Wearing Lipstick Under My Mask #sol20

The future, any future is simply one step at a time out of the heart.
-Patricia McKillip

I’m Wearing Lipstick Under My Mask and other lesson from now #sol20

December 1, 2020

I was getting ready for work a few weeks ago thinking about how hard some days are when it occurred to me that I should dress like the ‘old days’. I should look in my closet and consider my mood and my day. I shouldn’t automatically throw on jeans and a sweater because I’ll be in the literacy center and/or on a screen all day. I should look like ‘myself’. Wearing a scarf or a fun dress even if I am the only one that sees it did seem like a waste of time. Then I began to consider what my ‘outsides’ have to do with my ‘insides’.

I began that day to dress like I have always dressed. Some days, jeans and a sweater, but most days my semi-professional ‘teacher’ garb. Could I affect my feeling of normalcy by making my outsides look ‘normal’? The next day, I put on some mascara and then impulsively, swiped some lipstick across my lips. I remember a few days prior telling my husband that I missed lipstick, that I didn’t need any clothes because I was all closed up for the most part.

But then I wrote about how meeting with kids online shared most of the things that I love about working with students: they smile, they joke, they tell me about things, they try hard, they celebrate their successes. I can do this, I thought. I just need a bright scarf and a little lipstick under my mask.

Last Wednesday, I finished a book that has taken me eighteen months to finish. I had to buy the audioversion to help me cross the finish line, but when I finished that book, I wanted to celebrate. The book was amazing and I learned so much from it. Having the author read to me on my way to school and my way home was comforting. That book, Reader Come Home by Maryanne Wolf is one I highly recommend, however the ending where she calls us to action was so timely to me in this moment. Here are a few highlights from this chapter that drew me to reconsider my present course.

Maryanne Wolf references Elon Musk. Elon Musk calls impossible, phase 1. I went back to read a little about Elon Musk. In a quick overview of Elon Musk’s philosophy, it states that first you identify the problem and its common assumptions, then break the problem down to its fundamental truths, and finally, use fundamental truths to plot a new course. Hmmm… I began thinking about viewing the fundamental truths of the situation critically and then using those truths to plot a way forward.

Let’s use a simple example. I want to have some coaching time with a teacher leader. No one has any planning time these days and our contact with each other is minimal. How can I find the time and motivate this teacher to meet? In other words, what are the fundamental truths and also, what exactly am I bringing to the table? It’s like the lipstick… I need to remember what the strongest thing I use to bring to the table was and then make that happen. What does every teacher want? More attention with the students. When she’s talking about self-direction and independent work worries concerning her students, I offer to come and confer with her during the independent work time. It’s not exactly coaching, but it does get us talking with each other every single day.

The teachers are weary from community meetings and time on their computers. What am I good at? Books! So I made some read aloud slide decks, and mentor text slide decks, and first chapter read-alouds, and shared reading books on slides. Having wrote this, I remember that in No More Random Acts of Literacy Coaching, Erin brown does caution against just ‘fixing’ things. I like to think of it as second hand coaching. I read this wonderful new book, I want to read and study it with kids. I can’t right now. I share it with their teachers who read and study it themselves… or that’s the hope.

Let’s consider MaryAnn Wolf’s charge, we must preserve what is valuable, what is important, what moves us forward. It probably isn’t wearing lipstick, but it is being a contributing member of the learning community. There is something in each of our communities that will lift the spirits, lighten the load, refresh the weary. When we step out of the heart, each step moves us toward a brighter future.

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