Like so many teachers, when I first entered the classroom, I believed that I would be effective. Then I met Mohammed, and Jose, and Efrain. Mohammed was defiant. He refused to do work, disrupting the learning of my other students. Most days, Jose hid under his desk. Efrain turned eleven in 4th grade because he was retained in El Salvador before coming to the U.S. and couldn’t read a word in English or Spanish. I wanted more than anything to help these students. In fact, I wasn’t helping them. I was like most first year teachers. I needed more training. I needed coaching. I needed a veteran teacher who could guide my practice.
What I felt most acutely in those first few months of teaching was that all of the students in my class would be better off it they were across the hall in Mrs. Lewis’ class. Debbie Lewis was a skilled veteran teacher. She was the kind of teacher my kids deserved.
In the beginning, I despaired of ever becoming that teacher. But slowly that year, my teaching got better. That year, Debbie talked me through every challenge I experienced in my classroom, from instructional failures to behavior issues, and helped me problem-solve so that I did better the next day. She worked with me to create a class-wide behavior system that even Mohammed wanted to follow. Together, we differentiated my lesson plans so Jose and Efrain would make progress. Debbie wasn’t the only one. Other coaches came into my classroom to equip me with skills to become more effective.