Every literacy coach I have ever met has a particular organizational and planning system they prefer. Some choose to have binders organized by grade level and teacher. Others live by their agenda and have different folders and clipboards for coaching. Still yet, others have gone digital and have organized folders on their computers or in their Google Drives. Me? I have a blend of methods to meet my need for digital organization, but also provide the comfort of hard copy notes and sketchnoting I crave. I bring my laptop, my coaching notebook and other coaching tools like sticky notes and markers to each coaching session. While these methods might work well for in-coaching conversations, they do not translate as easily to virtual ones. I have had to reimagine my entire planning and preparation process to best meet the demands of virtual literacy coaching. Here are my top recommendations:
Create a coaching space. Many virtual literacy coaches work from home, often meeting with teachers after-school and in the evening hours so the school day is not disrupted. This can bring an additional coaching challenge: finding a quiet place to meet virtually (other than hiding in the back of my closet to muffle the sounds of my family!). It is critical to carve out a space for your coaching, even if small or in an odd location. I have a small corner in my basement that I have outfitted with a small desk, chair and office supplies. This virtual coaching space is out of the way, fairly quiet and has a good wifi signal. I hung decorative shelves as a recording backdrop and added my favorite books, educational quotes and pieces of my children’s school artwork. While I may be in a tiny corner of the basement, the professional feel energerzies my work. Can’t find the space? A decorative tri-fold presentation board behind you works well as a backdrop to cover the stack of laundry that might be nearby. =)
Have the materials you need handy. When coaching in person, you might bring your notebooks, sticky notes, pens and lesson materials to enhance coaching conversation. While this kind of interaction isn’t possible virtually, having the materials you need to ensure your virtual visits go smoothly is essential. I have my materials in my desk drawer, but you can keep them in a small box or bag so they are portable:
- While you may not need them, have back-up earphones or earpods closeby to ensure you can hear online and a microphone to ensure others can hear you.
- When coaching in person, I often take notes on a shared Google Doc, but this is harder to manage when working virtually. Instead, I take notes during our meetings in my notebook and then reflect digitally in a shared document instead.
- Gather pens, pencils, highlighters and sticky notes and any other tools you like to use for note-taking.
- It doesn’t hurt to also have a water bottle or cup of coffee on hard to give the virtual meeting a more relaxed feel as well!
Get organized digitally. Virtual literacy coaches often work with multiple teachers in multiple schools, even in multiple states! If this describes your coaching, then you also work with multiple curriculums, assessment plans, teacher resources and more. To be effective, you must organize these materials and be able to access them when and where you need them. Consider creating Google Drive folders to organize your coaching materials, even color coding them if you wish. By doing so, you will have access to them for your virtual meetings no matter where you are or what device you are using. You can even access them without wifi access, as long as you enable offline access in your settings.
Live by your calendar. My Google calendar is my lifeline. It not only keeps track of my coaching life and virtual meetings, it helps me organize them color, sends me useful reminders and even has space for important information, such as the meeting link, agenda and even links to files and websites. When you work remotely, planning and time management is absolutely essential. Be sure to not only schedule in time for your virtual visits, but for viewing classroom videos, providing feedback and for your own reflection and notes for coaching.
Indulge yourself. I used to buy the plain notebooks, the functional supplies and limited ‘frivolous’ purchases, like velvety pens and colorful markers. Fast forward ten years and you will see my buying the largest set of Sharpie markers and the cute teacher stickers to decorate my supplies with. I have learned that color and shapes bring joy to my life, and to others. Give yourself permission to surround yourself with what makes you happy and that happiness will leap through the lines of your wifi to your teachers.
While being a virtual literacy coach brings unique challenges, think about the many teachers you are impacting with the work you do and their many students that will also benefit as a result. We may not have an in-person coaching space, but we have a far-reaching impact with the work we do. Celebrate!
This was the second post in a blog series on virtual literacy coaching as part of an exciting partnership with Sibme. Head here to read all posts in the series and join the conversation!