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Learner, Teacher, Leader, Family Member Interview #4: Patricia Coldren, NBCT

Patricia Coldren was one of my first mentors as a teacher, and quickly became a role model for me as an educator and young adult. Patricia stepped into the role of Beginning Teacher Coordinator for my district halfway through my first year teaching. She created a focus group to get feedback for the programming for new teachers AND applied for an awesome grant within her first few months in this new role. She asked for proofreaders for the grant, I jumped on the opportunity (I was still in the "Say YES to EVERYTHING" stage of my career...), and that led to me finding my place in the world of public education - working with new teachers as they transition into a new role, so they can create the best learning environments for their students while thriving and growing as teachers and people. The more time I spent with Patricia, the more I saw how she has created an artful kind of balance. Does she bring work home? YES, she works in public education and is tasked with helping new teachers in a district with high teacher turnover and many lateral entry teachers. BUT, she also lets home mix with work in some creative ways that make her devotion to her work more sustainable. And, she makes time for her hobbies and ongoing learning. Enjoy learning about teaching and learning and life from our interview!

Through the Take the Lead program Patricia spearheaded, I learned that teacher turnout at the polls is low. We need to learn how and where to speak up if we want to improve public education! By making advocacy a part of new teacher programming, Patricia challenges teachers to improve not only learning in their classroom, but to improve the quality of the profession as a whole.

  1. Tell readers a little bit about yourself! Who are you? What do you do? What excites you about the upcoming year? My name is Patricia Coldren. I am a wife, mother, and teacher. Currently I work in a small school district in the heart of North Carolina. I should also mention it's the same district I grew up in and have worked in for almost 22 years now. My current title is Beginning Teacher Coordinator, but as in many small districts we all wear multiple hats and I also dip my hand into instructional technology and district initiatives like MTSS. I love reading, playing the piano, cooking, photography and most of all my little red headed ball of energy called my son. My newest interests...or maybe rebooted interests...are nutrition and fitness as I'm trying to make sure I set an example for my son for living his best life. I am most excited about my new Adventure List for the year which includes beginning to work on my first book (still debating the topic), sharing my love of riding roller coasters with my son, hiking in at least 3 national parks and spending much more time outside (when it stops raining!!!).

  2. What is the most interesting/meaningfu/helpful/cool thing you learned? Where did you learn it? How did you learn it? I grew up on a farm. Looking back on all the sweat and labor, I know realize that I learned a lot of life's best lessons from my childhood experiences. Specifically I learned to get my hands dirty. As a classroom teacher I was always building something, painting something, creating something, making mess in the classroom. At the time I didn't think that was special. It was just my norm. But now that I've had the opportunity to observe hundreds of classrooms...learning is messy. And if it isn't a little bit messy kids will not make lasting connections with what they are learning. Learning is participatory.

  3. What is a ritual or tradition that your family had that you loved? Or that you have right now that you love? Our family ALWAYS had dinner together. You can bet that even today at 5:45 pm on Logan Farms it is time to get ready for "supper." We ate together, watched the news, talked about the day, laughed. It seems like such a simple thing...but it was that consistency that made me feel safe. I could always count on it. Today that seems so difficult to do, between work schedules and after school activities, but my new commitment this year is to have a "Dinnertime Devotion" at least twice a week where we start our meal with a short devotion and scripture reading and then spend at least 30 minutes together at the table. Right now I'm setting a time, but I'm interested to see what happens in a few weeks when I turn the time off.

  4. What are your daily musts and why? Each day I spend a few minutes at the end of the day to review my schedule for the next day and identify my 2 big professional and one personal. If I get the other things on my task list completed that's great, but I will feel accomplished if I get those two things checked off. My other daily must is making sure I spend time listening to my child. It's easy to pretend you are listening when you are cooking dinner, etc. But multi tasking is a myth. So I get down on his level, eye to eye and really listen to what he's saying. It might be another mindless fact about Minecraft...but it's super important to him and I want to make sure he knows that what he has to say is super important to me! During good weather I also MUST get outside for part of the day.

  5. If you could change one thing about teaching and learning, what would it be and why? If I could change one thing...the testing culture that we exist in currently. It drives away so many powerful and wonderful things about learning. It also promotes an academic focus at an age when we should be focusing on social emotional development. Many of the behavior issues we see in later grades could be traced back to the lack of social emotional focus in earlier grades.

A few notes of reflection on Patricia's responses:

A theme that I think underlies Patricia's work and life is to slow down and engage meaningfully. Y'all, I have seen this woman at work. Her days are HECTIC. She'll be in the middle of an MTSS meeting and find out she has a new teacher starting the next day (or later that day...), totally changing her week. She knows how to delegate and organize - I'm honestly not sure if there's a workflow application that could keep up with the complexity of the tasks she delegates. And yet, she takes time to slow down, talk to teachers, students, family, etc. Her ability to slow down and step into conversations, whether they are about Minecraft with her son or mClass with a teacher or the state of education with a colleague. And, it is through those conversations that Patricia finds people's strengths and passions and helps cultivate them in some way. I used to get frustrated at work meetings that seemed more social than productive. It took having a child and stepping out of the hustle of full-time teaching for me to see the value in building deep relationships with the adults at work too, and I'm so glad I had Patricia to model that for me.

And again, that theme of testing... I was thinking about this the other day. And here are a few of my rant-y thoughts on the topic. Standardized tests are generally rather flawed and culturally & socioeconomically & racially biased. We already know what the tests are going to say. They are going to say our poorer districts are struggling to meet educational needs of children. What if we replaced just one of the myriad of tests we administer with a few additional high interest books? Another part-time reading tutor? I bet we'd get closer to closing some opportunity gaps that way than we do by handing children another test.

Thank you Patricia for helping me, and so many others, find and grow their passions! I can't wait to work with you again!

Share some messy, participatory learning from your family or classroom using #watchwonderbloom!

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