Instructional coaches cultivate the expertise of literacy teachers in multiple ways. As a literacy coach, I rely on The International Literacy Association’s (2015) framework of coaching activities to think about how I might work with teachers across a range of intensities.
Our coaching activities might range from building relationships with teachers to analyzing and changing teaching practice. While any coaching activity has the potential to transform teaching and learning, the more intense collaborations with teachers are better apt to produce the greatest results.
Yet, as coaches, we know all too well that higher levels of coaching and teacher engagement can be hard to reach for a variety of reasons. Here are some concrete steps you can take to ensure that your coaching continues moving teachers’ instructional practices forward.
Start with yourself. Take a moment to look at the chart and think about your coaching activities. What level do your coaching activities primarily fit into? Is one level more pronounced than the other? Are there places where your coaching could use a boost of intensity? Keep in mind that lower level coaching activities are essential to build relationships with teachers that lead to more focused coaching work later on. If you are new to coaching or new to your building, it is essential that you focus on these level 1 activities to build a strong foundation for coaching.
Name a goal. Where do you want to make a change in your coaching to strengthen teaching and learning in your school? Do you want to better lead student data meetings and shift the culture from problem-admiring to problem-solving? Or do you want to carve out more time for modeling and co-teaching lessons in the classroom? Make your goal concrete and post it in a place where you can refer to it often.
Identify challenges. What challenges might interfere with your more intense coaching work? Whose challenges are they? They might be your own unconscious discomfort or lack of confidence in working with teachers on such intense practices. Or, they might be organizational and school factors that hinder your coaching, such as scheduling issues or the inability to secure substitutes for coaching conferences and professional development.
Seek solutions. I once had an administrator say that we should never come to her with a problem, unless we already had a possible solution. It changed the culture of the building and helped teachers think out of the box. Match every challenge you identified with a possible solution. Connect with other coaches to share and problem-solve coaching challenges.
Take a risk. We often talk about literacy coaching in terms of the teachers’ experiences: that it can be intimidating and even risky to ‘put yourself out there’ and work with a coach to better your own teaching practices. But, we never seem to talk about how risky that can feel as a coach as well. We might doubt our own abilities, feel insecure working with particular personalities and choose lower level coaching activities because they are simply more comfortable. But, if we never take a risk, we never know what could have been and how many student lives we could have impacted if we only gave it a try. Start small with interested teachers ready for more intense coaching to build confidence in a new coaching practice. Then slowly shift your coaching to higher levels of intensity with other teachers based on readiness and experience.
Repeat. Over time, your own coaching skills grow in parallel with your teachers’ instruction. Be sure to set new goals for yourself, and your teachers, as you gain newfound skills and confidence.
So, what are your coaching goals? Share your goals below and join our Facebook community to let us know how we can help you reach them!