T What Is a Literacy Coach? 60

Marsha Riddle
Coskie,
Robinson,
Kathy
Egawa, editors
F R O Buly,
M T H ETracy
C OAC H
E S ’ C O RLeAnne
N E R | What
Is a Literacy
Coach
page
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What Is a Literacy Coach?
T
his is an exciting, and perhaps
somewhat intimidating, time for
teachers in the middle. It is a time
when teachers are being asked to open
their classroom doors to someone called
the “literacy coach.” You might be asking, what exactly is a literacy coach? We
have asked the same question, and are
wondering further: Who makes a great
coach? Do all coaches do the same thing?
And why are so many districts adding
coaching to their professional development support? These are questions we
will address over the next two years.
We hope this column will be helpful to all teachers who find themselves acting as literacy coaches
Experienced SCRI regional coaches address the questions of a new
cohort of literacy coaches. Left to right: Trina Randle, Marie Crawford,
Patti Hunnicut, and Becca Driggers.
in classrooms across the country as well as the
teachers with whom they collaborate. As middle
level educators deeply connected to schools and
school districts, we have been bombarded with
questions on this topic. Those questions started
us on a quest to find out more about the roles of
adolescent literacy coaches, qualifications for effective coaches, the learning journeys of everyone
involved, and the impact that might be attributable to literacy coaching.
We are very aware that literacy coaching has
been defined in multiple ways and that coaching
models have manifested themselves into very different practices. Our focus will be on coaching
models of a collegial nature, where the primary
role of the coach is to support teachers to become
more reflective, to refine what they are doing, to
set goals, and to share with another their least successful instructional attempts. This model requires
that coaches take a non-evaluative, respectful role
in order for trust to develop. Carol Lyons and Gay
Su Pinnell, in their book Systems for Change in Literacy Education: A Guide to Professional Development
(Heinemann, 2001), identify trust as one of the
critical factors in this kind of professional development.
Our early research shows that teachers and
coaches are willing to talk candidly about their
experiences. This is not a surprise, as we’re focusing on districts that have built the kind of coaching model where disclosure is part of daily practice. The learning steps of both the teachers and
of the coaches are openly shared with one another,
and it is assumed that “making mistakes” is part of
the learning process. Coaches play the role of “lead
learner in a community of learners,” rather than
experts with all the answers.
Voices from the Middle, Volume 12 Number 1, September 2004
Copyright © 2004 by the National Council of Teachers of English. All rights reserved.
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The vignettes we will share come from systems with varying experiences and configurations.
One district is moving into its third year with
middle school literacy coaches and its second year
with high school coaches. A second district is
building from its strong primary grades coaching
model as it begins the first year of middle level
coaching this fall. A third program is nested within
the South Carolina Reading Initiative (SCRI), a
statewide literacy initiative that has embraced
coaching at its core.1 Experienced SCRI middle
grades coach, Marie Crawford, offers us a first visual look at what a coach is and is not [see Figure 1].
Our plan is to end this column series with a
focused analysis of the results of these efforts to
illustrate the impact of coaching initiatives on
teachers, students, and school systems. We look
forward to hearing your questions and concerns
so that you can help guide our exploration and
the content of this new column. We would love to
hear stories from your school’s coaching model if
they can add new perspectives to this endeavor.
Contact us at [email protected]
In The New Meaning of Educational Change
(Teachers College Press, 1991), Michael Fullan
laments, “Nothing has promised so much and has
been so frustratingly wasteful as the thousands of
workshops and conferences that led to no significant change in practice when teachers returned to
their classrooms.” Coaching has the potential to
be powerful in ways that isolated workshops, criticized by Fullan and others, have not. Coaching
for reflective teaching takes place in the classrooms
of real teachers with real kids and occurs on an
ongoing basis. We look forward to a continued
conversation with you as coaching enters more
middle school classrooms.
1
For more information about SCRI, see http://www.ncte.
org/profdev/onsite/readinit/groups/110385.htm.
One who trains
intensively by
instruction,
demonstration,
and practice
↓
A Small
Group
Tutor
is
is not
SCRI-MG
Literacy
Coach
is
↓
↓
is not
↓
is not
is
example
example
↓
non-example
non-example
non-example
↓
Substituting
for a Sick L A
Teacher
Evaluating
the
Performance of
a Teacher
↓
Conferring
with a Teacher
↓
Demonstrating
in Classrooms
Observing
in
Classrooms
↓
↓
“Fixing”
a
Teacher
Figure 1. Graphic definition of literacy coach
Voices from the Middle, Volume 12 Number 1, September 2004
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A
Facilitator
A Supporter
of
Classroom
Instruction
example
A Substitute
Teacher
↓
A Learner
↓
↓
A Writer of
Curriculum
Maps
Dictionary Definition
of Coach
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