The 2016-2017 school year is the beginning of my 11th year as an educator. Today, is the fourth week of the school year. As with any school year, this one brings with it change. Last year, was my second year working in an elementary school (previously I had only worked in secondary schools) and it was my first year as a literacy coach. I coached teachers in grades K-6. This school year, I am only coaching grades K-2. Although I do have three P-12 teaching licences, my preference is working with students and teachers in grades 3-12. I was not thrilled when I was informed, I would be the K-2 literacy coach, but I also love a challenge and I’m open to new experiences.
My school has embraced opportunity culture. This is a model where teachers take on more responsibility through serving more students or through a mix of coaching and teaching. Our building embraced the coaching and teaching model. For grades 3 and 4, my colleague coaches both literacy and math in addition to having a guided reading group. My other colleague teaches 6th grade English/language arts and coaches 5th and 6th grade teachers in literacy and math. One of my P-12 licenses is reading, but since I do not have an elementary license I could not accept the role my colleagues have. I was not interested in switching to another school to work with my preferred grades, so I accepted my new role as the K-2 literacy coach.
To wrap my head around my new role, I decided to brush up on my K-2 skills. In grades K-2, our school uses Orton-Gillingham, a comprehensive program to help students learn to read, write, and spell. Over the summer, I was trained in this program. To help retain the skills I learned over the summer, I practiced with my five year old sons. They began kindergarten this school year so it was a win-win for us all.
I was excited once the school year began even though there were some unexpected changes.
The lady we hired to originally be the 3/4 coach resigned so the lady we hired to be my counterpart, K-2 math coach, ended up changing to the 3/4 role. The weekend before school began one of the two kindergarten teachers resigned. Knowing my boys were beginning kindergarten this school year, I was disappointed for our parents. Students who are enrolled in kindergarten could be attending a school setting for the first time. Beginning your school career with a substitute is not ideal. On the other hand, we were able to hire a permanent sub until the right teacher is found. At the end of the first week of school, a second grade teacher we hired for this school year also resigned. Luckily, we found another teacher who started the third week of school.
Our two kindergarten classes had 35 students on each roster and even though only 31 students were showing up daily, it was difficult for teachers to help students acclimate to school. We made the decision to open a third section of kindergarten. Now, the class sizes are smaller, but two classes are being taught by substitutes.
At the school board meeting, last Tuesday, new potential grade configurations were shared which included my school Wendell Phillips. Due to dismal academic middle school data, it has been decided that middle school students need to be relocated from the high schools. Currently, there is only one stand alone middle school in IPS. Our school is one that was selected to possibly be converted from Pre-K-6 to Pre-K-8. The district has posted a survey online to obtain more information from the public about the proposal. I’m indifferent about having middle school students in the building. I love middle schoolers! My only concern is that this building was built ten years ago as an elementary school, it would be easier to convert an high school into a stand alone middle school than to add students to an elementary school and give them a middle school experience that prepares them to enter high school when the building wasn’t previously designed that way.
Last school year, I helped with assessments, but was not in charge of scheduling them. This school year, I’m the K-2 test administrator. Writing a testing schedule is a necessary evil and is not enjoyable. So far, DIBELS and TRC testing is going well. I also was voluntold to be our building’s high ability representative/coordinator. Which involves coordinating CogAT testing and ensuring gifted students are receiving the appropriate accommodations. I am attending training tomorrow to learn more about this role. My sons were accepted into a private gifted school, but due to cost (even with financial aid) we could not afford it. I’m interested to learn more about gifted education through this role. Lastly, I will also be a teacher mentor where I will having the opportunity to mentor early career educators and I’m attending training for this role on Wednesday.
If coaching and my additional roles weren’t enough, I am also (finally) pursuing my administrator’s license. Many, many people in my life have encouraged me to obtain an admin license, but I was not sure it was for me. In church, we have an assessment called “Spiritual Gifts” where you complete a survey to reveal your spiritual gift. I have taken this survey three times in my 32 year life, once as a teenager, once in college and once a few years ago and I received the same results each time. My top result is always administration and my second is always teaching.
What changed my mind? I’m still not sure if I want to be a principal at this time, but I would like to learn more about administration. I did not realize it when I became a coach, but there are some necessary administrative tasks you have to complete. Taking these courses and earning this license will help me in this role even if I never pursue a principal position. The other reason is I was offered a deal I couldn’t refuse through the IPS/Marian University Leadership Cohort; Marian University is paying 1/3 of the cost and IPS is paying another 1/3 which leaves me with only 1/3 to pay. I have no students loans and I am not willing to accumulate any debt for another certification.
My mother, godmother, and church mother all mentioned the saying about the irons in the fire, but even though it may seem like there is quite a bit on my plate, I’m ambitious and confident in my ability to be successful. It’s another school year journey and I’m ready to see what transpires.