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Naming Strengths in a Teacher Learning Community


This year is a milestone year in my house. My oldest is headed off to high school and my twins are heading to middle school. Overall, all three are happy to start their new adventures, but have some trepidation about changing classes, keeping up with the heavier workload and the many little changes they will face throughout their day. As I help them prepare, I am reminding them of their strengths as people and as learners and am encouraging them to do the same: my daughter’s organization (I know where she got that from!), my older son’s independence and my youngest’s ease at making new friends in any situation. By focusing on our strengths, we are reminded as to what we can do, even when faced with challenging or nerve-wracking situations. We empower ourselves as learners and fuel forward thinking. I decided to try something with the teachers I work with to help them focus on their strengths as well.

This past week, I met a new group of teachers that I will be working with as part of my graduate course on literacy intervention. We spent the first night getting to know each other, learning about the course expectations and thinking forward as to what the semester might entail. As the class came to a close, I handed each teacher a sticky note and asked her to write down the strengths she brings to our budding learning community. This not only helps us acknowledge our own strengths, it also strengthens our learning community where we all bring unique habits, dispositions and strengths to learn from. Later, when we are in the heart of the semester amid deadlines and multiple responsibilities, I will pull these sticky notes out and share them with teachers as a reminder of their own beliefs in themselves, something I hope they will do for their own students. Often.

As you start a new year as a literacy coach, take a minute to celebrate your own strengths and what you bring to your professional learning community. Write them down and post them somewhere you will see them daily. Then, have your teachers do the same. Ask teachers to visibly record their personal strengths and share them, if they are comfortable doing so. Collect these tangible reminders and save them for later in the school year when things are hectic or challenging or teachers simply need a pick-me-up. Or, if your coaching becomes challenging, you might sift through them to remind yourself of the positive qualities each of your teachers brings to your learning community and ensure you are drawing on them. Celebrate the strengths of every teacher you work with as a model for how they might lift their students up as well. These small acts tangibly change the energy in the community and fuel teaching and learning. 

I would love to know the things you try to celebrate teacher strengths throughout the year. Share them in the comments or tag me on Twitter using @AffinitoLit and #LiteracyCoaching.

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