coaching · common core · literacy · professional development

Choice Literacy: Coaching the Common Core {Part 1 of 3}

Recently Deb Gaby and I attended a Choice Literacy Workshop called Coaching the Common Core. It was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended (and I’ve attended a lot of really great conferences!). The workshop was divided into three parts. Jennifer Allen, Heather Rader, and Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan led the three portions. As a way to reflect and share, I’ve decided to write a blog post capturing the way my thinking has been influenced by each of the presenters.

Jennifer Allen is a literacy specialist for grades 3-5 in a school district in Maine. She is also the author of Becoming a Literacy Leader: Supporting Learning and Change (Stenhouse, 2006) and A Sense of Belonging: Sustaining and Retaining New Teachers (Stenhouse, 2009).

Jennifer helped me realize my role as a literacy coach is more about nudging literacy movements than it is about teaching writers. Although I’ve always been a big proponent of empowering teachers, my focus has been on teaching writers. There’s nothing wrong with being enamored by teaching writers, however, this is only a portion of my job. Jennifer helped me see that the role of a coach is more about being a literacy leader.

She shared some of the practical ways she meets the needs of a large number of teachers and helped me to develop a new vision for my role — a vision that is more closely aligned to the expectations my district has for the position.

At one point, Jennifer shared how she helps train and support teacher leaders at her school. A workshop participant said, “That’s great how you can be that kind of leader in your school, but I’m on a teacher contract. I’m not an administrator.”

Jennifer said, “I’m on a teacher contract too, but I still do these kinds of things because it’s what we need. I talk with administrators so they know what we need to move forward. I’d reached a point where I couldn’t support everyone so we needed a new system.”

Jennifer helped me understand that it is the job of a literacy coach to lead the school on a journey toward constantly learning and evolving our literacy instruction. I’ve also realized I’ve reached a point where I’m hampered by the system. We’ve grown as much as we can within our current structure and it is my job, as a literacy coach, to work with administration to help develop a system where everyone can continue growing in their literacy practices.

When I shared some of these realizations with my curriculum director, she breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, she seemed to say, finally Ruth “gets” that she is a literacy leader. She responded with, “We need you being a leader in this area, because principals have so much on their plates and I have even more. It is your job to help us know where we should head to continue growing in literacy instruction.”

Jennifer helped me revise how I see myself and the role I hold in our school corporation.

11 thoughts on “Choice Literacy: Coaching the Common Core {Part 1 of 3}

  1. I am continually impressed and grateful for your ability to position yourself as a reflective learner in this space. I learn much from you because of that.


  2. This is big. I can’t imagine handling this. You keep growing. Is this part of your mission for you? I can see you doing this–see you doing anything you put your mind to.


  3. I hope you’ll blog more about your thinking in this area, Ruth. My admins are so supportive of me as a literacy coach and give me a lot of room to grow and evolve. I’d love to continue learning about how you view your role, as I’m always thinking about mine.


  4. The Reading Specialist position has been an ever-evolving role in our district. For me, literacy leadership has always been considered a high priority, while still working with our neediest students.


  5. No doubt, redefining roles for ourselves in the midst of change will be difficult for all, particularly if you are one of the Common Core states, with new assessments breathing down the backs of our necks soon. We’re going to need more collaboration, sharing and conversations … and the role of a literacy coach to help lead staff forward is key.


  6. We are having instructional coaches for the first time in our district. The 3-5 literacy coach will support teachers in nine elementary schools. Any ideas on how to do this? Our k-2 literacy coaches (2 of them) will cover the nine schools between them.


  7. Thanks for sharing what you learned. I’m eager to hear more. Even as a Title I teacher, collaboration has been the key to moving forward. It’s exhausting to make sure we are working together on the same goals for our kids. It’s also rewarding when our efforts produce growth.


  8. Thinking of our roles at work, at home, in life, can be eye opening. Good for you for taking the initiative to forge uncharted territory.


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