Hi, My Name Is Mom and I'll Be Your Learning Coach This Year.
I became a learning coach on Wednesday, August 26th. I was hired on the spot and didn’t even have to interview. I guess it really is all about who you know.
I was pretty confident I’d get the job back in July so I bought all the supplies I thought I’d need. From desks and whiteboards to glue sticks and paper, I got just about everything on my list. I couldn’t find any patience on Amazon, so I hoped what I already had on hand would be enough.
Before my coaching duties officially began I got the okay from the team to set up a home base. It took some strategizing since the space is smaller than what I’d like, but I made it work.
Preparing for my new role
To prepare myself physically and mentally for my new role, I trained for the few remaining weeks of summer. I awoke with the sun, took a morning walk/jog to clear my head, started jumping rope and even used my rowing machine a few days a week. I knew finding me-time in the Fall would be vital for my mental health so I decided to build it into my schedule ahead of time. The early hour also afforded me the opportunity to listen to gardening podcasts, something I’ve been wanting to do since growing my first garden in the Spring. Remember the Spring when the idea of living in quarantine was novel?
Things were going as expected. And then I fell.
Unfortunately I’m not being symbolic. I very literally tripped over a section of sidewalk I‘d stepped on thousands of times and fell headfirst into the concrete. I skinned both knees and cut my hand—right when my gardening podcast was getting around to answering my question about how to manage powdery mildew on my plants. I digress.
To be fair, that seems about right for 2020.
By the grace of God (or the ungodly early hour) no one was around to see my poorly executed swan dive directly into the sidewalk. Aside from a few small abrasions and a bruised ego I walked away fairly unscathed.
Drawing on past experiences
On one of my pre-fall mornings I thought a lot about my upcoming role and my past experiences and can't help but wonder if life has somehow been preparing me to be a learning coach. I worked at a start-up for over six years, so I’m pretty good at changing course abruptly or course correcting mid-stride.
In order to survive a start up environment it’s important to welcome change and uncertainty. It’s essential to build upon the ideas of others using your unique skills and experiences. It’s vital to have an entrepreneurial spirit and can-do attitude (even when you don't).
I still stumble more often than I’d like to admit, but that job taught me how to persevere in the face of uncertainty. It, along with other tough life experiences, also taught me to trust my intuition and heart.
My first few days on the job
I admit, I was a bit overzealous on my first day as a learning coach. I tried to win over my team with pancakes, fruit plates and first day photo props. Their response was lackluster but I didn't take it personally, I just chocked it up to it not being a weekend morning.
I decided to let them attend their teacher-led Zoom call without my oversight. I didn’t want anyone thinking I was one of those overbearing micromanager types—I mean can you imagine the snack time gossip?
Instead, I took a listening approach. I stayed nearby entertaining my youngest team member (who is exempt from all Zoom calls) and let them tell me when they needed technical support, facilities management or provisions. I really thought I had a handle on things as the days progressed. That is, until we started working through our digital notebooks.
Go to the Classwork tab on Google Classroom, find the planner and the subject specific notebooks, open each notebook and use the planner to identify what to do in the physical textbooks, digital notebooks, YouTube, an App, or find materials at home to complete a science experiment.
The science experiment turned out to be a lot of fun and we talked a lot about how it related to the lesson. Perhaps too long? Then we had math that took much longer than was allotted in the planner. An unplanned elongated school day, lagging internet connection and general frustration raised blood pressures all around.
I began to mismanage my team with the poise and tact of a tired mom hoping to get through the work as fast as possible. Things were not okay. I took a few minutes to collect myself and quickly realized I needed a visual tool to help keep everyone on task. I implemented a behavior chart that was linked directly to a very motivational reward system of additional screen time. I knew screen time was a high value reward from my many months of quarantine research and hoped it would do the trick. And truthfully, it also helped keep me in better spirits.
So far it's working. Time will be the true test.
Onward and upward, hopefully
I've learned this year will take Goliath levels of patience and adaptability from everyone. It's going to take a big team effort (and I hope Amazon starts selling patience for times when our supplies are low). But, now that we have a general idea of what to expect and understand where our biggest weaknesses are, I think I can help my tiny team of third graders get through this year relatively unscathed.
We will fall, but we will get back up again. And again. And again.
One final thought
Working parents, I see you. I applaud you for taking on this gargantuan task for your kids this year. I can not imagine the impossible task that lies before you. As a freelancer, I've been able to work well into the night to keep the few clients I have left after my Covid-19 fallout. I know your days are not as flexible and I see you. I'll pray for all of us and will see you on the other side.
I'll be the one with skinned knees, open arms and a bottle of wine... or two.