It's Saturday after the first full week of school, and I have spent the day in recovery - mostly napping and rubbing my feet, trying to recharge the batteries. I always seem to forget how tough beginning the year is once the adrenaline and excitement wear off.
It's different as a coach, of course, and this time of year is when I miss having my own class the most. As coaches, we end up supporting classroom teachers as they set up rules and routines during these first weeks, and it's still exhausting work.
Yesterday evening, as I finally left the building, I thought back over my week of duties which had frankly felt more like putting out forest fires than anything truly constructive, and I felt disappointed by the lack of true coaching duties I felt I'd performed.
But as I reflected on it more, I think it may be a natural phase every year, perhaps at every school, that we focus more on operational procedures during those first days, and less on refining our instructional practices. It's a necessary thing to have all hands on deck to make sure classes proceed through the lunchroom on time, kids make it out of the building safely for the first fire drill, classes are balanced as new kids arrive, and kindergarteners find their classrooms. I may not be able to look back over the first days and feel like an effective coach, but it's very similar to what we tell teachers: spend those first weeks working on rules and routines so that you can be more effective in your instruction later on. Our time spent making sure teachers have enough textbooks and passing out "Welcome back to school" treats will pay dividends later on when we ask them to trust our opinions and as we coach through tough classroom situations.
However, it's critical that we don't get stuck in these operational tasks. We have to be able to step back after a week or so, find our true purpose, and pass many of these duties on to assistant principals or others whose job it truly is, or otherwise we'll find ourselves halfway through the year with nothing to show from our job as coach. I'd much rather end the year as exhausted as I began it, but from having coached my heart out in the months between.