Potholes on I-71: A Reflection

Screen Shot 2019-06-21 at 2.27.24 PM.pngI seem to be following a theme focused on I-71 lately. My last post was about speeding on the long stretch of highway, while this one is about potholes. We’re not talking run-of-the-mill potholes but tire-flattening, car-bouncing, bone-rattling potholes. It is a dangerous stretch of road – one which makes me question trips to Cincinnati.

As I was gripping the steering wheel tightly with both hands (and cursing the Ohio Department of Transportation), I was thinking about the potholes I’ve encountered recently and how I’ve dealt with those. Some potholes have been ones that felt like I was going to be swallowed whole with no chance of recovery and others were little blips on my radar. I negotiated each with different strategies and with differing success.

  • As a literacy coach, one of the “potholes” that I encounter has to do with school schedules and testing. When traveling between four buildings on a two-week schedule, I found myself working with teachers the week before winter break or spring break or the end of the year – not ideal coaching times. Unfortunately, the month of April in Ohio is testing frenzy so bell schedules are off and teacher anxiety is high. I am lucky to work with amazing people who were still kind and desirous to reflect or have conversations or invite me in to confer with students. My strategy for negotiating these issues was persistence and patience which paid off and kept me busy during those “interesting” times of the school year.
  • Another of my struggles came just yesterday as I was facilitating a minilesson during a summer PD. This was an “out-of-nowhere” pothole that I hit because I wasn’t paying attention – except I actually wasn’t prepared so it was totally on me. I had thought about my minilesson a lot and I knew my stuff and believed in what I was talking about; however, I didn’t think enough about how I was going to say what I wanted to say. I didn’t have notes or anything jotted down. I didn’t have a clear plan about where I was going and I hit a bump. Luckily, my colleagues who were sitting in the room didn’t need anything fancy or “new” and they smiled and nodded and were gracious. I got through that one because of them. I also spent time writing about my feelings and shortcomings and reflecting on what to change for next time.
  • Just like teachers who sometimes have students who are hard to reach (or who seem to be), as a coach, I have teachers who feel the same. This is a struggle for me because I want to be a support and a resource for everyone – it’s in my nature. It’s about building relationships and being there when and if someone needs me. The same goes for teachers in a classroom – every student needs something different and it’s our job to find out what it is. It may take seven months or seven years, but talking, listening, and simply being there may get us past the rough spots and into relationships.
  • A large jolt to my system came recently which caused me to reflect a lot, to take on some anxiety, and then to ultimately own what was mine and to let go of what wasn’t. I’m still learning how to have conversations with adults because they are different than students. I have found a few times this year that my “talk” with adults doesn’t quite come out the way I want it to or the way that it should. It’s an evolving skill as a coach to have conversations that ask people to be reflective or to question current practices or to think deeply about purpose. It’s one I am still working on and will continue to practice because it is all about our work with students and how to better help them flourish as readers and writers. I will continue to think about how I ask questions and share good practices in order to grow as a coach.

I probably could go on and on about big and small potholes – both on the highway and in my life. As I’ve been writing this, I’ve come to realize that my purpose isn’t to share all the struggles from this past year but to share how I’ve dealt with some issues and how important it is to reflect on them. Taking the time to process and realize what part of the problem is yours or something you can control will hopefully lead to smoother roads.

**I composed this piece at our Summer Writing Institute the last week of May. I’m unsure why I waited a few weeks to post this reflection – I hope you enjoy! Happy summer!


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