On the simplest level, telecommuting makes it harder for people to have the kinds of informal interactions that are crucial to the way knowledge moves through an organization.
When I worked as a reading support teacher, I used to park my car toward the end of the building, enter through the side door, and walk through the long hallway to get to my classroom. I could have come in through the front doors of the building and walked directly into my office, but I enjoyed walking down the hall each morning. It always took me quite a bit of time to get to my room, because I would stop along the way to chat with teachers in their classrooms, others just arriving, and people walking down the hall. Sometimes we’d chat about how life was going, sometimes about our families, and sometimes about the students we supported. These were informal chats that seemed a natural part of our days.
Often I have quipped that the best conversations seem to happen in hallways. Whether I was working as a classroom teacher, in reading support, or alongside colleagues as a literacy coach, it seemed hallways were always the places where we connected. Hallways were the spaces where we solved the biggest challenges. They were the spaces where whatever I was carrying heavy on my shoulders was lifted by those I worked alongside.
A few nights ago, our family, all three of us teachers, was gathered on the couches at the end of our school day. It certainly hadn’t been a typical school day. We’ve been teaching and learning from home for quite some time now. “How long have we been teaching from home?” I inquired as we shared stories. The day had been filled with virtual conversations with our learning communities, emails to answer, videos to create, lessons to prepare, and feedback to share.
There was a long silence in the room as my family considered my question. Eventually my son looked up, “We’ve been doing school from home for five weeks.” My heart sank a little. Five long weeks. In our state, we still had at least two weeks of teaching and learning in this situation—along with all the other things a stay-at-home order brings.
The next morning, I was in a bit of a funk when one of the literacy coaches I work alongside sent me a book-stack poem she had made with some of the professional development titles she had at home. The image was accompanied with a sweet note of greeting, asking how things were. It was at this moment that I realized I miss hallways. I miss those quick opportunities to chat and check in with my colleagues. I miss the ability to ask quick questions and problem-solve without an appointment. I miss the time to ask about our families and talk about life.
I’ve been grateful across this time for the little things colleagues do to stay connected. Whether it is sending funny memes, sharing a quote from a book, texting a hello, or making an old-fashioned phone call, these are the ways we stay connected for now. When we return, I know I’ll be grateful to have hallway chats again. Until then, I will continue to work to find ways to stay connected with others and find little ways to let them know I am thinking of them. I’m quite certain I’ll never take hallways for granted again.
This week we look at ways to boost summer learning for teachers and students. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Cathy Mere works as a reading specialist supporting literacy learners. Cathy is the author of More Than Guided Reading. She shares her professional reflections at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community. Cathy can be found @cathymere on Twitter.
Bitsy Parks reflects upon her own not-so-successful experiences as a parent in getting her four children to read during the summer months. She uses these parenting lessons to help students take the initiative for summer reading by writing down commitments and goals in her first-grade classroom.
“What can I do to help my son and daughter stay sharp and not lose momentum during the summer?” When a parent asks this question, Mark Levine offers his Top Six Summer Slide Preventers.
Karen Terlecky has advice for using summer reading for launching and closing the school year to build community and enduring connections with students.
Our new online course from Ruth Ayres, Better Student Feedback, will help teachers and coaches think through how to talk with students about progress and goals, as well as what to do with their responses. The course fee of $39 includes two months of access to the entire Choice Literacy library of 4000 articles and videos. If you have a current paid subscription to Choice Literacy, there is no charge for the course. Click here for details.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
The zone of proximal development (or ZPD) is the sweet spot for learning—just enough challenge with just enough support to take on the challenge. Melanie Meehan shares how teachers can create scaffolds that help students find their own ZPDs during summer learning sessions and throughout the school year.
Stella Villalba shares three strategies teachers and literacy coaches can use to pause, re-center, and renew themselves throughout busy stressful days in schools.
In this week’s video, Dana Murphy confers with Krisha over her reading, talking about the value of using a book’s back cover for previewing.
Boost your learning this summer by catching up on the Big Fresh issues you might have missed during a spring like no other. You can access the full archives at this link.
David Pittman explains the importance of beginning summer work with teachers by creating collective visions through images and quotes.
In this quick video, literacy coach Jen Court explains how she is supporting an influx of nine new teachers in her building this year.
Matt Renwick shares his “Three Rs” for literacy leaders in the summer: read, reflect, and recharge.
We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us.
That’s all for this week!