What is it you do?

A note to a classroom + inspiration for a minilesson, just one of the things I do as a writing coach.

We were at a family reunion last weekend and had too-few minutes to visit with one of my favorite cousins who I only get to see once a year at the reunion. She asked, “So what exactly do you do?”

The easy answer:

  • I’m a writing coach.

And then:

  • I work with teachers, from kindergarten through secondary, helping them refine their writing instruction.
  • I have a second book coming out in a few months.
  • I write for Choice Literacy.
  • I lead professional development for schools and present around the country.

I don’t usually just lay it all out there, like that. Elizabeth said, “Is that all?” Haha.

Last Monday I was working with some teachers in my school district. A second year teacher asked, “So what is your position?”

The short answer:

  • I’m a writing coach.

And then (after the confused look):

  • I meet with teachers and plan for instruction.
  • I find resources for you.
  • I leave articles in your mailbox on topics you’ve said you want to know more.
  • I help arrange your space, bulletin boards, classroom library, writing center, computer files, the closet where ten teachers before you have stuffed their junk.
  • I observe and offer feedback.
  • I model.
  • I confer with students, alongside of the teacher.
  • I listen.


  • The long and the short of it, is I do whatever is necessary to help teachers grow in teaching writers. I love it, because I’m constantly growing in my understanding of how writers of all experiences work.

There’s also all of the behind-the-scenes work:

  • Meetings with administrators.
  • Meetings with other coaches.
  • Meetings with grade levels.
  • Planning sessions for professional development.
  • Leading professional development.
  • Attending professional development.
  • Organizing a curriculum.

And what I’m not:

  • An evaluator.
  • An administrator.
  • A tyrant.
  • Pushy.
  • Demanding.
  • Black and white.

I think an instructional coach is an amorphous position. It can mean many different things. In addition, often the nuances of the position change from school to school.  Just because there is a writing coach in your school, doesn’t mean it’s the same at my school. Just because I did one thing with the teacher across the hall, doesn’t mean I’ll do the same thing in your classroom.

Like most things in life, this is the best and the toughest all rolled into one.

And what it means for you, readers? As I was answering the same question, two days in a row, I was thinking, there are probably many blog readers who wonder the same thing. What is you do, Ruth?

The final answer:

I inspire people to tell their stories and, in turn, help others share theirs.

Because, you know, I believe story will change the world.