Literacy Coaches: Three Ideas for Next Year’s Goals

Literacy Coaches

The sunshine has finally arrived, school is out for summer, and I’ve finally begun to organize the piles on my desk that have been accumulating for the last few months. As I sort through the remnants of the school year that has just ended, I’ve been doing some reflecting and goal setting.

Here are three ideas that you, too, might find helpful as you begin thinking about next year:

Goal #1: Student-Centered Coaching

I’ve been reading Student-Centered Coaching: A Guide for K-8 Principals and Coaches by Diane Sweeney, and it has changed the way I view my role in important ways, by shifting my focus more to the students.

If you were to observe my work as a coach in previous years, versus this year, you might not notice a huge change on the surface. I still work in classrooms, side-by-side with the teacher. Sometimes I demonstrate, sometimes the classroom teacher is the one doing the teaching. But my mindset has changed, and the type of feedback I give has changed.

I used to find myself saying things like, “According to the units of study…” or “The way other teachers do this is…” often with the goal of convincing the teacher to do something in a different way — because I’ve seen it work so many times in other schools, or because I know there is a large body of research supporting the change.

Now I find myself saying things like, “What I noticed about student engagement  was…” or “What I’m seeing in their writing is…” or “Have you noticed that your students…” I think I’m still sharing what I know about research and best practices — but now with a much clearer, much more student-centered purpose.

I also find that these conversations are much easier and more enjoyable to have with teachers when I’m focused on the students–something we both care deeply about.

Goal #2: Better, Not More, Communication

One of my (many) professional goals year in and year out is to communicate clearly with all the teachers I work with. This year, I tried out a few new things, and built on some things I’ve always done. These included:

  1. Sending out a nice letter at the start of my work, explaining my role & inviting input
  2. Sending out a Google Forms survey to get to know each teacher a little better
  3. Emailing before each visit with reminders and/or tips
  4. Sending out a nice letter summarizing my work at the end of a cycle or at the end of a string of visits
  5. Sending out a Google Forms survey at the end of my work to gather feedback
  6. Sharing ideas, photos, links via Twitter pretty much constantly
  7. Sharing a Google Drive folder with each group of teachers where I saved copies of every handout and agenda throughout the school year
  8. Establishing my own professional website to provide frequently-requested resources to everybody I work with
  9. And… and… and… you get the picture

Here’s thing, nobody reads the letters I send out (at least I don’t think they do…), only a handful of people responded to the Google Forms surveys, I worry about the number of emails I’m sending (and overwhelmed by the avalanche of emails I receive), and I don’t think anybody can find the Google Drive folders when they need them.

My goal next year is to make my communication more engaging for teachers. The districts and schools I work in are going to be different than the context you work in, but I do know this: no matter where you work, people get too much email, and nobody really likes reading it.

So I’m going to work on finding an engaging way to share what I need to share. A few ideas I’m working on:

  1. Somehow using my website to communicate with individual teachers and schools, so everything links to everything all in one place.
  2. Instead of emails before and after visits, maybe I will save everything to a Padlet or similar so that it’s more visually attractive and interesting for people to open up.
  3. Include the more important messages in the principal’s weekly memos or announcements, instead of another separate email.
  4. Continue brainstorming better ways to communicate throughout the year.

Goal #3: Connecting with Other Coaches

You may be the only literacy coach in your building (or even perhaps your district), but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. One of my goals for next year is to find ways to connect with other literacy coaches. A few ideas:

  • On Twitter, the hashtag #educoach has led to some great resources and people to connect with.
  • At conferences, seek out sessions designed for literacy coaches. Personally, I have always preferred sessions for teachers–I’m going to give this a try.
  • Seek out other literacy coaches in your area; set up or join a book group or study group. Meetup.com can be a great resource, depending on what’s going on near you.
  • Attend a coaching conference (the ones organized by TCRWP are incredible).
  •  Find professional books on coaching that meet your needs and invite others to read it as well, even if it’s from afar. Voxer is a great tool for a long-distance book conversation.
  • Write more about literacy coaching.

Literacy coaches, what are you goals for next year? What do you wish you had done this year, but didn’t get to do? Share your thoughts in the comments below.