Collaborative Classroom Blog

Reflecting on My Year

By Isabel Sawyer | Categories: From the Field, Opinion

I have spent some time reflecting on my first year as a Lead Instructional Coach in Albemarle County Schools. Here is what I wrote about my transition at the beginning of the school year:

It has helped that folks are checking in making sure I am doing OK, understanding that August is a crazy time of the school year. It has helped to have some quiet reflection time all on my own to process the new information. It has helped to hear some of the same language several times in different contexts and with different people. It has helped that some have encouraged me and told me I’m doing fine-doing a good job, in fact. It has helped to throw myself into all the new learning and not be afraid of making mistakes. Most importantly, it has really helped to have kind and caring people around me.

With the help of my kind and caring colleagues, I have learned a lot. Here is some of what I’ve discovered:

  1. Don’t overplan. I began the school year thinking that I needed to plan, and plan, and plan some more for every minute of every meeting-often like I did for professional development sessions. I have found that simply creating a structure within which we can function as a team is the most important part to facilitating a successful meeting. In fact, I intentionally collected and saved templates of structures I found helpful.
  2. It is OK to be new. In fact, it is often helpful. I often found that my role in the division was to ask questions about why we were doing the things we were doing (and had been doing for quite a long time). Sometimes we realized we could change things up a bit, and sometimes we clarified how important it was to keep the same old routines.
  3. You are going to make mistakes. However, don’t think of them as mistakes-think of your mistakes as opportunities to learn new skills. In a project I was leading, I wasn’t thorough enough and did not communicate like I should have. When things went south on me, I spent some time beating myself up. Then I realized that I learned more from this opportunity than from many of my other experiences in which I was successful!
  4. Take spring break off! Clearly I have learned a lot from mistakes-this is one of those mistakes. I lost my window this year. I made the assumption that I could accomplish a lot and that my days would be fairly relaxing when school wasn’t in session. Sure, all of that was true. However, the push between spring break and the end of school is hard and long. A rejuvenation vacation would have made that push much easier.
  5. Communication is important-remember to close the circle. When I was busy and emails were flying, I would accomplish the chore or task that needed to be accomplished yet forget sometimes to circle back and inform all of the players. Circling back matters.
  6. Finally, and most importantly, trust your team. I was so blessed this year. I was fortunate enough to work with many amazing people. But two teams stand out in my mind. The Lead Coach team and my cluster of coaches helped me to make my way. To them I am truly grateful.