Reflecting on a Year
In Albemarle County Schools we just wrapped for the 2017-18 year on Friday. For the district and our region, things started out on a very difficult note with the August 12th Unite the Right rally held in Charlottesville, which is located in our county. We were in the middle of the pre-service workdays as the weekend approached, and everyone anticipated the event with a sense of profound foreboding. There were teachers who were heading in to the city that day to join the protest against the KKK and other supremacist groups. I was driving on I-64 in the opposite direction around the time the helicopter crash occurred, and for hours after, there were tons of police cars from all jurisdictions flying toward the crash site. One of the teachers who'd been at the protest, came back and said that they were only moments away from having been at the site of the attack that killed Heather Heyer. There were so many questions heading into the year, and while few were resolved, the first order of business was to be present for the students and each other. For the negativity engendered by that violation of our community, it did open some conversations that were important to have, and should have occurred sooner. The planners of the rally have been angling to hold another this year as an anniversary. It is my hope that it will not happen.
Ahead of this school year, and even the August 12th debacle, Albemarle County Schools was included in the John Legend Show Me Campaign. For this project, titled Let 'Em Shine, students would develop monuments/memorials for the Charlottesville community to recognize someone/something that had been overlooked. As a coach, I had the opportunity to witness the work the students did. There were some powerful projects. The discussions we had at the end of the year as the students reached completion of their work were compelling and brought us full circle from where we had started the year. Some of the projects even have the potential of being realized if the students are persistent.
There were more school shootings also. I wrote about some of them. With the summer, at least we'll be shut of that type of news for a few months. That's all I have to say there.
Those were the big things. Granted, there were a lot of little things that followed in their wake, and while it may be of interest to delve in further, my goal with this post is perhaps a bit selfish. This is primarily because this was the first academic year I had applied myself to developing this site, the podcast, and the blog, and I am very happy with the way the end of the school year is wrapping at least on a personal level. Sometimes it's hard when one sees all the heavy stuff going on around us, to be able to appreciate what is happening in one's own life. I always feel like I could be doing more, but then, isn't that the norm for most educators?
I started this work as part of my coaching goals the prior academic year. I had been noticing that all of the coaches in our PLC tended to rarely have time to connect with each other to engage in PD, especially book studies. It was just too easy to shunt the PLC appointment aside to clear a slot for a teacher meeting. Teachers are, and should be our primary concern as coaches so it's understandable that we would do this. However, the issue was that we were reading books on issues of importance to our practice without discussing the implications or practices of each book. I decided to step back from things, and think asynchronously. That's where the podcast came in--which pulls me back to the academic year before that.
My first year as a coach, I worked with the 12th grade English PLC at Monticello High School. One of the things we developed was a research project rooted in research first. The typical research paper was not intended to be the end product though. Rather, we wanted students to develop media that relied on the research. This entailed a web presence and a podcast. I realized as I was working with the seniors a few days on this, that while I was helping them, I was someone who had never produced my own podcast. That idea stuck with me like a sticker in my sock. Fast forward to the next year, I did my first podcast. It was about Elena Aguilar's The Art of Coaching, and was intended to be primarily for my coaching PLC. I found out that by posting it (originally under the title Coaching Off-Book) publicly that I was getting listeners from all over the world. It wasn't a ton of listens, but considering I did zero publicity, it surprised me.
So this year, I decided after having recorded six episodes and landing a session with Zaretta Hammond, I decided it was time to follow my intuition and roll out The Ed Narrative in full. It's still young, and as with anyone in creative work, it's still finding it's voice; however, there is a lot more clarity around this work for me now than there had been. Perhaps the most amazing thing is though that while that first podcast was on Aguilar's The Art of Coaching, the most recent I recorded was with Elena Aguilar herself, on the same day she was planning to sit down with Zaretta Hammond for tea. It was a very rewarding conversation and a perfect end to the academic year. I feel like I've grown through this work. I've made it a priority. I've held to self-imposed deadlines. The work will continue over the summer. We hope that you will continue to read and listen to the work we do.
I wish you a great summer. You've earned it.
Keep your ears out for the Aguilar interview on June 15th!