Quickly, I walked down the hallway to catch my phone which was ringing as I came back from dismissal. The black mounted wall phone was in a little alcove just to the left of the entrance to my classroom. As I picked it up I heard my principal’s voice, “Hello, this is Rose Allen in the main office could you please come down? There is someone here I’d like for you to meet.” It always made me giggle when she greeted the teachers that way on the phone, as the school consisted of only 30 teachers and we have worked together for over ten years. Always the professional.
“Hmm, I wonder who it could be,” I pondered as I walked down the long tiled hallway to the main office. Entering her office I glanced at the large pile of papers, folders, and books that had collected on my principal’s desk. She was the type of busy person that could put her hands on any document she needed amongst the hodgepodge on her desk and know right where the item was on the first try.
As I reached out to shake the extended hand offered to me I saw a lovely young woman with bright eyes and a smile that welcomed me into the conversation. “This is Christine Dawson. Her daughter is starting Kindergarten this fall,” informed Rose. “She would like to learn about our literacy program.”
Christine and her family had just moved to New York from Michigan where she was a literacy professor and had the role of supporting preservice teachers. She was very curious as to the experiences her daughter would look forward to in elementary school around reading and writing. I explained that in my first-grade classroom we used a reading and writing workshop approach. Focusing on engagement, access and choice students were able to choose books that interested them and write about their favorite topics as they begin to discover their reading and writing identities. Continuing on I told her the lessons each day were based on the needs of the students in whole group settings, small group and one on one conferences. Lastly, I shared my favorite part of our program, author studies. Each month we examined a new author and tried to name and replicate the craft moves, illustrations or structures of their texts. I could tell right away she was pleased with this approach and was excited to think about her daughter’s upcoming experiences.
Her daughter joined my classroom that following year and we began a friendship and a connection through literacy that continues today. That was almost ten years ago now. My role has changed from first-grade teacher to a literacy coach which has opened a new world for me.
During that time we have served on a Shared Decision Making Team together, working on the school’s mission and vision. I have become a more confident teacher writer through the work with her book, Teacher – Writer Creating Writing Groups for Personal and Professional Growth and have grown as an educator by participating in her professional learning opportunities. With our busy lives we have had periods of not being able to connect but when we do we are sure to immediately start chatting about our recent work around literacy.
Currently, we met to work on an article together for a middle school journal, Voices From the Middle, around the work that is happening at the middle school in literacy and social comprehension. As we brainstormed the structure and background of the article we discussed other literacy projects we are both working on. The energy that I felt after we spoke was exhilarating. Surrounding myself with like-minded educators like Christine has encouraged me to expand upon my own reading and writing identity and explore a variety of literacy topics and projects that I couldn’t have imagined ten years ago. Christine is a mentor that inspires me to explore new professional goals, to collaborate by sharing best practices, and to strive to empower students in achieving their learning goals. I would have never guessed when I answered my phone ten years ago that it would have led to many professional literacy opportunities and a wonderful friendship.