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.