A Journey of a Thousand Miles- Part I (Darren Ralston, Sara Hankins)

As we returned from winter break, fattened up from all the big meals and relaxing with those we love, it can be hard jumping back into the swing of things.  During our time away from work, perhaps there were epiphanies which put everything into perspective–things that would change the outcomes of what we do in the classroom.  But, as the Tao states… “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  Sometimes it’s starting out with that first baby step that is daunting.  Think of it as momentum, stamina, whatever you will.  It takes resolution to look that thousand miles down the road, and then begin from the complete opposite side.  Lots of resolutions are made at the beginning of the new year.  Running a marathon, quitting smoking, losing weight, eating healthier… and so on.  With each of these, there’s often something that has to be done first to get there, and whatever that something is, it has to happen for one of the other important things to follow.

The classic chart that illustrates the roller coaster of the teaching experience throughout the year (see diagram) has January and February at the bottom of the curve.  Which means from this point of the year, the only way to go is up. We want to be at that rejuvenation phase.  And the first step to getting there is to consider is why and how we came up with our goal in the first place, by backtracking and revisiting our thinking.  What were our motivations, what did we know/not know then that we do/don’t now?  Are those motivations still the same?  If not, what begs revision?

In reviewing our progress and reflecting on the work done, the artifacts showing our progress are key indicators.  What can we see and how will it inform our journey?

That’s where Sara and I are right now.  We set out to partner on one of the coaching model’s tenets–the task of “making the work public” and to do so, have been planning out the instructional coaching blog, getting a process nailed down for publishing, and so on. Our hope was to not only work toward transparency in what we do as coaches, but also to provide more lines of information around what it means to be a coach. With our work, we are able to coach for up to five years before we cycle out of the program and back into the classroom.  By having a built-in end date, it’s important that we consider the new coaches coming into the fold.  So, as we looked at our dual purpose, we found that there was a component to the work that was more than just putting some writing online.

Sara started the ball rolling with the instructional coaching blog.  We sat down and began talking through what needed to happen, and ultimately, we just said, well if it’s going to happen, then we need to get access to the site.  There was already a blog there, but it was outdated.  So, as Sara waded into all the old data, she started thinking about what needed updating–and then did it.  She updated the coaching team’s photos, then changed the website to reflect what our coaching PLC is like now.  It was procedural and slightly tedious, but that work opened the door to other work that isn’t.

My role (Darren) is in the mode of support.  I have a podcast I began last year, and have started a blog on my own site, so by having common interests, we started brainstorming together.  The work on my site is less focused than what we’re doing with the instructional coaching blog site.  I have fewer restrictions.  However, this has been an interesting process for me as well, because while I’ve had fun with the podcasting and the blogging, I’m realizing that it’s terribly complicated when it comes to getting an audience.  I’m learning some things here and there as I go, but there’s a learning curve that’s a little more involved than I have time to figure out.  I feel that with the focused purpose and clear audience that Sara’s work has, that we hopefully will be able to find more of a path to readership.

How will we know if the goal is achieved?  Well, for this point in the process, it seems that our one small step is just getting the project off the ground and maintaining that progress is a success–at least for this academic year. Recruiting a diverse group of contributors, that includes both teachers and coaches, to showcase the work that is happening within schools is also a win. Being able to publish multiple blog posts that highlight the collaborative work and network colleagues is also a component of success.  When I started with the podcast project last year, it was all I could do to learn the process of planning, scheduling, editing, and publishing, so when it was all said and done, I was left with five episodes, all of which were fun to record and excruciating to edit.  But out of that process I learned that the privilege of being able to have a deep discussion with someone on one topic for an hour was worth the work involved in producing it into a podcast.  This year, I’m learning about how to get my work heard and read.

Coming soon: A Journey of a Thousand Miles- Part II