By Michael A. Zook
Relaxing after the Holiday breaks often feel necessary. Don’t we all need to recover from that extra pie and food? These dishes seem to infiltrate every meal afterward until we can’t stand it anymore! Then, as you finally start to feel like yourself again, Monday comes around. No matter how strong the coffee is, it can’t seem to get your head back in the game entirely. On top of that, you are trying to support the teachers who are feeling it just as hard as you. When the weather changes, the cold wind of apathy also seems to be shutting your door of opportunity as a coach. Whether you have three weeks or four in between the breaks, it is hard to keep everyone’s attention and zone back into the challenges.
Of course, there are always those outlier extra positive teachers. We know those few teachers that could make a paper bag feel like the most exciting algebra lesson or a science experiment that combines real-world problems with engaging writing. All of these feelings combine into a whirlwind of emotion that is a storm with which coaches and leaders are called to be the stability to hangSo let’sLet’s take it head-on and make sure we push into the holidays.
Two things need to happen here. First, let’s take care of ourselves. If we don’t start there, we will never get to the second round (which is others). Many people have used the slogan “love others and love yourself.” This may be true, but a general observation like this never feels practical. So let’s break it down. Reengage and do a few things to free your mind up to be ready to bring your best to the table for your teachers.
- Get some adult recess in. This is probably one of the hardest, so we must take it head-on first. There are many benefits of exercise. Get your heart rate up! Listen to a podcast or some music to help get your mind on other things. We often use things like recess, brain breaks or other techniques to get students up and moving, but we forget to get ourselves going. Try to get that heart rate up for at least 30 minutes 3 or more times per week.
- Go to bed. You may be a night person or a morning person, but you’ll be a useless person if you don’t put your head down and get some rest. Remember to try some things to help get your body ready for sleep. Research shows that the body requires a drop in temperature to get better sleep. Guess what? You’re in luck! Cooler weather is upon us. Also, think about doing something like reading before bed instead of watching a screen. The bright light will prevent you from winding down. You will want to grab that non-work-related book for this one to help keep your mind relaxed. Think about regular, consistent routines.
- Talk about the 3 things. This may sound weird, but it is a proven way to reframe your mind. In my family, we will often talk about the 3 things at dinner. This is where we talk about 3 positive things that happened in the day. This exercise of talking about positive things helps reframe the brain to look for positives over negatives. This will seem awkward at first but gets easier over time.
If you can begin with a few steps as we move through these weeks, you can set yourself up to be more productive and provide better support for those teachers in your care. So, how do you spend time caring for your teachers? Help them feel the true value of the work they are doing while honoring the time that the students are spending in the classroom. This is your time to shine as a coach. Bring your A-game for your team. They need it now more than ever.
- Stay Personal. This may seem like a simple task, but often when the business of the school gets intense, we forget to have the smaller conversations that fuel and solidify the reasons we do what we do. I was reminded by a teacher in a recent session I taught that these important tales of student success and progress are what help us all remember the vitality of what we do. As I was about to brush across a student’s story for the sake of time, she told me that what really anchors the concept is the connection to our emotions. Listen for these personal highlights, and bring them back up for your teachers to help them stay on track and excited to engage their students.
- Positive Walkthroughs. As the year winds down for my team, we have begun to practice more intentional positive walkthroughs. There are so many evaluative pieces happening with the teacher; we can’t forget the power of positive praise. It is critical to remember that what is praised is repeated. When you do a short 5-minute walkthrough in the class, talk with students and see what they are doing. Give the teacher specific feedback about positive instructional practices and the impact it has on their students. This becomes more impactful when you leave a handwritten note. Often in order to reduce some of the stress on the teacher, you can write after you leave their room and put that note in their box. If you want to know how much impact this has, look around your teachers’ desks, and you might see your note posted up somewhere.
- Model Lessons. Offer to present a lesson for your coachee. This can be a powerful tool and take some stress off our teammates. Take the time to plan with your teacher and emphasize some of the things you have covered up to this point. Use a good reflection form to have the teacher think about the parts of the lesson and connect to what they want to add to their own instruction and what they might change. It doesn’t matter what you use as long as it is a focused tool to help you as a team figure out what you may want to move forward.
In a season of gift-giving and cheer, we can help give the gift of learning to those around us. A well-cared-for coach can be effective in creating a team of inspired and dedicated teachers. Take the time to invest in yourself so you can build up those around you. Your positive and engaged attitude changes the temperature of the school from the chill of winter to the warmth of the holidays. Be the gift your staff and students need.
Crossing the globe early on with his military parents and continuing in mission and educational work, Michael offers a unique perspective on the world. He has traveled adventurously backpacking, hiking, skiing, rock climbing and having a grand old time. With a foundation as a writer for Disney, earning a Masters degree in Autism Intervention, and writing children’s books, he has a driven and practical educational approach. He continues to grow as an educational leader as a district Intervention Programs Coordinator, and has served as a principal, regional, and local instructional coach. Michael is married to his wife, Linley, and they have two wonderful children together.