…to Start from Where You Are

I was thinking this first blog was the first step on a new road, but really this is just a new morning, a new stage along the path that began long ago.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.

~Tolkein

My road has meandered from high school to middle school, from classroom to intervention closet, to the elementary reading office with forays back into the classroom and closets. My first steps on the path were confident and sure…until students showed me what I didn’t know. Eventually I built expertise and a healthy dose of humility. And now, when I know and understand and question and ponder more than I ever have, I sometimes feel a tiny bit like a fraud. I have moments of terror when I’m certain someone will figure out how much I don’t know about literacy.

At those moments I have a clearer understanding of what it might be like for some of my students who struggle, or some of my  teachers who may be reluctant to ask for help because someone might see what they don’t know. I’m much kinder to those children and teachers than to myself, because I offer them the same advice that another reading consultant gave me when I began in this role of coach/leader/learner/teacher/cheerleader: Give yourself permission to start from where you are and grow from there.

We’ve all taken different roads to arrive at this moment. Some of us are just down from the door where we began, and others have traversed mountains or continents. It may be uncomfortable not to know that very important thing we feel we need to understand, but if we tell ourselves we don’t know it yet, then we give ourselves permission to chart a course for that next part of our journey to finding out.

The very  important thing that makes me feel a little fraud-ish right now is coaching. So next week my road will take me to New York City where many paths and errands meet. I’ve enrolled in the Coaching Institute at Teachers College. I am so excited I’m sure I won’t sleep the night before. I know I can’t learn everything there is to being an effective coach in one week. But I also know now that there are many other people along this particular road, and many of them are happy to help a fellow traveler. So for now it’s off to the big city. And whither then? I cannot say.

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