I’ve been a coach and/or consultant for over a decade, but I still feel like every day is my first day. There hasn’t been a school year for me without big changes: new assignments, new staff to support, new structures and schedules, often even whole entire new schools for me to connect with.
I read tons of coaching-related professional books, I attend courses and conferences and do everything I can to be the best I can be at my job — and I still always have more to learn.
Having said that, experience has taught me a few things that I think have served me well. The end of the school year is a highly important time for me as a coach. There are three really important tasks that I work hard to complete:
- Survey, talk to, and reflect with teachers
- Create next year’s plans, make them easily accessible to all involved
- Reach out to incoming administrators and teachers
For me, these are so important to do now, not in the fall. The fall is an incredibly busy time for everyone in schools. It can be challenging to get input from teachers, or have meetings with principals. They are busy getting classrooms ready! Besides, teachers should ideally have all the information for fall ahead of time—not at the last minute. Nobody likes to plan for their first unit, only to find out that the group is going to decide something else the week before school starts. If my job is to support teachers—not frustrate them—May or June is the time to get the ball rolling for the fall.
End-of-the-Year Task #1: Survey, talk to, and reflect with teachers and adminstrators before the year is out.
Truthfully, I’m not actually doing this right now, in the final week of school. I already did it several weeks ago!
If you haven’t already, finding a way to reflect with your colleagues is one thing you don’t want to skip as a literacy coach. Without their feedback input, your coaching plans will be your coaching plans, not theirs. Even if your position comes with certain requirements that are out of your control, gathering input and feedback will help you strengthen your relationship with the teachers you support.
A few reflection questions to ask teachers to inform your planning as a literacy coach for the next school year:
- How can I support you?
- What worked this year?
- What were your students’ overall strengths this year?
- What were the areas where your students needed more support this year?
- What are things you tried this year that you hope to keep in place for next year?
- What are things you tried this year that you do not want to keep for next year?
- Which units were your students’ favorites? Least favorites? What made those units so successful or not-so-successful?
- What are your professional learning goals for the coming year?
- Where have we been? Where are we now? Where are we going? (In reading, writing, phonics, or any area we’ve studied together professionally?)
These reflections might take place in the form of group or one-one conversations, or might be done using a survey or questionnaire. If your school are district has another structure in place already, see if you can coordinate your methods with the existing system, so teachers aren’t doing this twice.
A few ways to organize and analyze this information:
- This year, I used a google form as a survey so that teacher responses fed into an organized spreadsheet. I also conducted reflection conversations with some grade-levels instead, and took copious notes. All of this was typed and fed to one big spreadsheet, so I’m able to search for key words, and copy/paste into different formats if need be.
- I collected a lot of responses, and the questions were open-ended, so once I had my mega-spreadsheet containing everyone’s feedback and ideas, I coded each response with a keyword to create categories. For example, if ten people responded in different ways that they’d like to have time to plan with colleagues, in an extra column on my spreadsheet I categorized all those responses “Planning w Colleagues.” In the end, I had a number of different categories such as “Planning w/Colleagues,” “Coaching Cycles,” “Labsites/Modeling,” “Professional Book Study,” or “Data Teams.” I also had lots of responses related to various aspects of teaching literacy, so I tagged those too with “Reading Workshop,” “Writing Workshop,” “Phonics,” “Guided Reading,” “Conferring” and more. Using categories helped me tally up the numbers of responses in each category, and wrap my head around trends and patterns among teachers – getting to the heart of what people were saying would be most supportive.
- I always like to cross-analyze teacher responses with trends in student data. A quick look at my district’s reading and writing data helped me connect what teachers were saying to what was going on with students. This lead me to more questions and ideas about the direction we could go with professional learning next year.
End-of-Year Task #2: Create a loose draft of next year’s plans, and make these accessible and available for feedback.
In my role, there are a lot of important documents that get created for next year. For example: throughout May, each grade level met with me to collaboratively plan a literacy curriculum calendar for next year, plus our district ELA curriculum committee met and made important decisions regarding our common assessment plan for next year. Soon I’ll have schedules for classroom visits and other important dates to share as well. Over the summer, a team of teachers will work with me to create a scope and sequence for phonics and handwriting.
It’s tempting to send all of this to every teacher immediately-right now! But I know that in doing so, it could be incredibly overwhelming. The teachers I work with are in the middle of their last week of school, report cards are due, many are packing up classrooms to switch rooms, and it’s been the most exhausting, challenging school year on record. They really don’t need next year’s Common Assessment Plan in their inbox today, with no time to discuss it or get questions answered.
Together with the other instructional coaches and our curriculum coordinator, we’ve worked to be strategic about how we share information. We have a website that serves as our curriculum hub, and we try hard to consolidate emails so that teachers aren’t getting peppered with constant messages. If something can go in an existing staff newsletter, I try to do that, reserving group emails only for when I really need them.
Since teachers collaborated with me back in May to create our literacy curriculum calendars, those are already on our website so all educators have access to them. They are shared google docs embedded into the site, so that as we revise them throughout the school year, everyone will always see the latest changes.
Next year’s revised assessment plan, we decided, could wait until August, when it can be shared with teachers along with some conversation and support so they have time to unpack it and get questions answered. Same with the phonics scope and sequence, once it’s ready. Both of these will also live our curriculum website.
My dates and schedules will happen over the summer, with the help of each administrator, tailored to each of the five schools I support in my district. Some of my schools are tiny, so one email to the entire staff with the schedule will suffice. While other schools are a little larger, so I’ll probably do a little more follow-up and confirmation with individual teacher or team to be sure everyone gets the information.
Here a few past resources related to June Planning that you might find helpful:
End-of-the-Year Task #3. Reach out to incoming new teachers, administrators, and anyone switching grades or positions.
All of us have been the new person on a team at one point or another in our lives. In my experience, the literacy coach is often well-suited for supporting people who are transitioning to a new role, yet teachers often don’t know that they could reach out to the coach for support with this – especially new teachers and administrators. A quick email just to check in, or providing a few links to key resources is a great way to make a connection and start your work together on the right foot.
I work at multiple sites, so near the end of the year, I’ll send an email to each principal to let them know I’m available to support any people new to their position, and I’ll check in again later in the summer with principals, in case there were more changes in assignments.
Wrapping Up Loose Ends
Last but not least, as the school year wraps up and I head into the summer, I try to take a little time to write my own reflections, goals, and plans for next steps. I clean up my office, reorganize my books and materials, and get reset for fall.
This summer, in addition to facilitating some phonics-related work, I’m taking two phonics-related trainings for myself, and my professional goals are to find clarity on how systematic phonics instruction and workshop teaching complement together. (I am confident that they do). I’m hoping that by fall, I’ll have my own coaching “Playbook” (a la Jim Knight) for phonics and word study support.
What’s on your must-do list for the end of the year and summer? Share your ideas and ask your questions in the comments below.
Literacy Coach, Consultant, Author, Graduate Course Instructor, and Mom. Passionate about fostering a love of reading and writing in learners of all ages.