It has been four weeks. Officially nineteen school days. That boils down to approximately one-hundred thirty-three hours---somewhere around seven-thousand nine-hundred eighty minutes that I have been back in the classroom as a 4th grade teacher.
On the night before the First Day of School, I should've been sleeping, but instead, I wrestled racing thoughts of everything that I wanted to accomplish that day, first week, and ultimately the school year. I was hopeful, excited, and terribly nervous. During my time away as a literacy coach, I'd kept notebooks of ideas gathered from colleagues, conferences, and literacy champions I admire. As a coach, I'd find my self daydreaming often about what my teaching stories could have been like if I'd only known these things when I had a classroom of my own.
Twas' the Night Before the First Day of School, when all those brilliant ideas from my notebooks that I'd been dreaming about, decided to weave themselves into my extrememly scattered sleep pattern and appear more like nightmares!
"What if I have forgotten how to teach?"
Confession #1: One of my greatest fears as a literacy coach was losing my teaching groove. The teaching groove is that unexplainable thing that all teachers have when they are in "their place". The relationships with students are evident, the content being taught is clear, and the classroom manages itself after a while. As a coach, I was a guest in my colleagues' classrooms. A visitor. I was invited to present short demonstration lessons, which usually went fairly well on most days, but that was not the same as being the teacher in the room. As a guest teacher, I had their help. Could I still do all these things my myself?
Confession #2: One thing that I learned how to do very well as a literacy coach was analyze data to make instructional decisions. I'd been looking at the third graders' Spring Assessment scores the moment I'd found out my placement in 4th grade for the Fall. I began thinking of everything I should and needed to do to help reinforce skills and ultimately close some gaps. To be honest, it was a bit daunting! I must be honest and tell you that before coaching, as a teacher, I knew that it was good practice to analyze assessment data closely, but I didn't always make the time to do it consistently. But now that I know better, I will need to do better.
Confession #3: I fear being judged or not doing well. Truth is is that three years isn't a super long time, but it is long enough for substantitial change to occur. I am going back in, three years out of practice. In many ways, I feel like my going back is a test. Can I truly apply everything I've learned with real kids in real time? Or, have I become the "out-of-touch-trainer-of irrelevant PD sessions, who really doesn't know what goes on in the classroom" that I'd hear many of my colleagues complain about?
Despite my restless night and overanalysis of EVERYTHING, the first day of school happened with many moments to smile about. The read aloud of the day was The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson. We engaged in identity mapping (inspired by Sara K. Ahmed's Being the Change), four getting to know you activities, and spent time learning of routines and procedures. The favorite procedure undoutedly is the procedure for how to check out a book. The #shelfiestation is where students check out books from the classroom library using the camera on one of our class Google Chromebooks. The inspiration for this station comes from the Book Whisperer herself, #DonalynnMiller. On the very first day, those 4th graders chose a book and read for an uninterrupted 20 minutes. Whoa!
By the end of the first week, I believe I'd made it clear that I wanted more than anything else to know each and every one of my 85 ELA students's "Reading Origin Stories" so that I could be better informed when helping them write the next chapter this year. This idea was inspired by the foreword of From Striving to Thriving by Stephanie Harvey, written by the one and only Dav Pilkey! We read and discussed it while reviewing the skills cause and effect and sequence for ELA. Each student wrote their story as either comics or sequential paragraphs. I was able to get a snapshot of their writing abilities, creativity, and previous experiences from books with this seemingly simple activity. (Mind. Blown.)
As the days continued, we got more and more comfortable in our classroom space. We continued to learn about ourselves and each other. We jumped right into the curriculum, Reading Street (ELA) and Being a Writer (Writer's Workshop) while completing the mandatory beginning of the year assessments. I concluded the second week with the I Wish My Teacher Knew activity. Relationships are most important in my opinion and I wanted to be sure to be intentional about doing that, while meeting the curricular expectations. (Heart full).
After four weeks of being back in the groove, I can confidently and thankfully say that I haven't lost it. I am undoubetedly different in many ways and in other ways, very much the same. My instructional practices have evolved along with my philosophy on a few things in particular, but many things have remained the same.
1. I am my most authentic self when I am with my students.
2. Above anything else, I want to see them feel successful in what they are learning and comfortable being who they are.
2. I want my students to know that I care, so I show them daily in as many ways possible.
3. I am going to make sure that I am prepared to teach DAILY, yet allow for curiosity inspired learning detours.
No day will be perfect, but boy will there be moments worth celebrating and writing about. I'm sure there will be more days and nights where I question and doubt, but most assuredly I will not quit. This transition back has for sure been an adjustment, however transition is necessary when embarking on a new adventure.
Confession #4: I am greateful for this opportunity to return to the work that I love with those that I admire the most: My Students.