What’s With the Awkward Stares?

I’ve been coaching in an 8th grade room for a couple of weeks now.  Recently, the classroom teacher asked me to read a student’s draft of his memoir.  “I’m not sure where to go with this….” she confided.

I read the draft.  The beginning had potential with a description of a cramped car ride on a crowded road.  The sensory images and language were strong.  His memoir continued to his arrival at a family reunion, and then the writing kind of… fell apart.  Something about food on a table, followed by a long list of sports.  I was lost.

“Let’s confer with him,” I suggested to the teacher.

A conference with the student did not enlighten us.  If anything, we were more confused.  I looked at the teacher over the student’s head.  She looked at me.   There were 3 seconds of silence and then the student demanded, “What’s with the awkward stares??”  I burst into laughter, as did the teacher.

The stares, dear student, are two teachers looking to one another for support.   Right now, in this moment, we are lost.  We’re not sure what the instructional point is, we’re not sure how to find it, we’re not sure what you are trying to say in this piece, and we’re not sure what we should say in this conference! 

The awkward stares, my young friend, are because teaching can be a lonely profession.  And right now, we’re just glad to have each other.  

Her stare is asking, “What do we do now?” and my stare is answering “I don’t know.”

As I sit typing this Slice of Life story today, I don’t yet know how his finished memoir turned out.  I don’t know what the classroom teacher expected of me in that moment.  But I do know that I was reminded, once again, that nobody has all the answers.  That sometimes, as teachers, we just don’t know.  And that it’s okay.  Teaching is messy and hard.  As a coach, sometimes my job is just to BE THERE.  Listening and learning.  And laughing.

See More Slices at Two Writing Teachers

See More Slices at Two Writing Teachers


12 thoughts on “What’s With the Awkward Stares?

  1. This is such a funny post, Dana, and so true. I have had many moments of hysterical laughter with my teacher friends…the kids just look and wonder what they should do…little ones will start laughing too…not knowing what it is about…ah, moments to tuck away 🙂 xo

  2. Oh there are many a time that I wish a had a colleague to share that stare with! :)Even after many years of teaching I am (almost daily) hit with a problem I am not sure how to solve so I truly appreciate this reminder!

  3. Dana,
    We love this piece –it is so authentic! Those moments in the classroom are the best opportunities for true professional learning. It is so important for all of us to remember that there are not easy answers in this business: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller. Thanks of reminding us of this lesson… and for making us laugh!
    Clare and Tammy

  4. I love the conversation, in italics – with your eyes – you had with your colleague. I was sitting with a student this afternoon thinking about what you wrote and how truly difficult it can be to have a meaningful conversation with a student about their reading and/or writing. It’s not easy! And, when it’s not easy we can tend to beat ourselves up because it seems like it should be (easy)! I wish I would have had a colleague to converse with my eyes with at that moment!

  5. I love this! I love the realism you captured here! I love the way you wrote about your reaction to the student’s piece! I love the way you summarized and wrote your internal thinking directly to the reader! It was funny and honest and true to nature! I love the way your wrote that teaching is messy, especially teaching writing! I love your sentiment on just being there!

    I do not love all my exclamation points in this reply but I’m excited. This piece is awesome. Really!!!

  6. I loved reading your internal thinking about what you wanted to say to the student. We’ve all been there and you captured it with humor by calling him “dear student” and “my young friend.”

  7. I love that the student was astute enough to know that there was something happening between the teachers. Having a person to share a moment like this is priceless.

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