Good evening!  I think a lot about what to write in these Coaching Letters, and I sometimes have whole sequences laid out.  You will not be surprised to know that these plans infrequently come to fruition.  This has been an intense week and I’m just on day four.  And it has been a great week, don’t get me wrong.  I’ve been in five districts (and another one tomorrow), several schools, and had several pretty deep conversations with people I love and respect.  So this Coaching Letter was going to be either about strategy, or a winter break reading list.  Instead, it’s just about what’s been going through my mind lately.  I know it’s a bit random.

This is a tough time of year.  I have visited several schools recently, and in all of them the discussion has touched on how hard some kids have it in the run up to the holidays.  And educators are very personally connected to their students, and have their own sources of stress, so it’s a hard time of year for them too.  Plus tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of Sandy Hook, and I know many people who are personally very connected to that tragedy.  And I am a source of support for many people, and sometimes I feel like I discharge that responsibility admirably; and lately I have fallen short, to the extent that I have felt the need to make apology calls.  All this is to say that we all need to take the opportunity over the next few weeks to practice self-care, and to check in with others: to sleep in, to practice gratitude, to think about our selves in relation to others, to practice forgiveness of others but especially ourselves.

The work continues.  I am continually impressed by the dedication of the educators with whom I have the privilege to work.  I was struck that my colleague Richard chose to open his latest blog post by talking about his privileged professional life, and I feel exactly the same way. Lots of people want to have conversations with me about how to make the work more stimulating for students, how to improve the quality of the feedback that teachers and leaders give and receive, how to make the connections among all the different aspects of the plans they are implementing, how to ensure that equity is central to the work and not something separate and off to the side… and so on.  So this has the result of simultaneously inspiring me and challenging me and overwhelming me.  And in particular, I want to help make the work coherent, targeted, and effective, and to make it feel coherent, targeted, and effective, which I think is also important if we are all going to stay sane.

How do we do a better job of elevating and leveraging teacher leaders?  I have written before about my strong opinion that we regularly fail to include teacher leaders in our high-level thinking about improving teaching and learning, and many of you have already read Jennie Weiner’s very useful assertions about connecting the work of teacher leaders to the goals of the organization,  and now there is a new RAND finding that principals think that teachers have a much stronger voice than teachers do.  If this topic is big for you, and it should be, then you should read Jill Harrison Berg’s book about teacher leadership, Leading In Sync.  If you do, please email me, I want to talk to you about it.  The Center is going to be doing more work in this area: stay tuned.

 When the world is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s oyster, why in the name of goodness would he decide to reprise the ridiculous Cockney accent in Mary Poppins?  You’re never going to be able to explain this one to me.

More than anything else right now I feel the need to feel useful.  I think this is a response to my awareness that so many people are working so hard in classrooms, conference rooms, and board rooms, and I wonder if I could be doing more to make their lives a little bit—well, if not easier, then at least more potent.  Or maybe I should volunteer to be Trump’s chief of staff?  I’m pretty sure I could have an impact there.

OK, more to read, listen to and think about coming soon.  Don’t forget to read Richard’s blog post and respond to him.  In the meantime, I am thinking about you, and let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.  Best, Isobel

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