Thursday, May 1, 2014

Open Your Eyes

Our County announced this week that they will probably be cutting Math and Reading Coaches for this next year in some schools (probably higher achieving school - ever wonder why they are high achieving?)  What are they thinking?  I guess poor coaches ARE a waste of money, but if you have ever had a really good coach, you know that they make all the difference.  We have a coach like that at Chets Creek.
Melanie Holtsman is a learner.  She doesn't depend on the poor quality one-size-fits-all professional development offered in our county.  Instead, she develops herself.  Last summer she was able to use the pennies of professional development money that were available, search out someone she could stay with in NYC, and then fund the rest of her trip personally so she could attend Teachers' College in NYC.  She came back full of research, lessons and ideas, and connectivity.  She was able to take the best of what she learned and intertwine it with our school's needs to design lessons that would enrich our teaching and provide the deeper thinking that is needed with the Common Core.  She took the best book that she heard about from teachers who were students with her to develop one of the best book studies we have ever had.  There is no question that it was the flint that started the fire that spread through our Reading this year.  She  is approachable and can come into a room of Kindergartners or fifth graders, confer with a handful of students, and diagnose exactly what is needed.  She has a kind and reaffirming way that makes it easy to see her as a collaborator instead of a evaluator.  My co-teacher and I are involved in a mini-cycle of teaching writing with her right now, at our request.  We were struggling through some lessons in persuasive writing in Kindergarten and needed some guidance to help us uncover the problem and help see a clearer path.  What a difference we are seeing now that she has taught a few lessons for us, helped us teach a few and then helped us see the next steps.

We so often talk about lifting the level of teaching and we know that this type of one-on-one coaching beside a teacher is the most effective way and yet, when we see it at its very best, we miss the opportunity to grasp that exceptional quality, shine and polish it, and use it.  Why is it that the powers that be just keep trying to find the answer in change after sweeping change instead of finding the jewels in its midst and polishing those?  Open your eyes.  The answer is right in front of you!


Melanie Holtsman said...

I am humbled by your kind words. To be fair, I wouldn't be the coach I am without having been coached the same exact way by a master teacher and by learning from the "coaches" at Teacher College Reading and Writing Project. I am sad by the shortsightedness of this decision and am praying there will be a miracle. If not, I'm glad I'm getting extra practice teaching in K :)

Maria Mallon & Cheryl Dillard said...

Melanie has made each of us feel as though we also attended Teacher's College with her. It is amazing how she has the ability transfer every nugget of what she learned to each one of us especially with the new Lucy Calkins' writing series. Her door is always open and any questions answered always leaving you with a new discovery about your own teaching practices. She has been an inspiration this year and a true coach in every sense. MM