Two weeks ago was just like any other ordinary week for me. My connection to the world was strong and in full force. I was looking over the color-coded excel spreadsheet my husband made that meticulously listed my children’s upcoming sports practices and game schedules. There were so many things running through my head. I sat there trying to figure out how to be in two places at once. Who would I need to connect with to make it all happen? How could my networking help balance the perpetual to-do list? I knew I needed to start by making the necessary carpool plans. Then my mind shifted to visiting my Outlook calendar to check for upcoming meetings. I was excited to squeeze in time with my team to collect more raffle donations from local businesses in preparation for EdCampLI After Dark. I thought about the hundreds of new books I had to inventory and distribute to teachers’ classrooms and the shared level libraries within the buildings I work in. I needed to make this happen so that all students could have immediate access to them. On top of all of this, I was also feeling a bit stressed, but extremely enthusiastic about gathering all of the materials and revisiting the research around the topic I was going to share and present at the Lilac/Nassau Reading Council 2020 annual conference.
While all of these responsibilities were stacked in piles in my mind, like puzzle pieces are thrown together in a box, I could visualize the big picture clearly. Each time I connected those pieces, I could feel the tension slowly release. You know the feeling you get when you put the last piece of the puzzle in the picture? You breathe that sigh of relief and feel incredibly accomplished for the hard work that was put in to commemorate that moment. I COULD make this happen and I WOULD!
At the same time, I found myself insanely dedicated to listening to the messages in the #AllinEDU Voxer Book Study (Voxer: an online walkie-talkie app) group I am currently participating in. Passionate educators from across the country are making time to share their thoughts and perspectives about the book All In: Taking a Gamble in Education by Kristen Nan and Jacie Maslyk, all while engaging in various other topics in education. It is important for me to put myself out there and continue to grow so that I can be the best I can be in my position as an Instructional Coach. A major focus of my job is to stay on top of the latest research and instructional practices, continuously build relationships, connect, network, collaborate, be reflective, stretch teachers’ thinking about the impact that they can have on the social, emotional, and academic growth of their students, not to mention inspire and motivate them to push the envelope in order to be the best versions of themselves. For me, these Voxer groups have been my way to escape to a professional playground that invites nerdy conversations, allows me to share my voice freely, and has also challenged me to think differently about the organizations we work in including our colleagues, the students, and community we serve. I actually yearn for these networks, crave these intellectual discussions, and thrive on developing relationships and expanding my PLN (professional learning network) with other passionate educators from around the country.
And then…”We interrupt this regularly scheduled program to bring you this message…”
It was Friday, March 13th, 2020, a day I will never forget. This day looked very different Monday-Thursday of that very same week. It was a day of the unknown, as new information about the COVID-19 pandemic was trickling in on a moment to moment basis. That morning, my instructional coach team and I felt this incredible sense of urgency, as we were about to help facilitate and create “At Home Learning Plans” for our elementary schools. We were enthusiastic about taking on the challenge, but knew that we had limited time to complete an unbelievable amount of important work due to a half-day schedule. The information had to be disseminated to families and students that same day; yet we walked into the administration building of my school district calmly, focused, and ready to support the endeavor. Our collaborative efforts with our Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and a dedicated team of educators from across the school district were about to go into action.
A Network of Trust
As educators, we tend to like a sense of control and like to know what to expect (for the most part). On this day, we were walking into the unknown and were navigating the uncharted waters of at-home learning. It was the most organized, peaceful chaos you have ever seen. The waters were a bit rough as we took over the Curriculum and Instruction office and administration conference room, ready to WORK; printing, organizing, debating, sharing all while the clock was ticking. It was a half-day of school and we needed to get these materials out, and collectively, we trusted… YES, TRUSTED each other!! At times it felt like we were building an airplane while we were flying it…but we did it and magic certainly happened all while keeping the students at the core of the work!
Moments later, we rushed to the print shop and as my fellow coaches and I waited for the “Home Learning Plans” to be printed, we turned to our #ALLinEDU Voxer chat for the most productive distraction we could count on! Professional growth is a part of who we are, so it was natural for us to reach out to our PLN for comfort. We discussed the book, we voxed, we laughed, we discussed our need to get all of the essential necessities if school closure was imminent, and even managed to take a picture to commemorate this moment in history.
As we walked to our cars that day, we made a promise to stay connected, to check in on one another and continue to push each other to share information and maintain our love of learning together. And, if this would be the last memory we would have collaborating in person as an Instructional Coach team, (my school district is eliminating the role due to budget constraints), I would be unbelievably proud of our collaborative efforts that day…in fact, it would be a day I’d never forget.
Lauren Kaufman is an elementary Instructional Coach for the Long Beach Public Schools in Long Island, NY. She is a lifelong learner who is passionate about sharing best literacy practices with colleagues and wholeheartedly believes in job-embedded professional learning for professional growth.