Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Role of the Coach: Getting Back to the Basics

Jenny McFerin, K-2 Literacy Collaborative Trainer 

As this summer is drawing to a close I have been reflecting on how we, as coaches, can be easily pulled in multiple directions.  As we pull ourselves from one task to another, we become stretched so thin that our original form has taken new shape.  Summer is the perfect opportunity to pull ourselves back together, regroup, and set our goals for the upcoming school-year.  As the coach, our responsibilities should fall in 4 places: working with the school leadership team, teaching, coaching, and professional development.

  1. Working with the School Leadership Team:
    1. Have you scheduled monthly and/or bi-monthly meetings?  No one person can ensure quality implementation of strong literacy instruction.  Agenda topics like data, instruction, materials, professional development topics, status of the bookroom, etc… need to be revisited across the school-year.  Stakeholders from different grade levels, administrators, and teachers from various support roles are key contributors on this team.
  2. Teaching:
    1. As the literacy coach, it is essential that we are in the classroom teaching.  This opportunity allows us to refine our teaching craft while consistently linking theory into practice.  Teaching in a variety of grade levels is essential as we are also responsible for supporting teachers in other grade levels.  Teaching in the classroom gives us the knowledge and skills to coach and teach other teachers.
  3. Professional Development:
    1. Do you have a professional development plan for your building?  What are the strengths and needs of your students?  What are the strengths and needs of your staff?  Building your professional development through inquiry as you answer these questions will ensure quality and engaging sessions.
  4. Coaching:
    1. The most effective teachers engage in 14-18 coaching sessions per year.  Have you allowed a schedule that gives your teachers these opportunities?  Coaching provides teachers with time for reflection.  It is in times of reflection that instruction gets stronger.

 Stand strong in your beliefs and keep your priorities in check! 
 It’s going to be a great year!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Selecting the Right Person for Literacy Coach Training

By Sherry Kinzel, Intermediate/Middle School Trainer

How do I choose the right person for literacy coach training?  This is one question that I love to be asked, even though the answer isn’t a simple one. When an administrator asks this question, it reveals that (1) she understands how potentially significant the role of a literacy coach will be in her school and (2) there are specific attributes or skills that can make a coach more effective. So, what are those attributes/skills?  Listed below are a few to consider.

  • Effective classroom teacher (I know, obvious, right?)
  • Strong background in literacy practices to  meet the needs of all learners 
  • Manages time well
  • Well-organized
  • Reflective about his own teaching and open to constructive criticism
  • Uses data to inform instruction
  • Believes that ALL kids can learn
  • Respects the ideas of others
  • Builds strong positive relationships with colleagues
  • Doesn’t always have to be in charge
  • Doesn’t always take the credit when good things happen
  • Moderate to high levels of energy
  • Positive, positive, positive
  • Handles conflict thoughtfully
  • Understands her role is NOT to be an administrative assistant, but a coach for teachers

I recommend that you truly consider the list above before selecting a coach. Don’t treat it like a checklist. Reflect and consider when and where you have noticed these attributes/skills in the person you might recommend as a coach. Where’s your evidence that you are making a strong selection? Have you over-looked someone who does have all or most of these attributes/skills but hasn’t expressed interest in training as a coach yet?

Above all, the person you recommend for literacy coach training should consider himself to be a learner.  This one attribute can trump all others. Someone who views himself as a learner will constantly be open to new, more effective ways of teaching and learning. He won’t be thrown off course when the latest education trend comes down the pike. He will also respect others as they are learning new theories and practices and create a collaborative environment with colleagues.

I hope this blog helped generate some thinking about the critical decision you are about to make. If you need additional support in making a selection for literacy coach training, please feel free to contact Literacy Collaborative at www.lcosu.org.