Lunch and Learn

This month’s update from the CoOp Corner features a reflection from Claire Delcourt, an Instructional Coach at LEAD Brick Church Middle. She shares how she uses her time in the cafeteria to focus on practicing (and then reflecting and improving in) what she preaches.

A favorite part of my school day this year has been 6th Grade lunch duty. That may sound odd since it’s not an academic part of the day and I’m a humanities Instructional Coach, but hear me out! First, I love having the opportunity to interact directly with our middle schoolers in a nonacademic setting. When in classrooms, I balance coaching with also supporting instruction where useful. I observe and take notes on the class’ progress towards and demonstrated understanding of that day’s objective so that I can be a strong thought-partner to teachers. While I truly do enjoy working with students and their teachers as they write essays in ELA or analyze sources in Social Studies, lunchtime is a whole other atmosphere that I’m thankful for, too!

During lunch, I’m able to shift my focus to owning my own development in engaging with students. This consistent practice not only grows my craft in building relationships with students and managing culture, but it gives me even more empathy for the hardworking teachers in our building. Although I realize that supporting student culture during lunch duty does not equate to the refined skills and energy used to teach classes throughout the day, I do believe that sharing evenly narrowly in this practice helps me be a more effective coach. Experiencing the nuances of maintaining a structured and positive school environment is crucial for me (and, I believe, any instructional leader) so that I’m rolling up my sleeves and staying an active part of this challenging profession.

Furthermore, these are skills that I both admire in the educators I coach and focus on with several of them in our meetings. How could I encourage others to continue growing such complex skills that I’m not also trying to improve in? Taking the opportunity to continuously push myself in how I connect with students, give praise or deliver a consequence, and work to rebuild relationships when needed (among the myriad other forms of supporting student behavior), is incredibly important to me in my role.

Since I’m human and make mistakes sometimes, there are moments at lunch when I have been less clear in setting student expectations, and I can see that student focus and behavior are affected. I view these moments as a meaningful growth opportunity to evaluate the causes of a given outcome, determine what I need to do about it, and then take more informed action. We all know that these are decisions, reflections, and adjustments that teachers make constantly throughout their day. I would be remiss if I didn’t take advantage of moments at lunch to further my own practice, reflect, and take steps to improve, just as I support teachers in doing.

Shifting gears to the academic side of my continued development as an educator, in the second semester of this year, I started teaching an ELA intervention class a twice a week. This increased time with students and additional chance to continue to hone my teaching craft is a new favorite period of my day, though I still enjoy lunch duty. I’m thankful to have even more space to use my instructional skills, again, with the goal of practicing, reflecting, and improving myself in what I’m “preaching” to others.

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