I wasn’t prepared for the loneliness of coaching.
After our district had investigated and chosen a coaching model to support a balanced literacy model, complete with Reader’s and Writer’s Workshops and developmentally appropriate word study instruction, excitement filled me. The kind of excitement that a preschooler who believes in the magic of Christmas feels, the kind of butterflies-in-my-stomach excitement, the kind of I-can’t-sleep-because-it’s-hard-to-wait excitement! Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to continue their professional learning at The Ohio State University? Who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to bring change, with its accompanying refreshment, into her career? Who wouldn’t want to opportunity to walk alongside teachers and reflect with them? Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to affect student outcomes on a building-wide scale? I would! So excitement filled me as clicked Submit on my computer.
Happily, the day came when our principal told me the wonderful news- I would be the new Literacy Coach! Willingly, I sacrificed summer freedom for intense training. Contentedly, I spent long hours, post-workday hours, planning and preparing for my lab classroom. Cheerfully, I taught and experimented and reflected and improved my practice that first year. Voluntarily, I attended webinars and on-site training to perfect my craft, to prepare to be the best coach I could be. Gladly, I reflected with and was coached by the University trainer on my teaching and practice. All this was done with the glorious vision to help teachers, to get to know them, and to reflect with them. All this was done for the learners in our building.
Then, the reality of the rough road of coaching that stretched ahead collided with my dreamy vision. Who would have ever thought that teachers didn’t want to invite the coach in? Who would have ever thought that teachers didn’t want to reflect on their practices? Who would have ever thought teachers didn’t want to improve their practices? Who would have ever thought teachers wouldn’t want to work with, get to know, collaborate with the coach? It was like being dressed for a 90 degree day, but instead, finding a -25 degree, frigid blast bombarding you in your face!
I have moved forward from that day my joyous dreams of coaching were shattered. I have moved into a new reality, one of building relationships, of taking baby steps, of providing appropriate professional development, of gently nudging teachers to move to best practices, of celebration. I have moved on to acceptance that I am no longer “one of them.” I have moved on to acceptance that my support team is mostly other coaches in the district. I have moved on to a new dream of coaching, a dream to help teachers shift paradigms and to embrace disequilibrium in order to grow readers and writers. Coaching has taken me on a journey. Coaching is a journey. Coaching is my calling.
But, I wasn’t prepared for the loneliness of coaching.