Path to Expertise

Path to Expertise


Not sure I have written about the amazing guidance I got from my Reading Specialist team last school year.

Yesterday I had a brief breakdown, shaken off by my not-so-tactful-but-well-intentioned-sometimes-effective husband. The momentary panic happened because I felt thrown in a situation in which I am expected to do something I do not feel completely competent at. No scaffolding, no gradual release of responsibility, no questions asked. Just the expectation to be adult, professional, and capable – and, after I pleaded, a promise of support when needed.


Then today I saw the Reading Ladies back in last year’s school – where I still work half the day. And I remembered when I started teaching reading as part of their team last November. In a flash I relived the anxiety generated by doing something of high responsibility for the very first time. And I felt again grateful for how observant they were of my delicate moment, leaving some breathing windows throughout the day between groups, discussing each group and child with me, supporting my practice, allowing time to observe them at work, patiently answering not-so-smart questions I asked all day long. They were true mentors, and I learned the equivalent of several years of graduate school in those seven months.

Gradual Release of Responsibility

My year was not all breezy. As soon as I mastered the demands I had on my plate, they served me a chunkier scoop, adding challenges in the form of number of groups, types of students, and schedule changes. By the end of the year I felt more of a peer, sharing with them most of the burdens and joys, and having my experience validated and respected.

New Year, New Demands

I am thrilled to be challenged once again. And looking back to this experience I realize I can succeed. I can succeed because I have a solid education, because I have a strong will and character, because I am in a district that supports professional growth, and because I am surrounded by competent teachers, coaches, support staff, and principals. All I need to do is say “Yes” and ask for help when needed – and stop wining already.

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