Being a literacy coach has allowed me to pursue a passion I consider to be THE most important in education. That is, providing students with the experiences and opportunities necessary to become competent, confident, and established readers across many different texts, both simple and complex.
Twenty years of my career as a professional educator was spent in a high school English-Language Arts classroom. I have been in my current position as literacy coach for 592 days. Through triumph and failure, new learning has occurred. In the spirit of vulnerability and collaboration, I will share my learning here.
There are two sources I turn to when I am searching for something deeper, looking for a way to clarify my purpose: the Bible and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
Today my thoughts turn to The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.
The ominous warning penned by William Shakespeare, Beware the ides of March, certainly fits my current state of mind.
It is in Act I, scene ii where my heart and mind are gravitating today. A soothsayer warns Caesar to beware the ides of March. Consequently, Caesar blows off the warning as nonsense, and, as he temporarily exits the scene, Cassius stirs Brutus’s jealous heart with rhetoric that challenges Brutus to examine his purpose.
It is within this dialogue I find I am not alone in my emptiness, unworthiness, and fear.
The irony of being a change agent in a school surrounded by people who have the best intentions to advance student learning is that it can be extremely lonely. Lurking in the shadows of my role as literacy coach are those uncomfortable moments where I must lead teachers — and even administrators — to thoughtfully consider their practice and how it directly affects students.
The struggle I have this week is discovering my “hidden worthiness”. See, as Cassius eloquently urges Brutus to truly see his own worthiness, so must I confront my own effectiveness, or lack thereof, to inspire others in becoming the best version of themselves.
Brutus humbly admits, “…the eye sees not itself, but by reflection, by some other things” (Act I, scene ii, l140-141.). Cassius is attempting to be that reflection for Brutus by showering with compliments meant to arouse Brutus’s confidence and worthiness. But unlike Caesar who, revealing his arrogance, smugly brushes off the soothsayer’s warning, Brutus meekly averts Cassius’s praise and affirmation.
As literacy coach, I must see myself through others. This is a frightening proposition. Most of us have spent time attempting to determine what others are thinking about us, how they truly feel about us. My mind must move beyond this selfishness. It is imperative as a change agent and literacy coach that I unlock my mind from the destructive, lonely narrative I choose to tell myself, and thoughtfully consider what I am seeing in myself through the reflection of others.
See, Cassius has a point. Sure, we all know how the play ends and the weighty role Cassius plays in the tragedy, but, in this definitive moment, he assures Brutus, “I, your glass, will modestly discover to yourself that of yourself which you yet know not of” (Act 1, scene ii, l156-158.).
It can be lonely as a literacy coach, walking that fine line — as a colleague playfully reminded me today — between administrator and teacher. By all accounts, namely contractually, I am a teacher. However, there are responsibilities as literacy coach where I take on a perceived function of administrator. That’s a lonely line.
Cassius provides yet another scrap of advice when he points out, “…men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…” (Act I, scene ii, l230-233).
Maybe it’s the ides of March, or maybe the sun hath not shown its face upon us enough, or maybe I have allowed self-doubt to merge from perception to disillusioned reality. While I have felt lonely, empty, afraid, and unworthy, I know that I can change my fate if, indeed men are masters of their fate at times, by looking in the mirror. It’s important to honestly assess what comes back to me. Whatever the case, I must see my worthiness through the reflection of the colleagues I work alongside and the students I connect with every day.
Unknowingly, two colleagues took time out of their busy days as professional educators and lead learners TODAY to provide me with some positive vibes. They don’t know this, but my heart was warmed and my soul was fed just enough for me to be reminded that who I am as a professional is important and effective. I’ll take that win today. It provides fuel for the challenges that lie ahead tomorrow.