Category Archives: designing professional development

It’s Normal to Feel Overwhelmed

My current role as a literacy coach is different from the one I played in Baltimore City Public Schools.  In Baltimore, I was a school-based coach, working in two schools.  Now, I serve as a consultant, working with an entire school district that has officially adopted the writing workshop model.  Of course, a handful of incredible educators in this district were already doing writing workshop prior to this year, and it has been a privilege and joy to share in their journey of helping colleagues discover what is possible.

So what does it look like when an entire district decides to take on writing workshop?  Excitement. Hope. Fear. Doubt. There is so much to learn in so little time, and it’s easy for teachers to feel overwhelmed. What follows is an excerpt from an email that I sent my teacher leaders that addresses this point:

I am delighted to hear how each of you are taking steps forward to meet the needs of your students! One of your colleagues emailed me yesterday to share that some teachers at her school were feeling a bit overwhelmed incorporating all the elements of writing workshop, to which I responded: It is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed, that is how I felt back in 1996! But hopefully, with time, we as a team can work together in facing this steep learning curve.” It takes both time and hard work to successfully implement any best practice, and I congratulate your district for taking the courage to push your professional learning forward, for the sake of your students.
As we move forward in our professional development, I am trying to strike a balance between pushing teachers to take new risks in their teaching and reminding them that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”  If I push too hard by failing to set realistic expectations with teachers, the ideals of writing workshop may appear unattainable (which typically results in teacher resistance). If I don’t push teachers beyond their comfort zone, I do not move professional learning forward (which typically results in, well, nothing).  Just like I provide scaffolded instruction for students, I want to provide the right structures and support for teachers so that they can feel successful in trying new things in their classrooms. 
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