Back and Forth

It has been almost a year since I’ve been back, more than three since this idea went forth. I wrote about it during slicing season 2019, lit up by the notion that I could use the tools I love about workshop to maintain connection through coaching.

I’m talking about my back-and-forth notebooks.

What started out in composition books as a way to share the tracking of goals, conversations, thinking, and progress became a game-changing practice ahead of the game-changing pandemic.

But that did not stop me; fall 2020, I converted them all to Google Slides, complete with a composition notebook theme and the original photo and quote they picked when we created the first ones together in real life.

These sustained us through a year where passing things back and forth might have made as all a little weary. I started to incorporate them in more than just coaching conversations, embedding interactive slides from our professional learning sessions and links to resources they might want to reference. On our last day together, I left a personal note on the last “page.”

That was a summer and almost an entire school year ago. “What do you mean that you won’t be using back and forth notebooks at your new school?” someone who knows all too well about the power in this practice asked me just after the start to the school year. Well, I did try to get them started on a small scale with a group of four teachers new to the building. And sure, I mentioned it several times during our leadership meetings at the outset of the year. All the while, it felt like I was trying to fit a piece from one puzzle into the frame of another.

Until yesterday!

“I notice that when I’m in coaching conversations with teachers I’m often the one taking notes for both of us,” I told my coach. “Kind of like when we meet,” I told her. “I’m sure you are jotting things down, but I’m not. I’m hoping to change that.”

She asked how it was going with my last goal: giving myself and teachers with whom I am working time to process ahead of our conversations and in the moment during our conversations.

“Good. The other day, I was starting a new cycle with the third-grade teacher, and I stopped to say, ‘I want to write a few things down. Do you?’ and she did.” I went on to describe the way this coaching cycle is focused “on involving kids in the monitoring of their own conferring notes…”

And as I said it, the pieces starting falling together. Even as my coach described how she shares a Google Doc with some coaches–one where both she and they capture their thinking so that it is visible to them both–I was already gone.

And by “gone,” I mean back! Like the times I’ve found my lost writer’s notebook. Back in the energy for a practice that feels so real.

Before were we even done talking, I was already mocking up a notebook template for the coaching cycle I had launched just hours prior. Not yet with a custom cover or quote; not yet even shared with the teacher. Just an idea that puts the work I know and love in a familiar frame. One I will fill in with the back-and-forth of the next few weeks.

Turns out it isn’t the wrong piece when it’s all the same puzzle.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. aligett24 says:

    I love this! I am a coach as well and we began notebooks this year. It still feels a little strange to me. It doesn’t feel authentic. Curious to hear more of that ways you’ve used them!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bbutler627 says:

    “Back in the energy for a practice that feels so real.”

    YES YES YES YES YES This post makes me so happy. I’m not in the classroom anymore but good friends still are and they feel like this too often the past couple years, esp post-pandemic e-blah-remote-bs. These tools that lit some fire in their practice were extinguished by circumstance and/or new colleagues that just didn’t get it. I’m forwarding this to 1 of them rn. A teacher friend whose had little teeny aha-moments lately and will appreciate it so very much. This lifted my teacher heart up and will hers too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Morgan says:

      Thank you for sharing – with me and with her! I feel like there is a part of me that once knew how to do all these things, and I am finding her. She’s cool! 🙂


  3. JenniferM says:

    I love the idea of a shared place to capture thinking! I liked watching your thinking progress through this slice!


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