Roll Not Wring

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You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.- Pat Schroeder

On my way to a PBIS conference on Monday, someone asked me what I like about my job as a coach that’s different than my work as a teacher. I thought back eight years ago when I was teaching fifth grade and offering professional development to my peers in a series of before-school sessions. Samples of my students’ work, a videotape of my students in action (yes, an actual videotape) and anecdotes from my classroom were well-received and at times followed by “yeah, but…”

“Yeah but I don’t have the classroom library you have.”
“Yeah but I’m not as into writing as you are.”
“Yeah but I haven’t taught as long as you have.”
“Yeah but I’m not as patient as you are.”
“Yeah but this won’t work for my class.”

I was tempted to “yeah but” in return.

“Yeah but if you start now your library will grow. There are so many ways to get books.”
“Yeah but you can start simple with what you already know.”
“Yeah but everyone has to begin somewhere.”
“Yeah but patience is a learned skill.”
“Yeah but what if it could?”

Instead I often found myself wringing my hands wondering how to make instruction and management strategies more possible, more do-able.

When I began learning about the coaching work I realized it would grant me access to my colleagues’ classrooms. No one would have to take my word for it anymore or watch a videotape of my students. I could show it instead of tell it. Now when they worried about classroom libraries, not enough time, lack of experience and a hard class, I could listen, nod and roll up my sleeves. We could experience the changes LIVE in the classroom. While I could impact 27 students in my personal classroom, the impact of coaching could be exponential. Couldn’t it?

So I love the opening quote and I keep it in the forefront of my mind. I don’t ask teachers to try something if I’m not willing to try it. While we may fail at something together, they don’t trip up because I’m unwilling to support them with what they need. Sleeve-rolling is always in progress. I also can’t wring my hands about reactions to new standards or data collection expectations or teachers who like coaching more in theory than reality. If I wring, I can’t roll. In this work, rolling is required.

9 thoughts on “Roll Not Wring

  1. Heather…
    You have no idea how much I needed this post tonight. I find I’ve been wringing more than rolling lately, and I’ve not felt good about myself or my work.

    I’m going to make myself a little sign of this quote to hang above my workspace right at eye level so I can remind myself every day!

    • Mindi, I’m glad it spoke to you too. I seem to need a lot of those inspiring coaching quotes to get through January and February. Cheers to rolling!

  2. Heather,
    Great post! Also, important words to live by (roll not wring) if we are moving ahead with what is best for students! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Oh thank you! Sometimes a bit of inspiration on a blustery morning, following a day of ultra-boring curriculum revisions, is exactly what a coach needs. Lately I forget among the thousands of odds and ends my position demands that in the forefront I need to “roll” and model. It seems I have been the one doing the “Yeah, but…” recently, and that is the last thing my teachers need to hear. Thanks for the nicely-worded kick-in-the-seat reminder I needed right now.

    • Beth, I find that my blog posts are my own kick-in-the-seat reminder (I can’t really write widely about things and then not do it). I’m glad it connected for you too. Cheers to people in our line of work turning “Yeah Buts” into “Yes Ands.”

  4. I recently watched a TedTalk video with Rita Pierson. Her message was that every kid needs a champion. As a Literacy Coach, her message pushed me to expand my thinking – that in addition to every kid needing a champion, every classroom teacher deserves a champion as well. Your blog post is a great, and timely reminder of the importance of “rolling” up my sleeves with the teachers – thank you!

    • It was wonderful to read your comment, Pamela. You are most welcome. I’ve said that every teacher deserves a coach, but I really like the improvement of “every teacher deserves a champion.” Thank YOU.

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