Be the Chessboard

be-the-chessboardHave you ever engaged in a conversation with a person and walked away feeling like you just had an injection filled with drive and inspiration? Well, this was my morning…. I met a colleague and mentor of mine and she provided me with just the right dosage of inspirational advice. This summer has been tough as I begin to embrace a new identity and will be embarking on a new position this coming school year in my district as an instructional coach. I am leaving my fourth grade classroom behind. I find myself struggling a little with my purpose, my passion, and whether I will be a good coach of teachers? I know I am a good teacher, an excellent teacher… but each is a very different position. I know I am a strong leader and innovator and have had my hand in many positive leadership projects over the years. With every responsibility and every hat I have worn over the years, I have always strived to do my personal best. Do I have what it takes to be not just a good coach but anexcellent coach? The conversation I had a lunch today helped me come to understand how my role as a leader will be impactful and meaningful to me and the teachers I will be working with, despite the fact that I will not be directly working with the people I love so much… the students.

Giving credit to Benjamin Zander and his idea of “being the chessboard and not the pieces” my friend just finished reading his book, The Art of Possibility.  She told me I need to be the chessboard. I thought to myself, I need to read this book, and I love chess. Where in the world is this metaphor going?

While trying to embrace my new identity this summer, a goal of mine is to do a lot more listening. Ahhh… I have realized that I need to stop talking once in a while and just be quiet. I have listened to people I admire and engaged in conversations about student achievement, teacher leadership, making change, and balancing life.  Today, I learned from a simple lunch conversation with a colleague and friend that I need to be ok with being the chessboard and not the pieces. My passion for teaching is undeniable. I have always been excited to try new lessons and strategies for teaching. I love hearing all of the summer stories from my students, and most of all I love reaching that one student, you know, that one kiddo who a challenges you on a daily basis.  I will miss these things. My current struggle is where I am going to find my new passion now that my identity and role will be so different…. I have traded my bulletin boards and chapter books for a file cabinet, a wooden desk and 6×6 square feet of office space. Today my conversation was priceless and I hope that teacher leaders out there will be able to relate. I am excited! My plan this year is to be an excellent coach and do my personal best. I will continue with all of the leadership projects I have worked on over the years but step back a little more and be the chessboard. I will find my new passion in leading and empowering other teacher leaders to step up and be those change agents while building upon new strengths that my teachers have to offer and learning from them. I will be the chessboard.



Annie Diaz

Annie Diaz

Buckeye, Arizona

I teach fourth grade in the greater west valley of Phoenix. I am not one of those who have known since I was a little girl that I wanted to be a teacher. My parents aren’t in education so I couldn’t follow their footsteps. I don’t even remember many teachers from my childhood. Who inspired me to choose this profession? Well… I have two boys whom I love more than anything in the world. They are students in the 21st century.

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