As a classroom teacher, I always kept a “smile file”. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, a special folder or spot where I keep the treasured notes from students that were specially crafted for me. The “thank yous” from parents for making a difference in their child’s life. Sometimes these are simple drawings, other times elaborate letters. Sometimes it’s even a copy of student work from the beginning of the year and the end of the year that shows tremendous progress. Either way, these are the things many of us cherish far more than monetary rewards or artifacts we can put in our portfolios.
When you make the transition from classroom teacher to instructional coach, no one warns you that your “smile file” might be empty for awhile. Sometimes we pop into classrooms just to get our “kid fix”. We might treasure each smile and wave we get from a student. Any acknowledgement that someone is happy we are here. That we made a difference in someone else’s day.
As adults, we don’t often take time to write notes of thanks for the people we appreciate in our lives (unless we’ve received a tangible gift or perhaps a birthday wish). It’s taken me a couple of years to figure out what a “smile file” for an instructional coach might be. I have a couple of thank you notes. I have saved a couple of emails. Today I saved a reflection from a teacher who is taking a course that I am facilitating. This reflection will help me to remember that it takes more than presenting materials or asking “the right” questions to help people move. It also takes a decision on their part to want more for their classroom and for their students. When this formula all works together (learning opportunities, willingness to learn, collaboration) then amazing things can happen for our students. I will always enjoy my “smile file” from my little students. But just as meaningful is my addition from my grown-up students!