Welcome to Read – Write – Connect, Inc.

the Internet home of Leah Mermelstein.

Best Writing consultant 002 copyLeah is an internationally recognized literacy consultant who specializes in K-5 Reading and Writing Workshop. She is the President and CEO of Read-Write-Connect, INC. She is also the author of Reading/​​Writing Connections in the K-2 Classroom, (Allyn & Bacon), Don’t Forget to Share (Heinemann) and the co-author of Launching the Writing Workshop (with Lucy Calkins) (Heinemann).


Selected Works

DVD

Quality Writing Instruction
This brand new DVD will assist teachers with high quality writing instruction.

Non-fiction

Don’t Forget to Share: The Crucial Last Step in the Writing Workshop
This brand new book will show you how to make your share sessions more instructional.

Nonfiction

Reading/Writing Connections in the K-2 Classroom: Find the Clarity and Then Blur the Lines
This book demonstrates how through careful, explicit assessing, planning, and teaching every student can understand and use the reading/writing connection to become stronger readers and writers at the same time.

Units of Study for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum: Launching the Writing Workshop
This book shows teachers how to launch a joyful and rigorous Writing Workshop in their classrooms.

QUICK LINKS

E-mail the author

Authors Guild

findauthors

Leah Mermelstein
536 Grand Street, Ste. 501,
Hoboken, NJ 07030
(917) 503-1947

leahmermelstein@earthlink.net

1Leah best writing consultant 1.4 copy

Blog Posts are Below:

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Staff Development: Coaching verse Demonstration

 

  Welcome Ariana Cate Mermelstein!!!!!

 

 

 

First, I want to let all of my friends and colleagues know that my daughter Ariana Cate Mermelstein was born on December 25th, 2012 at 4:15.  She was 6 pounds and 15 ounces of pure joy! I couldn’t have asked for a better holiday gift!

 

I’m going to try and blog while I’m home. The focus at the moment will be on the connections between this new adventure I’m embarking on,  and my ongoing work with teachers and kids in schools. 

 

I will apologize upfront…I’m sure there will be typos and things that don’t quite make sense as I’m doing this all of the while trying to learn how to care for my beautiful daughter, but I’ve decided that you all will forgive me and we can enter into an interesting conversation despite this :)))).

 

When people ask me how I am feeling 8 days into having my daughter,  I say wonderful, terrifying and humbling all at once. 

The word humbling keeps coming back to me because I’m finding that  there is a huge learning curve in caring  for my beautiful daughter.

I thought I was prepared but I feel clumsy at all of it. 

Feeding her, burping her, bathing her, calming her–even putting on her t-shirts  (there are way too many snaps–and those snaps somehow were easier when there wasn’t a squirmy little girl involved)  none of it I feel good at it. 

But I do know I will get there and putting her t-shirt on incorrectly will not kill her!

In those hard moments I say the thing that I say to the teachers I work with:  This is not brain surgery, most of our mistakes are fine, and we just do it differently in the future and move on.

There will be a moment in the day when  I think I’m getting it  and I feel so proud and then well..not so much.

In true ‘Leah’ style I decided that if I wanted to get better at this I needed a coach so I hired a baby nurse to help me for the first 3-4 weeks.

Pat, my baby nurse, has been a complete saint and is taking care of me and the baby. 

 

She is a teacher at heart and told me that she has not done her job if  I don’t feel comfortable doing  all of this on my own when it’s time for her to leave.  In about 7 days she leaves for a day and I try it on my own (independent baby time 🙂 ) 

But for now she is essentially ‘staff developing’ me.

What has been fascinating is I am now on the other side of staff development.

Usually, I am the one helping others to improve their craft. Now I am the one being helped.

The switch is very humbling and very affirming to what I believe about staff development in schools.

I want to leave you with one thought around this idea today. 

Pat has been doing a lot of demonstration for me…specifically demonstrating how to properly swaddle a baby, and how to give Ariana a proper sponge  bath.  Of course I need to see how she does it so the demonstration was absolutely essential.  But when the demonstrations continued for too long I started to feel very inept.  

Pat  is just so good and natural at caring for a baby that the demonstrations began to make me feel bad because  I know I will not be nearly as good as her at this moment.

How many times have teachers said to me that I make everything look so easy?  Pat does the same thing to me.

In my own staff development, I urge schools to move from demonstration quickly and being on the other side of staff development  I couldn’t agree more with the idea that demonstration should be a very temporary method in a  staff development plan for a school.

The problem is the longer Pat demonstrates and I just watch, the more nervous and inept I’m going to feel. I knew that I needed to take the plunge and start doing more, rather than just watching. I knew that I needed Pat to coach me into independence.

 

In the same vein, schools should move quickly from demonstration to coaching!

 

I understand that for some demonstration is  a way more comfortable method but is it more effective????

 

 In my situation,  I knew I would learn more if I was doing it myself and Pat was coaching me.  I asked her if we could move to the coaching model…I told her I knew I would mess up but I also knew I would not kill her.  She agreed and now I’m doing it while she coaches me. I must say I am feeling more and more comfortable because although I am making mistakes (Yes, I used her dirty t-shirt for a moment during the sponge bath, no big deal I just cleaned her over again with a clean wash cloth)   I am seeing  quickly that I can do it. I don’t think I would have made the same strides if I was just watching her.
An interesting thought to ponder for those of who like to see demonstrations or who demonstrate for long periods of time in your positions in schools…

 

I know my audience is filled with teachers, staff developers, coaches and principles (and others as well)  and I hope this starts a conversation about ways that coaches and consultants should work in schools.  I know that when I leave Ariana and come back to work (gulp!!)   I will be even more adamant that demonstration should not be used over a long period of time because it tends to make people feel intimated by the person who is demonstrating.

 

Please know I will read all comments but probably won’t be able to respond the way I usually do. I hope that silence moves you all  to keep the conversation going with one another….fingers crossed 🙂

 

 

 

 

Until next time.

Leah

 

Copyright, 2013

25 Responses to Staff Development: Coaching verse Demonstration
  1. Erica Denman
    January 3, 2013 | 7:10 pm

    In true Leah fashion, you managed to make powerful connections to our world of teaching and learning by living outside of the school. I had enough trouble showering 10 days post babies—a blog is very impressive. Gradual Release of responsibility holds true!! Love you!

  2. Constance Foland
    January 3, 2013 | 7:25 pm

    That is so true about moving from demonstration to coaching! You’re smart to have a baby nurse. It all gets easier…

    Constance

  3. Jennifer Ross
    January 3, 2013 | 7:41 pm

    Congratulations to you Leah! Ariana is beautiful. Maria and I have just read this and are now considering how we will move our current PD in a coaching direction. Maria will be great at this and maybe I can do more of the PD….. hmmmm lots of thinking to do!!!

  4. Joan McGuire
    January 3, 2013 | 7:42 pm

    Leah,
    Congrats to you but mostly to that lucky babe to have landed in our world with Leah as her mom. She is a blessed child. I am proud to be a first grade/reading teacher and loved your blog entry about staff development and learning to mother. I already love you and your philosophy and will always remember the day I first read your work and knew I had found a home for my thoughts on the best teaching of literacy with little ones. My own main claim to fame however is that I have four almost grown “children” who now tell me quite freely what worked in their upbringing. They were four kids born in four years with a mom filled with bliss to be a mom and not much other support/financial wealth. They remember and claim these things made them the people they are today; hours and hours of discovering delicious books, learning about empathy and giving to others, traveling to locations that we read about with picnics ready, hours and hours in every library in the state, being cherished for who they were and not what we wanted them to be, museum visits and memberships aplenty, and our adventures of their design together. They have no memory of the fanciness of our home, lack of the latest toy or clothing due to finances, being the “only ones in town” without video games, struggles with having too many siblings so close in age, or feeling inferior to their peers at elite schools they all attended with scholarships. Some of those items were things I was sure would hinder them. Give that babe the full Leah experience of love and words. She is the luckiest babe around. As are you too as it is a wonderful ride this motherhood thing!

  5. Darlene Worth
    January 3, 2013 | 8:27 pm

    Congratulations! Leah. You’ve done this very well in VT when we’d plan 3-5 days of initial training. Then later in the school year schools invited you back for demonstration lessons in the classrooms of teachers who had worked with you. Only one lesson and then follow up discussion with the teachers at that grade span. They put it to use the next day when you weren’t there to demo for them. Teachers love having you do this but since you aren’t there every day, they try to put your demo to good use quickly. love the blog,

  6. Mary Lou Dunham
    January 3, 2013 | 8:34 pm

    Oh what a beautiful baby girl. Congratulations and best of luck to you. If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times, that Leah is so smart. And so once again you have proven me right. Enjoy every moment with Ariana. You are blessed and so is she. You will be a wonderful mother.

  7. Polly McFarlin
    January 3, 2013 | 8:46 pm

    Congratulations to you! Our young Vermont writer’s will be happy to hear your baby is here!

  8. Sue Desrochers
    January 3, 2013 | 9:54 pm

    Congratulations, Leah, on the birth of your beautiful Ariana! Enjoy your “rest” away from school. We’ll continue reading your blogs and looking forward to seeing you again in Vermont.

  9. Annette Romano
    January 3, 2013 | 10:40 pm

    Leah-Congratulations!! Your life will be changed in a positive and beautiful way and motherhood will impact your teaching. Enjoy the littleness-they grow way to quickly. Thank goodness babies don’t speak and will never remember all our mistakes.

    Your coaching experience really exemplifies the importance of building self efficacy.

    Take good care of yourself too!

    Annette

  10. Terry Ferland
    January 4, 2013 | 12:49 am

    Congratulations Leah and Ariana,

    I am so pleased to read about your latest adventure together. Parenthood has so many great rewards and some challenges. Your references to “coaching” is so fitting as you embark on your new journey. Discovery, wisdom, and personal growth all come with a bit of swaddling and a lot of empowerment from solid guidance. I will never forget your student reminder, “Can I give you a suggestion- even fifth graders response to this with enthusiasm during personal conferences.”

    I miss the VT sessions- but life in DC has become my new normal.

    Best wishes!

    Terry

  11. MaryBeth Crupiatlex
    January 4, 2013 | 12:59 am

    Congratulations Leah! Ariana is precious! I just want to hold her. I loved your post about coaching and demonstrating. You are right on the money …as always.

  12. Tina Hislop
    January 4, 2013 | 3:32 am

    King Street Primary, Danbury CT sends our love and congratulations! I love the connection of staff development to learning to take care of your precious little one. As I relate to my own experience ( I didn’t have a nurse – I guess I chose the no sleep method -you are so smart!). I think how I had to just jump in – figure it out and talk to my friends and family with situational struggles. The just in time coaching. Sometimes you need to struggle… And it feels good when you have success. Then you have a second child. 🙂 All the best Leah & Ariana!

  13. Lacy Chapman
    January 4, 2013 | 8:47 am

    Leah, Congratulations on your Christmas present!!! She is beautiful and a very lucky baby indeed! I’m looking forward to meeting this long awaited blessing! Ariana will always be your best teacher!
    lots of love to you both, Lacy

  14. Caryn Panarese
    January 4, 2013 | 1:45 pm

    Congratulations on your beautiful little miracle!!!! She is just gorgous and I’m so happy for you to experience motherhood.

  15. Joanna Palumbo
    January 4, 2013 | 10:01 pm

    Oh Leah! She’s beautiful. I am soooooo happy for you. And so much preciousness awaits. You wait and see. Reading to my baby girls brought me back to my love of children’s literature and I then left high finance for teaching. You and Ariana will visit the prairies with Laura Invalls, solve crime with Emcyclopedia Brown, grow up with Judy Blume, laugh with Amelia Bedelia and on and on…… Congrats and all my love, Joanna

  16. Kirsten Belrose
    January 4, 2013 | 11:54 pm

    Congratulations, Leah! Ariana is beautiful! Get ready to wear your heart on your sleeve! It is amazing how much you will grow, learn and change right along side of her. I did my best parenting “before I had children,” and had to realize that being I was going to make mistakes, and it wasn’t going to be “picture perfect” and always go the way I had planned…which is oh so true in the classroom. You have to be reflective and honest about your strengths and your weaknesses, and approach it with an open-mind and a willingness to take a look at what you are doing. Most of all, you need to relax, enjoy, and make sure your kids know you love them.
    Teaching and parenting are not so far apart, and I guess one of the many examples as a parent that will echo the value of “coaching” versus “demonstrating” lies in trying to teach your child to ride a bike. You have a way to go before you are here, but the reality is that you can’t teach a child to ride by showing them how it’s done. At some point you have to run along side of them, shouting out words of encouragement, telling them when to turn and slow down. Eventually, though, you just have to let them go and do it on their own. It is worth it in the end to see the sense of pride on their faces.

    Enjoy your little girl!

    Peace,
    Kirsten

    PS. Don’t be afraid to turn of the phone (it took me to number 3 to have the courage to do this).

  17. Kirsten Belrose
    January 4, 2013 | 11:56 pm

    Congratulations, Leah! Ariana is beautiful! Get ready to wear your heart on your sleeve! It is amazing how much you will grow, learn and change right along side of her. I did my best parenting “before I had children,” and had to realize that I was going to make mistakes, and it wasn’t going to be “picture perfect” and always go the way I had planned…which is oh so true in the classroom. You have to be reflective and honest about your strengths and your weaknesses, and approach it with an open-mind and a willingness to take a look at what you are doing. Most of all, you need to relax, enjoy, and make sure your kids know you love them.
    Teaching and parenting are not so far apart, and I guess one of the many examples as a parent that will echo the value of “coaching” versus “demonstrating” lies in trying to teach your child to ride a bike. You have a way to go before you are here, but the reality is that you can’t teach a child to ride by showing them how it’s done. At some point you have to run along side of them, shouting out words of encouragement, telling them when to turn and slow down. Eventually, though, you just have to let them go and do it on their own. It is worth it in the end to see the sense of pride on their faces.

    Enjoy your little girl!

    Peace,
    Kirsten

    PS. Don’t be afraid to turn of the phone (it took me to number 3 to have the courage to do this).

  18. Angela Baez
    January 5, 2013 | 12:40 pm

    Leah, you are the perfect mom for Ariana!
    Thanks so much for writing this – in the midst of your blissful/terrifying/exhausting time you have managed to staff develop me from afar and say things I really needed to hear in a way that resonates. Deeply! I’ve read the post twice and will read it again before Monday 🙂

  19. Leah Mermelstein
    January 5, 2013 | 12:58 pm

    Thanks everyone for your comments..It is so wonderful to hear reflections on both teaching and mothering from my friends and colleagues. Both are extremely helpful and welcomed 🙂 Looking forward to the continued conversation about both.

  20. Vicki Vinton
    January 5, 2013 | 4:59 pm

    First, brava, Leah, for being able to continue thinking while dealing with a new baby–my sleep-deprived mind was sludge for weeks, if not for months. And second, what a wonderful post! As I wrote the other week, think alouds in reading too often leave me feeling dazzled but daunted, and I’ve cut back on them dramatically, knowing that a ‘quick release’ often leads to more learning, precisely because there’s fumbling involved. And as a mom whose daughter just turned 22 yesterday, know that what your daughter will remember is your attention, not the dirty t-shirt (which I think has implications for classrooms as well).

    • Leah Mermelstein
      January 5, 2013 | 5:50 pm

      So true, Vicki ..I agree it has implications for mothering and teaching…i needed to hear that in terms of mothering and in terms of teaching I already believe it. 🙂

  21. Michelle Eriksen
    January 7, 2013 | 12:59 pm

    Congratulations, Leah! I so enjoyed reading your blog. I look forward to hearing more of your wise insight and connections between parenting and teaching.

    • Leah Mermelstein
      January 7, 2013 | 1:03 pm

      Thanks for reading and responding to my blog, Michelle!! It is great to hear from you. I have wonderful memories of working at your school. Are you still there?? I remember telling you I was trying to have a child…I hope we get the opportunity to work together again….I already talked to Lacy about traveling to London with Ariana…she would become quite the traveler 🙂
      Leah

  22. Adam Benson
    January 10, 2013 | 4:26 am

    All I can say is that I really enjoyed reading your blog entry and you are even more impressive than I already thought you were. Lucky little Ariana.

  23. Leah Mermelstein
    January 10, 2013 | 1:07 pm

    Love you Adam and can’t wait for you to meet Ariana next week…xo

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