My return to the classroom after 7 years and at 59 years old has been full of surprises - some good and some not so good. When I interviewed for the position last spring, I mentioned my intent to infuse a coaching stance into my teaching rather than to continue using the more teacher-directed, "leader of the classroom" approach I had perfected in my previous experiences. I mean, really, when I first began teaching, I felt like I was the queen of my own little kingdom. I made and enforced the rules. I wrote the lessons. I delivered the lessons. I taught, students learned. That was my algorithm. And, it worked. Or, so I thought.
And then I started reading about coaching. I took a class. I became a certified Evocative Coach. Just think about the word evocative. It means tending to evoke. And evoke means to elicit or draw forth (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/evoke). In working with teachers, the evocative coach encourages the teacher to consider her practice through guided conversations. The coach draws out the teacher's own thinking and decision-making without making recommendations or using any evaluative criteria in the process. It is supposed to be a 100% coachee-directed experience, with the coachee controlling her own learning/growing.
When I was a literacy coach for my district, this was not the model that we used. My job was much more geared to going into buildings and classrooms and working with teachers and teams on district and state level initiatives. While I still tried to use a side-by-side coaching stance, I often was more of a trainer and less of an evocative coach. To be sure, evocative coaching is an asset-based model that can require time (and patience), not the support-specialist approach that is more directed and quicker.
Flash forward to my interview and my new job. The good, and the not so good.
As I sat in front of 21 little ones those first few weeks of school, I realized that I was no longer going to be the queen of the kingdom. As I watched their minds and bodies grapple with being in school - sitting in chairs, trying to maintain criss-cross applesauce on the carpet, lining up for transitions, moving through hallways, playing on the playground - I knew that I was going to need to be their coach, not their queen. It was not going to be any good to keep repeating, "Little one, please stop squirming. Little one, your constantly moving legs need to stop. Little one, stop calling out and raise your hand (for the 100th time!). Trust me. I tried. And then I realized that these little ones were doing the best they could at being themselves. And while, of course, my job is to provide instruction in curriculum and behaviors, until those little ones are able to recognize and manage their "practice" as students in a school environment, I need to continue to evoke their good decision-making and self-reflection skills.
And that, my readers, takes a physical, mental, emotional, and logistical toll. A huge one. It was much easier to be the queen. Putting my own practice to the test, holding myself to the same standards I had been training teachers to use, was and continues to be humbling. I am forging my own idea of what it means to allow the students to drive their own learning. And it is challenging and exhausting. And I am so far from good at it.
But, as I coach myself, I remember that self-reflection is key. I have decided on certain instructional and pedagogical goals to move my practice to be more student-driven and less teacher-directed.
And, just as I accept my students where they are academically and behaviorally. I need to be as accepting of myself as I learn how to put the crown away for good.