4 Tips for New Literacy Coaches and Instructional Coaches
* Am I prepared to support my teachers in their new learning?
* Do I have the energy to give all of myself another year?
* How do I best help all teachers; new and experienced?
* Where will I get new ideas instead of just using my boring old ones?
* Where do we go next?
Tip # 1 Listen
- Can you explain what you’re worried about?
- Tell me a little more about that.
- Have you tried that before?
- What could we do to make a difference?
- How can I help you with this?
- Here, have some candy. (Candy is a very effective planning tool)
Big Idea: You gotta listen to the people.
Tip #2 Be organized
|The two most important things I own: my calendar and my notebook.|
- A teacher stops me in the hallway and says, “Oh, I know we’re meeting on Thursday at 10:00, but I have an ARD at that time, so how about Friday at 2:30?”
- I get an email in March that reads, “I can’t seem to find that BOY data I sent you in August. Do you have a copy?”
- My principal says, “What date did we provide that training about levels of rigor last year?”
- Central office sends an email that says, “Instructional coaches, please ensure that all of your teachers entered in their MOY data online.”
- At a grade level meeting, teachers ask for their students’ performance data on a test from three weeks ago.
- At the end of the year, everyone has to turn in everything. This means you could potentially have to provide copies to teachers again of everything they’ve ever handed to you. (And occasionally they’ll request things they never handed to you at all, in the hopes that you might have it 🙂
|They’re not beautiful, but they are organized.|
So get a system. My system involves one notebook (for the entire year – I don’t write anywhere else), a calendar (paper and pencil; not electronic) a four-drawer filing cabinet, a hierarchy of folders on my laptop, and my literacy coaching binder. I carry my notebook, calendar, and a pen everywhere I go, no matter if I’m just heading to the bathroom. The one time I don’t have it is the one time a teacher will stop me to schedule something really important, and I need to make a note that says, “Find parent conference letter for Ms. SoandSo”.
This system helps me to know where everything is, and in the
everyday occurrence off-chance that someone needs another copy of something from seven months ago, I can usually find it. And it doesn’t even bother me that much, because the truth is that teachers are busy, sometimes frazzled, and I probably lost lots of stuff when I was in the classroom. So the big idea here is: Save everything and write everything down, and figure out a way to remember where you put it.
Tip #3 Budget your time
- Grade level meetings
- Meetings with leadership and central office
- Due dates
- Planning with individual teachers
- School events
- Scheduled observations
- Working with students
- Observing students in the classroom for RtI
- Classroom visits: “Visit second grade writing” in the time frame I want to visit them, or if I’m visiting some teachers one day and some another day, I’ll write in the teachers’ names.
- Time to work on documentation: “Finish Reading At-Risk BOY”
- Time to work on assessments: “Third Grade Reading Fiction/Poetry Test”
- Time to work on materials for teachers: “Fourth Grade Point of View Materials”
- Go to the bathroom.
- Eat lunch.
- Walk from one meeting to the next (rather than scheduling them all back to back!)
Tip #4: Know Your Job Description
This one is pretty important. Your principal (or possibly your district) has an idea of what your job is. If you have a different idea of what your job is, and you continue doing that job for any length of time, one of you will end up being pretty unhappy. When you apply for any instructional coaching position, it’s necessary to ask the principal, “What are the three most important things I need to spend my time on? Where will most of my time be spent?”
- Planning with teachers
- Training teachers
- Meeting with teachers to debrief data
- Modeling lessons for teachers
- Observing classroom lessons
- Providing feedback to teachers
- Writing assessments so teachers don’t have to
- Monitoring awards assemblies or special campus events
- Having a walkie-talkie (I hate walkie-talkies!) for use in fire drills and lockdowns
- Making copies of DRA so teachers don’t have to
- Sitting in leadership meetings, weekly
- Training at the district level, whatever they want me to train on
- Attending district and other level trainings
- Planning and running school events like Family Literacy Nights
- I’m sure there’s more, but I’m getting a little a little overwhelmed thinking about some of it.
So make sure you and your principal or admin are on the same page. It will make a huge difference in how both of you see your purpose and productivity!
Literacy Coaching is incredibly rewarding and interesting; each day is a new challenge to figure out with my colleagues. I love love love it, even when I feel like I’m underwater. Hopefully these tips will help you feel like you are underwater less often.
Looking for more resources to help you get started as an instructional coach? Check out my ebook, The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching.
That's a great post, Chrissy. I'm sure it will be a lot of help to all literacy coaches.
This is a wonderful list! I am going into my first year as a reading coach in my district and I am nervous and excited all at once. I even started a blog about my experiences! http://literacywithmrsl.blogspot.com/
Good luck Rebecca! Coaching is so exciting and interesting, and every day is different. I hope you love it!
Thanks so much! I'm beginning my journey as an instructional coach, and am feeling a little lost! I'm happy to have found your blog. You are welcome to just pretend you're writing all of your posts DIRECTLY to me! 🙂
I am also a brand new literacy coach (grades 2-4). As I'm seeing classrooms being set-up and listening to teachers discuss class lists, I'm feeling a bit sad and lonely. Oh, and scared to death!! This was a great post! I look forward to exploring your blog further. Thank you so much!
Thank you, Suzanne! I'm finally getting around to writing about what I spent 90% of my time doing ha!
I may do that, Mandy! It's helpful to have an audience 🙂 Thank you so much for visiting my blog, and good luck this year as an instructional coach!
It's scary at first, but it's great! I hope your year has started happily!
I think this was a wonderful description although I am well aware that all learning environments are not the same Thank You
This literally made me lol and woosah at the same time! Thank you for this post!
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Thank you for this! I am one week away from my school start date and I am a mess! This gives me a lot of great information to add to my to-do list!