On Sunday night, I found myself scurrying around. I took the air conditioner and fans out of the windows (I think summer is finally behind us), I folded one load of laundry and started a load of bed sheets. I vacuumed the upstairs rooms, cleaned away some cobwebs, and dusted the bureaus. Then I started to put away summer clothes and go through my sweaters and corduroys. I was moving quickly (and a bit haphazardly) from one task to another, and as much as I felt busy, I didn’t really feel like I was accomplishing much. Nothing was really finished. The rooms were now clean, but summer and fall clothes were scattered all over the place. The air conditioner and fans were out of the windows, but still had to be carried to the attic, and the sheets were still rolling around in the washing machine, and the beds remained unmade.
In the middle of this hysteria, the phone rang. It was a friend. She asked me what I was doing, and I told her. Her response was, “Oh, are you expecting guests?” The fact is that yes, guests will be arriving soon and I am trying to get the house ready. My friend’s simple question helped me to instantly frame everything that I was doing. I had a sudden sense of focus. Now, as I continued with my tasks, I started to feel like I was working toward something and everything I was doing had a purpose. It was like that ad for the antihistamine that instantly peels away the fogginess and presents a clear picture of the world around you.
I had a similar experience at work last week. I’m busy at work. Most teachers are. We get up early, check emails, plan lessons, analyze reading and writing assessments, modify our lessons, check more emails (and maybe even send out a Tweet or check a post on Instagram), meet with colleagues, read professional books, blogs and articles, and the list goes on. We have a lot of ground to cover, but sometimes I feel like that is all I’m doing….covering ground.
This year I’ve been working with teachers on some strategies to make our Interactive Read Aloud more engaging and rigorous, studying student work, creating differentiated instruction from what students do well and can work on next, creating writing toolkits, and many other things. I’ve been busy, but not always feeling productive. Last week we had a meeting with one of our staff developers. She started our session by presenting us with an Essential Question. “How can we personalize student learning and improve student agency?” I felt like everything I’ve been working on all year gained instant clarity. I quickly saw how all of my work could fit under this idea. I can focus my work on developing personalizing learning and agency for both students and for teachers. This one simple question has helped me frame my coaching work. The foggy lens has been stripped away and I can see my way forward.