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What Is Virtual Literacy Coaching?

I have dedicated my career to supporting educators and building shared teacher expertise for the sake of our students. More than ever, our students deserve teachers who understand how literacy develops, have strong content and pedagogical knowledge and connect with students to ensure instruction is engaging, authentic and relevant. And more than ever, our teachers deserve professional learning experiences that are built on the principles of adult learning, honor the knowledge and experience that teachers bring and cultivate a mindset of lifelong learning.

As a literacy coach, I create spaces for learning that build teacher expertise, spark intentional reflection and connect philosophy to pedagogy. Together, we work from a place of authentic inquiry to envision instruction and strengthen teaching and learning. My work is intentional, fosters professional curiosity and models the pedagogy advocated for in classrooms to re-imagine teaching and learning for students. All aspects of literacy coaching have the potential to impact the classroom and student learning, but coaching in the classroom places the focus squarely on the teachers and students. Previously, my coaching was confined by the boundaries of geography and location, but digital tools and technology have broadened what is possible: enter virtual literacy coaching. So, what is virtual literacy coaching?

Virtual literacy coaching is exactly what is sounds like: literacy coaching translated to an online, digital or virtual platform. Coaching conversations move online, classroom coaching shifts to video and professional sharing happens digitally, rather than in the hallways. Virtual coaching breaks down the walls of our classrooms and connects educators and coaches together in personalized ways unique to each partnership. What might virtual coaching look like?

Just as coaching partnerships can come in many forms, so can virtual coaching. But generally, educators and coaches engage in coaching cycles and conversations the same they would in person, but do so virtually through video such as Google Hangout, Zoom or Skype. Coaching cycles begin with a virtual conversation to get know each other and talk about shared goals for the partnerships. Since the coach cannot physically be present in the classroom, they observe teaching live through video streaming as if they were present in the room. Or, teachers record clips of their literacy instruction and upload videos through a private platform (I prefer Sibme!) to share with the coach. The coach views these videos and gives specific, personal and time-stamped feedback specific to the goals of the partnership, often sharing articles, blog posts and resources to support teaching. The teacher and coach then come back together for another virtual visit to discuss the process and continue the cycle of learning together.

These virtual coaching cycles offer unique opportunities for coaches and teachers to partner around teaching and learning in the comfort of our own classrooms and homes on our own terms based on own goals as educators. It empowers teachers to take control of their own learning and share only what they choose, ensuring a low level of risk for teachers.

But it also brings unique challenges: fostering professional relationships with educators you’ll never meet in person, planning and preparing for virtual coaching sessions rather than in person, facilitating coaching conversations through a computer screen, taking special care with printed feedback, examining artifacts of student learning digitally and more. In this upcoming series of blog posts, I’ll tackle each of these challenges and offer suggestions to make the most of a virtual coaching partnership.

As part of this series, I’ve curated a collection of resources designed specifically for virtual literacy coaches in hopes to support our work and connect together. I’ve gathered links to virtual coaching projects and programs, articles and blog posts on virtual literacy coaching, research to guide our work and options for our own professional learning.

Are you a virtual literacy coach? Be sure to stay tuned for the next series of posts to explore our work together! I’ll compile all of the posts in the series here and hope you’ll join the conversation!


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