teaching is more than a job for me. It is my calling. Being an educator is who I am. It consumes me. I carry the teachers and students I serve around in my heart and on my mind all day every single day. To wake up each morning and work with the students and teachers of my community is truly a blessing.
Monday, we will welcome about 7,000 students into our campuses for an amazing year of learning. The last five years, I have served as a campus instructional coach on a sixth grade campus, working with math, science, and various elective teachers to implement strategies and support them in their classrooms. This year, I have the honor to serve our district as a Blended Learning Specialist, or as an edtech coach. In this new role, I will have the opportunity to support teachers and students from PK through twelfth grades to seamlessly integrate technology into their classrooms. I can't express my excitement! As I reflect over my past years in education, I want to ensure I am able to support each teacher I serve in order to give students their absolute best. There is no secret sauce or magic trick to making it all work. There are no tools that can compare to the awesome wonders classroom teachers perform daily. The single greatest impact on student success is the teacher. However, I have come to realize that everything I know about teaching now was taught to me by an experienced teacher. In order to be successful, everyone needs someone helping them along the way, someone to encourage them, support them, and show them the way. Everyone needs a coach.
After graduating from college with my bachelors degree, I was able to fulfill my lifelong desire to become a teacher. Seriously, I've know I wanted to be an educator since at least second grade. Now, I'm living the dream! There have been so many great lessons I have learned along the way. The following are some of the greatest lessons I have learned along the way.
Always Make Time to Help
When I first stepped foot in a classroom, I was in an alternative certification program learning how to teach. There was so much to learn. However, I had a secret weapon, my dad. My father has been an educator for over 30 years with the same school district. In my first year of teaching, my husband and I would pack up all of my teaching materials to go to his home every Saturday morning to plan my lessons. He taught me how to understand the state standards and exactly what they meant. Then, we would look every place imaginable to find ideas to make the lesson fun and engaging for students. Once we had everything all laid out, my dad would walk me through exactly what to say and expect during the lesson as I took detailed notes that later served almost like my daily script the following week. This process took several hours from his Saturday, but he knew I needed help. He never complained but always took the time to help.
This has stuck with me. Teachers do the hard work. As a coach, my job is to support them, to help them be their best for students. When they come to me for help, I always want them to leave knowing that I have time. This is what I do. it's important to me. Their success is important to me, and I want my actions to show it.
When I first started teaching, I only knew three things.
I had some experience working with kids in the community, and I knew I loved it. It was rewarding to help others, so when the opportunity to teach presented itself, I accepted and never looked back. I knew I was green and knew nothing. I didn't even have to tell my weekly planning partner. He didn't assume that I would "find my fit". I never once heard him say "Fake it till you make it!" (I can vividly remember hearing a mentor say this to me once.) He sat me down and walked me through each lesson, each day, until I had a fail proof plan to help students. I can hear him now saying, "Kniki, what will you say if no one knows the answer?" or "How will you know when all of the students understand?" Each question was followed by a thorough conversation and systematic steps and questioning strategies to get all of my students where they needed to be. In that moment, he didn't know it, but he was showing me the power of a powerful coach. We cannot assume teachers come to our campuses equipped to meet the needs of our students. We must be a resource for them. Does this mean the coach knows everything? Of course not! However, I know that if teachers need it for students, I have to carve out time to give it to them. Now, I do realize support must be differentiated and will not look the same for the first year teacher and the rock star veteran, I am still responsible to equip teachers with everything they need in order to be successful with students.
The teacher-coach relationship often time models the teacher-student relationships for those we support. It's okay to smile. Take time to get to know who you support. Connect with them and learn their motivation for educating students each day. Of course as a tried and true "Daddy's girl", this was never an issue when I sat down to plan for hours with my father each weekend, but it goes without saying those sessions would have been very boring and probably not as beneficial if he wasn't so much fun. We would take breaks to enjoy lunch and talk. I would share stories with him about my week and my concerns as a first year teacher. Sitting down to plan from sun up to sun down most Saturdays never felt like a chore. I needed it, and he made it fun and engaging for me. I aim to do the same for those that I support. If I'm modeling a classroom lesson, I want the students and teachers to be engaged in the lesson, smile a little bit, and leave with new knowledge. If I'm meeting with a teacher or presenting professional development, I want to see a few smiles. What I do is important to me, and I enjoy it. It is my sincere desire to help those I support enjoy what they do as well.