Tuesday, March 10, 2015


I'm participating in the Slice of Life at Two Writing Teachers this month. 
Every day, for the month of March, 
I will be capturing a slice of my life.
I'm on a borrowed PC computer while my Apple is in the shop. 
I can't figure out how to download the SLICE graphic on this computer.

I am a literacy coach.
I help teachers refine their craft.
Most of the time I love my job.
I love planning with teachers.
I love modeling lessons.
I love watching lessons and giving feedback.
I love gathering resources.
I love being a sounding board,
a safe place for teachers to think aloud.
I love being there to celebrate the successes
and to help pick up the pieces
on the hard days.

But there are parts of my job I really do not like.
Take yesterday, for example.
I walked into a classroom.
Students were just finishing a shared writing lesson.
They had done a science experiment.
The kids were so, so, so excited.
Couldn't wait to explain to me what they were doing.

The lesson was almost over
and the teacher was collecting writing journals.
One little guy had drawn his picture
then written in green crayon.
He was supposed to write in pencil.
The teacher was not happy.
She made him change his card
(a practice which I totally DESPISE
and would eliminate if I could)
She ripped the page out of his notebook.
Made him write it again.
 I watched his face.
A flash of confusion.
A shaking lip.
Delight turned to sorrow.
And I knew that little guy
had learned a lesson
he would never forget.

And then I asked
if I could pick up my kids.
It was not my regular time.
We are in the middle of PARCC
Everything is topsy turvy.
And the teacher said,
in a voice loud enough
for the whole class to hear
Take them.
They can't do this writing anyway."
I am not sure any of my four
were paying attention.
But if they were
they learned a lesson.
I cannot unteach.

I do not like confrontation.
It's really hard for me.
But this morning
I will go into that teacher
we will exchange pleasantries
I will ask about her sweet,
dark-eyed toddler
who will go to kindergarten
in a few short years.

And then we will have a hard conversation
 I will probably frame it in the context
of the things I would not want said
to my own boys.
I will explain to her
 that the lessons
those kids learned yesterday
are not lessons
I ever want my kids
or anyone else's to learn.
I will remind her
How damaging words can be
How we write in wet cement
every. single. day.

It will be a hard conversation.
She will probably be embarrassed.
She might get mad.
And this relationship
which is often tenuous
will be even more so
for a few days
or a few weeks

But I cannot live with myself
If I do not have this conversation.

Some days
I do not like my job.


Eduardo said...

You are doing the right thing. I hope the teacher has a growth mindset.

Linda B said...

Yes, "How we write in wet cement" is something all teachers should know. Ugh, sorry for this. I wouldn't wish that conversation on anyone, but bless you Carol for doing it.

MaryHelen said...

I agree with Linda. We do have to be careful of the comments we say. Some days I do get frustrated with kids but I am silent, trying to figure out how to love them and not the action.

Ramona said...

Oh, Carol, I don't envy you this task, but I celebrate your courage to speak up. Hope it's received in the spirit in which you give it.

elsie said...

A difficult conversation for sure, but a necessary one. My heart breaks for kids who must survive in an environment that does not celebrate what they do accomplish. Best of luck!

Tara said...

Good luck Carol - this is a conversation that needs to be had.

Robin said...

How we write in wet cement
every. single. day. This should be the banner above the mirror that teachers read every morning. I'm sorry you have to have this conversation, it won't be pleasant, but I'm so glad that you will. It makes me sad to think that the students learned those lessons yesterday.

Judy said...

Here's hoping your evening is a pleasant one after a day like this one.

Thank you for taking her to task however gently you did so. It needed to be done.

Michelle said...

Comments like that are heartbreaking. I commend you for having the courage to have that difficult conversation. Because our words are written in wet cement every day. That analogy needs to be shared with all teachers.

Karen said...

I don't know how your conversation with your colleague went, but kudos to you for knowing it was the right thing to do.
Words in wet cement is a phrase that resonated with other commenters as well as me - students learning lessons such as these is heartbreaking to me.

writekimwrite said...

As I write this the conversation has passed. It was important to have. I know you were thoughtful. Our words matter. Hopefully she learned a valuable lesson.