Sunday, March 16, 2014


I was a literacy coordinator for 13 years.  This meant that I taught, while planning professional development for the teachers in my building.  I also presented the professional development.  I really enjoyed it for the most part.  I was so excited to share my passion for teaching literacy with everyone around me.  :)
Teachers often tell me that they don't know how I know so much (and I most certainly don't know it all).  I usually feel uncomfortable because I don't want to stand apart from the group.  I actually want more than anything to melt into the group some days.  I want to be a part of things.  I have been thinking about how I do have so much information about reading and writing in my head all the time, just waiting to be tapped into.  It has been a process for sure.
As I am writing this, I am cringing because I worry that people will perceive that I am tooting my own horn here.  I am not.  Just reflecting on how I would answer people who ask the question if they had all the time I would need to answer it well.  :)  
It takes a lot for me to learn anything.  Nothing really comes easily and it really never has.  I started my journey in rural Ohio.  I loved teaching there.  I met a lot of great people and I had a lot of opportunities.  My first year I taught kindergarten and title reading.  I felt really good about what I was doing, but I will tell you right now that I didn't know anything about how to teach.  I knew how to present information, but not the explicit teaching I would later learn how to do.
In July before my second year, I got a call that said that there had been a reduction in force and that if I wanted to continue to work I had to go to Reading Recovery training.  I had just had my first child and I just wasn't sure, but after my husband told me that I either go or we'll be living on the street, I decided to give it a try.  I am so glad that I did!  Reading Recovery Training was the first powerful thing I did as an educator.  I had a lot of heavy reading to do (Becoming Literate) and I was so so tired, but I found the thinking behind the teaching absolutely brilliant!  I could see immediate results in some of my students and it was very exciting.  I remember loving when my teacher leader came because she would watch me teach and then talk about the teaching and learning in a very open and honest way.  It was NOT always good, but I always learned.
Then came Behind the Glass.  Oh my goodness I was terrified!  I had to teach my student on one side of the glass while the other teachers in my group watched and critiqued my teaching!  Ahhhh!!!!  I felt just sick!  Since I was in a rural district, I had to drive to another town for my class, so I drove my little student to the training center and taught her a lesson.  I think that she was as nervous as I was because she acted like she had never had a lesson in her entire life!  LOL  What made it worse was that I could hear the others talking about the lesson as I was teaching.
It all worked out in the end because the expectation was not perfection.  It was learning.  I wasn't supposed to know everything this first time behind the glass or ever for that matter.  I was supposed to be watched, coached and learn from the experience, which I did.  Teaching behind the glass was the most powerful experience I have ever had!
My close second was when I went to Ohio State for Literacy Collaborative coaching training.  This training was also very intense!  We had class all week, watched teachers teach, rip apart the lessons after we saw what the children did and then build them back up.  There was no room for ego or being self conscience.  The expectation was that you put yourself out there and be ready to be wrong about something.
I really believe that we need to let down our guards and really work together.  It's not a dinner party where you need to use your very best manners.  This is serious business and we really need to be open to growth for the little darlings in our rooms.
Coaching is interesting.  You really have to get to know the teachers that you work with.  You have to know how far they are willing to go at the end of the day.  It's rewarding when you have a teacher who opens up and says, "Work with me!  Let's kick butt!".
I challenge all of you (teachers) to do something that you are not really sure that you can do.  Look at your teaching through a new lense.  Make sure that you aren't doing things out of stubborness, or because you don't know how to do it differently.  There are so many resources out there.  Find a friend who wants to try something new.  Try, talk, watch, talk, change, shift, have fun!
So, if you want to know how to become more knowledgeable:

  • Read professionally.
  • Try new things.
  • Have a buddy.
  • Watch others teach.
  • Have others watch you.
  • Look at the data to see if what you are doing really works.  The kids will tell you through their work.  That is a guarentee!   If not, shift may need to happen.
  • Make sure your students can do it alone and if not, back off.  You might be giving them too much support.
  • NEVER take yourself too seriously and have some fun!


  1. First, your humility struck me. It is clear that your know your profession and know it well, and yet you immediately state that you "don't know it all." I love that. Second, your ideas at the end were excellent suggestions to teachers, myself included. I've recently begun to implement new technology in my room, and it has been the biggest challenge for me lately, but such a growth opportunity. Thank you for the thoughtful post.

  2. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING THIS> I am a beginning teacher and often feel in over my head, especially when it comes to helping my struggling readers and writers. I teach fifth grade and if I have a number of students who are not receiving any services who read at a third grade level. Finding material to engage them and allow them to be successful reading independently is a challenge. I have just been accepted into the summer institute at Teacher's College in New York and I am so happy to feel that I am taking active steps in becoming a more capable teacher. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge and experience. I plan on taking your advice.

    1. I am so excited for you! The Teacher's College in New York is such a great place for professional development! You will not be sorry! :) Give yourself time to learn and grow. I know teaching is high pressure, but you need to allow yourself time to marinate in everything you learn so it can all soak in! :)

  3. Great advice Deb! I still ask myself, "Am I giving too much support?" It's so hard!! Your list at the end is perfect. :)

    1. Thanks Julie! It sure is a dance of support, isn't it? :)

  4. I had the same experience when I was a new teacher (which I still believe I am ;) I was trained for Reading Recovery and loved, it! Brought it back to my classroom. ..Now as a mom 10 years later, I have been trying to get back into teaching, find my way... I am doing many of the things on your list, almost by accident! Watching other teachers is SO key! and something we NEVER get enough of! Thanks for this post.