Forum 1: Building Relationships of Coaches and Principals

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Nancy Shanklin, Thu December 07, 2006, 04:17 PM MST

Launch of the LCC Forums

With this entry, I am launching the first forum of the Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse. The main difference between LLC Forums and the LCC Blog is that the forums are about a single topic while topics in the blog are much more immediate and less controlled. The plan of the LCC Advisory Board is to launch a forum once per month. The Forum will remain open for two weeks, close, and the conversation will be edited for clarity and posted in the website. Each member of the LCC Advisory Board will host a forum.

We are still working out who from the Advisory Board wants to do what topics and exactly when each forum will start. When this schedule is worked out, we will post it in the website. We hope gradually to incorporate uses of audio and video clips into some of the forums. The forums will allow us to have more extended discussions of important topics in literacy coaching as a community of learners. We hope you will find the forums useful, informative, and something that you want to participate in.

Forum 1: Building Relationships of Coaches and Principals Hosted by Nancy Shanklin

There has been much discussion in the LCC blog about ways coaches might establish relationships with teachers at the opening of the school year or when they are newcomers to buildings. Reading these exchanges suggests that it is helpful for literacy coaches to establish good relationships with their principals. Principals are instrumental in setting the vision and tone for each school. In many cases, they are held ultimately responsible for students’ literacy learning as reflected in achievement scores.

Early information on literacy coaching steered clear of discussing coaches’ needs to build relationships with principals for fear that coaches would be seen as evaluators. As coaching has become more accepted in both education and business, it is now clearer that coaching works best when coaches’ roles are to help individuals reflect upon and strive to perform their jobs better. Others in the organizational structure need to perform evaluative functions.

In some of the new books reviewed in the LCC website, authors are beginning to suggest how literacy coaches might develop high quality relationships with their principals. The ideas offered by these authors seem helpful and worth discussing at this point in the school year. After I share some of these authors’ ideas, I hope that we can begin to discuss our own experiences and ideas. During the second week of the forum, I will include audio interviews with a few coaches in the Denver area to learn how they have built successful relationships with their principals.

A brief review of useful information on building relationships with principals from recent books follows. Of course, you may want to read each of these books on literacy coaching more thoroughly for further information.

What Recent Authors Have to Say

The Reading Coach by Jan Hasbrouck and Carolyn Denton

Hasbrouck and Denton have included a chapter specifically addressed to principals. They acknowledge that principals may not have time to read the entire book, but that, “they wanted to be sure that you were given an opportunity to get an overview of the role of reading coach and to consider how coaches can work most effectively in a school with support from their primary supervisor.” (p. 91)

Hasbrouck and Denton list many of the potential job functions that a coach may serve and suggest that a principal work closely with a coach to define his/her role. They suggest that a principal and coach agree upon the rationale for the new role in the school, describe the coaching process that will be used (and share it with teachers), and determine other tasks that the coach will undertake (and not undertake). They also suggest that the coach and principal develop priorities for use of the coach’s time. Finally, they suggest that a principal needs to work out with the coach ways that his/her performance will be evaluated. The book contains many forms that would help a coach to plan and use time well. The forms would also help a coach to document his/her actions and subsequent changes to instruction that teachers’ make.

The Literacy Coach’s Survival Guide by Cathy Toll

Toll has created a helpful list of items that a coach might discuss in a first meeting with a principal. Important items for this first meeting include going over the coach’s job description (or making one if it doesn’t exist); visions for literacy coaching by the principal and coach; and the history of coaching, professional development, and literacy instruction in the building. Toll also suggests that a coach discuss with a principal his/her preferred means of communication and first steps for meeting teachers, parents, and students. She suggests that the coach ask the principal about priorities for the next year and resources that will be available for materials, staff, etc. The coach might also explain his/her plans for individual and small-group meetings. Finally, the coach ought to determine a regular time that they might meet with the principal or be sure to schedule, at least, the next meeting.

Responsive Literacy Coaching by Cheryl Dozier

In her new book, Dozier has written a chapter more jointly addressed to both coaches and principals. She suggests that a coach invite administrators to become part of every professional learning experience such as study groups, grade level meetings, and demonstration teaching, etc. Such participation encourages administrators to signal that they are interested in and part of the learning community in their buildings. She also suggests that principals need to be mindful of the schedules they develop for coaches’ that make it easier for them to schedule professional development sessions and one-to-one coaching sessions.

Content-Focused Coaching by Lucy West & Fritz Staub

While this book was written with math coaches in mind, it is very useful for helping a coach and principal think about their relationship. The book also talks about the roles that district central office administrators can play that will most support coach and principal efforts at the building level. There are two excellent, comprehensive chapters that give a coach and principal much to talk about in practical terms based largely upon work in District 1 in New York City. The chapter on principals begins with a list of questions that a coach may want to discuss with a principal. It suggests that the coach will want to obtain a “picture” of the school and along with the principal select teachers to work with. The chapter directly talks about conflicts that may arise between principal and coach priorities and gives suggestions for resolving such conflicts. In the authors’ views: “The long-term goal of coaching is to create a collaborative professional community. Even though the coach is in the business of nurturing potential leaders and is unlikely that people who resist change will emerge as leaders in the first or second years of an initiative, it is important that every teacher be treated with respect and compassion.” (p. 129)

West and Staub believe that it is important for coaches, teachers, and administrators to work toward building consensus. They suggest that while the coach’s role is primarily to assist teachers and not to evaluate them, clear ongoing feedback about progress is essential. They suggest that the relationship between coach and teacher(s) is professional with emphasis on using the coach’s expertise to assist teachers’ in developing their skills to help students increase their achievement. The chapter offers traps that coaches and principals might land in, ways to prevent them in the first place, and practical advice about solving them. Continuing dialogue between coach and principal is important. The chapter for central office administrators places much emphasis on the development of a whole district as a professional learning community.

Literacy Coaching: The Essentials by Katherine Casey

Somewhat the opposite of Hasbrouck and Denton, Casey addresses a chapter of her book explicitly to coaches about how to build relationships with principals. She acknowledges that relationships with principals are often de-emphasized to prevent assumptions by teachers that coaches are evaluators. But, she argues, “I believe the solution is to work to establish healthy relationships with clear boundaries and communication so that all adults are working together toward instructional improvement.” (p. 37)

Casey makes many concrete suggestions for coaches to follow. In some ways the chapter parallels some of the advice given in by West and Staub but is specific to literacy.
She suggests that coaches establish and maintain clear boundaries with both teachers and principals. Casey suggests that it is important for a literacy coach to clearly understand a principal’s vision for a school and for literacy learning. She gives concrete suggestions for helping a coach and principal come to more consensus about beliefs on literacy learning: invitations to demonstration lessons or to learning lab sessions and debriefs. She talks about determining what is going well in a building and areas of concern with learning and teaching. She offers suggestions for understanding how the principal sees the role of the coach and how decisions are made about which teachers to work with. She offers ways that a coach can work with the whole staff, small groups, and individual teachers, and how all three might fit together. She then suggests covering basic problems such as who will teach students if teachers are involved in professional development, ways to establish regular communication, and how to obtain feedback and improve one’s work as a coach.

Lenses on Literacy Coaching: Conceptualizations, Functions, and Outcomes by Cathy Toll

You may not even know that this latest book from Cathy Toll is out! Reading Chapters 2-4 of this book can greatly help a literacy coach and principal discuss the coaching program that their building will develop. In Chapter 2 Toll suggests that coaches usually play one of 5 roles: technician, service provider, supervisor, professional developer, or fresh alternative. These roles lead literacy coaching to function in one of three ways: intervening, leading, or partnering. Toll’s biggest point is that often a coach and principal are not clear about these roles or functions of the literacy coach. Thus, often some of the outcomes of a literacy coaching program are not those intended. These chapters are somewhat abstract but exceedingly relevant if schools are to employ literacy coaches and to reach the goals that they intend. Toll suggests that principals, coaches, building leadership teams, and teachers themselves need to talk over the intended goals of the coaching program and what success will look like.

My Own Experiences

I wish that much of the information from these authors had been available when I worked as a literacy coach in one of our university partner schools. At the time, the principal knew that she needed help crafting a vision for literacy and guiding professional development. I already knew that I wanted to do demonstration lessons and work alongside teachers as a coach to help them implement new literacy strategies. But, we didn’t have the ideas from these books to really mull over and talk about together. Or, even better, we needed to discuss ideas with the school’s leadership team and figure out ways to introduce coaching to all of the teachers. How helpful it would have been to be more intentional.

I am wondering how others’ thinking and experiences parallel the suggestions of these authors. Also, what seems like new, useful ideas that you would like to try?

Bldg Relationships-CoachesandPrincipals.doc


Nancy Shanklin , Fri December 29, 2006, 07:52 PM MST - Interview with HS Literacy Coach

I hope interested participants will enjoy and gain from listening to this interview with Krista McDaniel, literacy coach at Littleton High School in Littleton, CO. The interview is approximately 30 minutes long. You can listen to just parts of it if you would like. I asked Krista these questions: 1. How have you gone about developing a relationship with your principal as the school's literacy coach? With teachers? 2. How has the school district helped you develop your role as a literacy coach with your principal? 3. What does your coaching program look like for your school?
4. In what ways do you document your work as a literacy coach?
5. In what ways to dyou try to gather feedback from teachers about the literacy coaching program in your building? 6. What are your wishes for the literacy coaching program in your school? 7. At this point in time, what is the topic or question about literacy coaching over which you would most like help?

Download the interview with Krista McDaniel

Nancy Shanklin , Fri December 29, 2006, 08:00 PM MST - Interview with Elementary Literacy Coach

I hope interested participants will enjoy and gain from listening to this interview with Carol Wilcox, literacy coach for Denver Public Schools at Arculetta Elementary (PreK-5). The interview is approximately 30 minutes long. You can listen to just parts of it if you would like. I asked Carol these questions: 1. How have you gone about developing a relationship with your principal as the school's literacy coach? With teachers? 2. How has the school district helped you develop your role as a literacy coach with your principal? 3. What does your coaching program look like for your school?
4. In what ways do you document your work as a literacy coach?
5. In what ways to dyou try to gather feedback from teachers about the literacy coaching program in your building? 6. What are your wishes for the literacy coaching program in your school? 7. At this point in time, what is the topic or question about literacy coaching over which you would most like help?

Download the interview with Carol Wilcox

Lynette Wilson , Sat December 30, 2006, 11:13 AM MST - Friday Dec. 29 Interviews

I discovered your site the day after the interviews were broadcast... (groan). Is it possible to listen to them online? I have been living in the US for 18 months. I come from a very well established culture of in-school literacy professional development for teachers in Australian schools. Your site is excellent and obviously a much needed vehicle for making professional development meaningful and hands on. I look forward to reading and learning from the information on your site!

Lynette Wilson

Barbara Cambridge , Tue January 02, 2007, 02:02 PM MST - A role for NCTE in DC?

This forum is rich with information about working with principals as partners in making literacy coaching effective. I found the cues to sections of books and the interviews quite helpful.

As a program officer for NCTE in DC, I am wondering how I might work with staff members of the National Association of Secondary School Principals so that principals hear some of the ideas addressed here in the forum from their own professional association. Any ideas?

Nancy Shanklin , Fri January 05, 2007, 03:45 PM MST - Re: Are interviews Available?
I had a but of technical difficultly at first getting these into the site. If you look now, you'll see that each coach interview is available if you click on the download after the entry. The interviews are each 30 minutes, so they take 2-3 minutes to download. All works well, however, and they are worth listening to!
Glenda Ward , Tue January 09, 2007, 09:52 AM MST - Coaches and Principals

I have had a variety of experiences, having worked with 3 different principals in 5 years. The first principal supported me to my face, but undermined me when the teachers complained about having to attend professional learning sessions (at the time, attendance was required). She wanted me to "tattle" on teachers who were not effective. I believed that building trust with the teachers was essential so I did not turn in written evaluations to the principal. If I saw a teacher who needed help, I tried to work with him/her without involving the principal. The second and third principals have been much more responsive to the need for trust issue. My current principal suggested to a new teacher that she ask me for some help in planning the next lessons. I offered, she accepted, and we collaborated. My current principal also allows me to be respectful of teachers' time and choices. I don't believe new ideas can be forced on teachers and so our new cohort of professional learning allows teachers to make choices about topics and needs. We use the data to allow them to choose where they believe they need more knowledge and resources. My current principal is not an expert on curriculum (particularly reading) but he is wise enough to ask and listen to what I have to say. If I show him the reasons and evidence behind a curriculum decision or practice, he backs me completely. It also helps to have backing from the district office. It makes life sooooo much easier! I have read Literacy Coach's Survival Guide and found it to be very helpful. I wish it had been available 5 years ago. Another book I have found very useful is Becoming a Literacy Leader by Jennifer Allen. It is very well organized and simplifies the "where do I start?" questions.

Jessica Hudec , Sat January 20, 2007, 05:15 PM MST - Literacy Coach

I am a graduate student currently getting my masters degree as a Reading Specialist. The library section of this website provides articles that have excellent information and are easy to read.

A Literacy Coach is an effective way for teachers to collaborate with each other to find and use the best teaching practices of literacy. It is a way for classroom teachers to gain valuable insight on how to effectively teach reading and writing which cover every aspect of what we do as both teachers and learners.

I think it is great how the Literacy Coach is seen more as a resource than as a superior. Every teacher could benefit from having a collegue come in to their classroom and enrich their teaching and instructinal methods.

It seems as if the responsibilities of the Reading Specialist are growing. Many buildings only have one Reading Specialist due to limited district funds. I would love to see both a Literacy Coach and a Reading Specialist in all buildings (even to have a couple of each!). The Reading Specialist could work primarily with students while the Literacy Coach could work primarily with parents, staff, and administrators. I would love to see more school districts fund Litaracy Coaching. Principals and other administrators would love to have this type of leader sharing literacy expertise throughout their school.

Heather Rose , Sat January 20, 2007, 10:48 PM MST - Literacy Support Personnel
Greetings from Canada! I am enjoying learning about the dynamics of literacy coaches within your schools and appreciate the book reviews. I look forward to reading future articles that are posted on this forum.
Amanda Errington , Mon January 22, 2007, 07:13 PM MST - What is a Literacy Coach?

I had a terrible misconception of what Literacy Coaches actually did within a school. I have seen a few in action when I substituted in Kansas and didn't care for the way they went about their jobs. After reading the article What is a Literacy Coach? it really clarified what they do and don't do within a school. The best part was the graphic organizer that described their purpose and the misconceptions of literacy coaches.

This article gives me the information that I might need if I were to interview for a literacy coach position. I also feel better prepared for when I interact with a literacy coach for our practicum.

Are their any literacy coaches that feel the article best describes what they do? Or do you feel that you perform some or all of the actions they described as not common for a literacy coach in their standards?

Joshua Mull , Tue January 23, 2007, 12:59 PM MST - Relationships: Should we not all seek to better education?

As an educator it is our job to seek professional development to better prepare our students as literate lifelong learners. In an attempt to obtain this goal, we are going to cross paths with exemplary colleagues who share this vision and those who oppose. Unfortunate is the truth of the world in which we live, but not a reason to accept ignorance as the voice of reason. Emphatically we must press on and strive to educate others about the importance of continuing education and professional development. Just the other day I sat down with a principal with the same mind set and discussed the current trends that reading specialists and coaches have made in his tenure as an Elementary principal. He said, "When it comes to the pedagogy of reading, I am a student myself. I rely a great deal on my team of reading specialists and my reading coach. They have been supporting me in my acquisition of reading knowledge. I have spent the majority of my career as a High School Principal and have recently been thrust into my current position. "Theoretically the jobs are the same, but I quickly learned the importance of literacy and how early intervention strategies are key in taking the right steps toward "bridging the gap". The most important thing I have learned (since becoming an Elementary Principal) is that you must keep an open mind and keep learning. If you stop learning…you might as well give up." I know this may not be the view of all principals, but it is the view we all: teachers, reading specialists, reading coaches, administrators, aids, and anyone who works with youth should strive to emulate. We should build, maintain and work in an environment that scaffolds and networks to build a better and brighter learning experience for the children we serve.

Erika Shavulsky , Wed January 24, 2007, 06:38 PM MST - Roles of A Literacy Coach

My name is Erika Shavulsky. I am a fourth grade regular education teacher in a suburban elementary school in Pennsylvania. I am currently working toward my master’s degree in reading as well as my reading specialist certification. I have been intrigued with the multi-dimensional roles a reading specialist can serve within a school. I have also enjoyed reading up on the myths and misconceptions of reading coaches.

In my experience as an upper elementary teacher I sadly do not have much interaction with the reading specialists in my building. They seem to focus most of their time and effort on remediation of students in grades K-3 in inclusive and Title 1 pull-out programs. Although I do have students requiring Title 1 assistance, I have the Title 1 aide (uncertified) come to my classroom for 20 minutes of math and 10 minutes of daily reading instruction.

I am interested in hearing how the roles of your reading specialists differ from that of my own experiences. I am always bringing new ideas and suggestions to staff meetings in an effort to break from dated practices and encourage newer, researched based practices. Please let me know if you share similar situations or have programs that work especially well in your own districts. I look forward to corresponding with you.

Kim Deceder , Thu January 25, 2007, 06:21 PM MST - Literacy Programs
I am a high school teacher in Pennsylvania. Our high school is the process of promoting literacy programs across the curriculum. Teachers from a variety of disciplines have joined the "literacy team" and are acting as literacy coaches with the goal of training the entire high school staff in literacy techniques. The program is half way through the third year and has been very successful. At first, it was met with much resistance. Recently, it has been embraced by most of the staff. None of the teachers involved are certified as reading specialists. However, they seem to fit the definition of literacy coaches as described in the brief titled "Qualifications for Literacy Coaches: Achieving the Gold Standard." It is an exciting program where teachers train teachers. Administration has little involvment in the process.
Jaime Harkins , Sat January 27, 2007, 07:20 AM MST - Roles/ Duties of the Reading Specialist and Reading Coaches
Currently, I am working towards my Masters Degree and specializing in reading. Previous to this course, I was not really aware of what the duties/roles of the reading coach are. The district I work in has not yet incorporated reading coaches into the school. The school I work in has 800 students with one full time and one part time reading specialist who are being used to teach struggling readers using Title 1 funds. While talking with and observing the reading specialist in our school, it is clear to me that even with the roles they are playing now they still do not have enough time to support all of the students who would benefit from this small group individualized instruction. Is the goal to replace this small group instruction and create teachers and are better able to differentiated instruction? In my opinion, with the overwhelming demands on teachers and reading specialist, schools need to have both a reading specialist (used for small group instruction) along with a reading coach used as a resource for adults to better instruct the students. I am interested in learning more about the roles of the reading coach. The obvious roles such as serving as a resources for classroom teachers, and other members of the staff, along with parents, coordinating the reading program, assisting in assessment, and instructing students is a lot to balance. Education moves at a much quicker pace causing a higher demand for more support for the struggling readers
Bethann McCain , Sat January 27, 2007, 11:14 AM MST - Literacy Coaching Roles, Reading Specialists and Title I
As I read through this blog, I saw lots of concerns, confusions and clarifications of roles. I'm hear to tell you that you're not alone! The best way that I have found to clarify is this: A Reading Specialist is the umbrella. NCTE, IRA and other professional organizations have position papers stating that a literacy coach should preferably be a reading specialist; however, there are some teachers who are powerful instructional leaders, very knowledgeable in reading and make fantastic coaches without a RS Certification! Title I Reading roles are diverse throughout our state (PA), some are a hybrid of coach and student support, some are push in, others are pull-out. Most that I have seen deal primarily with K-3 and Title I funding is very limited. I have worked as a reg ed teacher, Title I Reading and now as a literacy coordinator. The roles are definitely different. Working with adults is different than working with students. I love all these roles, but the most important thing is to have very specific and collaborative conversations with all parties regarding how the role of coaching should work. In some places, they are supervisory, but NEVER should they be evaluative. Teachers need to trust you with their lives and feel confident that you are there to support them, NOT tattle! If your prinicpal is supportive, this is a lot easier. I have more to say, but I will stop here.
Danielle Conrad , Sat January 27, 2007, 12:17 PM MST - A Plan for Building Relationships

I am a graduate student taking a practicum on being a literacy coach. The book exerts provided for this forum give some very valuable insights into the necessity of establishing a proper relationship with the principal. I have a much better understanding of my potential action plan if I ever become a literacy coach. I am thankful for the information provided Toll, Dozier, West, Staub, Casey, Hasbrouck, Denton and the sight host Nancy Shanklin. As Shanklin suggests, I am better enabled to be more intentional in the role as a literacy coach.

I also must comment on the obvious themes that bridge the texts from the various authors. First, to establish a clearly defined role with the principal. A clearly defined role can prevent problems that may develop due to misunderstood expectations. I also see this type of relationship as an opportunity to create unity and support between the coach and the principal, and the coach and the teachers. This support creates less uncertainty among all those who are involved. The second theme is to communicate regularly. Communication also builds unity and it shows that the principal is interested in knowing the progress and development that is being built in the teacher community. My final comment on the topic of principal and coach relationship is on the task mentioned by Hasbrouck and Denton. In the exert from their book it mentions that the coach and the principal should specify what the coach "will undertake (and not undertake)." I think that understand the will and will not is important especial because some teachers will still feel as if they are being evaluated, simply by having the coach in their room. Emphasizing the will not is important.

Susan Trask , Sun January 28, 2007, 02:09 PM MST - Building Relationships
Thank you for providing a forum for literacy coaches! I would like to respond to a comment by one person that working with adults is different from working with children. I disagree! To me, it is just the same. Whether you are talking about a principal or a teacher, the key is that word relationship. Just as building and nurturing an individual relationship with my students when I was a classroom teacher was critical, so it is with the teachers and principals with whom I now work. In addition, I need to find out just where each one is in terms of their knowledge base and receptivity before I can determine how best to proceed. Yes, I lead seminars, workshops, and book study groups; but the really effective work is done one-on-one. To do that well, a trusting and collegial relationship must be established.
Dawn Zahorchak , Mon January 29, 2007, 02:45 PM MST - Dawn Zahorchak
I am currently a graduate student in the PA area. I will be obtaining my Reading Certification in the near future and would like to continue in this area for my masters. The program in which I am enrolled in taught me many useful reading strategies and test/evaluations that will be useful for me in the field as a reading specialist. In my last class my professor began talking about literacy coaching and our role as a coach/reading specialist. I was not sure exactly what a literacy coach was at first. I personally found literacy coaching to be intimidating as a first year teacher. What scared me most was that the reading coach generally works with teachers who are working directly with children. Wow!!!! How can I lead a teacher into a path of rights/wrongs when it is my first year. I understand you have to build a positive relationship with the teachers you are working with but coaching can be scary when you first get your feet wet. I definitely think the reading coach needs to have a direct working relationship with the principal in order to maintain order as a reading coach, especially for teachers who are first learning about literacy coaching and who have been teaching for years. I know we are not out to degrade the teachers work ethics, however we need to support the teacher in learning new and effective strategies to supplement teaching in a positive manner.
Kristi Tomayko , Tue January 30, 2007, 07:58 AM MST - Literacy Teams

I just wanted to share my thoughts on an article I read from the library section of this site. (Cobb, C. (2005). Literacy teams: Sharing leadership to improve student learning. Reading Teacher, 58, 472-474.)

With high stakes testing and increased accountability, there has never been a time where it has been more important that as educators we work together to help our students succeed. Cobb’s article suggests a great way for a school’s principal, reading specialist, and teachers to work together to help promote literacy. Cobb’s ideas are practical and worth giving a try!

For anyone who is interested in starting a literacy team at their school, I would suggest printing out a copy of this article and slipping it into your principal’s mailbox.

Jaime Harkins , Tue January 30, 2007, 02:33 PM MST - Leadership/ Relationships
As I learn more about the roles of the literacy coach, it is clear that one must be a leader in order to fulfill the needs of the teachers and students in the school. One must be able to earn the respect and confidence of the teachers he/she is working with. As a teacher, I know it can be intimidating to have other adults in the room while teaching. It is easy to assume that your performance is constantly being evaluated/ judged. Those in leadership roles can at times be intimating to certain personalities. How is the reading coach best able to offer suggestions in a non-threatening way? As a reading coach do you instruct the teachers one-on-one or do you offer your suggestions through group discussions/ instruction? A requirement for my graduate course is to serve as a reading coach for another teacher. Since this is my first year of teaching, I will be working with a teacher with more experience than me. I am interested in learning more about how to make suggestions in a way, which will not discourage another teacher. What suggestions/ ideas do you have?
Gena Tokar , Wed January 31, 2007, 12:49 PM MST - Literacy Coaches
I am a graduate student at Slippery Rock University in PA. I believe that it is not an easy task to take on the role of the literacy coach in a school district. You have to have confidence in yourself and your content knowledge. You will be the one going into classrooms and observing teachers and making suggestions on strategies that they can use in the classroom, as well as many other things. This will be difficult if you are unsure of yourself, especially when dealing with vetern teachers. You may encounter teachers who are unwilling to use your suggestions and you will also encounter teachers who are open to any suggestions to help their students. As part of an assignment I have to develop a coachung relationship with a teacher. I chose a friend of mine to help me feel more confortable, but I am still nervious about the assignment. How do you approach a teacher and give them suggestions without offending them?
Erika Shavulsky , Wed January 31, 2007, 04:24 PM MST - Starting A Literacy Team
I have been looking into developing a literacy team for my elementary school. I found several of the articles posted in the library section of this website especially helpful in giving me the building blocks of how a literacy team is developed. Some concepts of literacy teams that I found particularly important included a diverse team comprised of staff and administrations representing varying levels of expertise. This diversity will aid in mapping out a course of action to address literacy in the school, which includes creating a firm definition for literacy learning and instruction. As someone interested in developing a literacy team, I am open to your suggestions, successes, and failures in such situations. For those of you who may belong to a literacy team, what benefits and opportunities have you witnessed after the implementation of such programs?
Denise Shumsky , Wed January 31, 2007, 07:35 PM MST - Literacy Coaches
As I read these articles, I am learning that the role of a literacy coach is very involved. Previous to this course work, I was not aware of the duties and roles of the reading coach. It is very evident that to be successful you have to have skill in the content and positive people skills. When taking this position one must take the leadership role and maintain clear boundaries. In order to be successful, these coaches must observe students and teachers, provide feedback, and help teachers plan what comes next. I think that in order for this to happen and be positive a strong trusting relationship must be developed. Both teacher and literacy coach must be compofrtable and honest with one another with comments and suggestions. I think once this relationship is established, it would be wonderful to share ideas and be able to plan how to better service students. We all have strengths and if we can learn how to communicate and trust one another I see this type of team work being a win win situation. So if there are positive changes and support for teachers through a literacy coach, we can prepare our students to become lifelong learners.
Joshua Mull , Wed January 31, 2007, 09:32 PM MST - Literacy Coaches: School Leadership

I agree with Kristi Tomayko who posted a message on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 about an article located in the Library section of the web site. (Cobb, C. (2005). Literacy teams: Sharing leadership to improve student learning. Reading Teacher, 58, 472-474.)

Shared leadership seems as if it could be an invaluable method of structuring and building a school environment that is driven to identify and overcome deficiencies in the school and promote literacy.

Sharing leadership roles and working together seems like a logical way to help students and teachers be successful.

Gena Tokar , Thu February 01, 2007, 12:22 PM MST - Literacy Coaches
The more and more articles that I read, the more I learn how many responsibilities a reading coach may have. They are responsible for informing teachers, coaching teachers, providing resources not to mention the task most important working with the struggling readers. Leadership plays a major role in you job as a reading specialist. You must be able to develop a good rapport with the teachers and be able to provide them with strategies to use within their classroom without stepping on any toes. I can honestly say that I have not seen this occur within the school that I sub at. I haven't encountered the reading specialist going into a classroom and giving the classroom teacher ideas. I think that I need to look into the job further and see everything that does occur.
Amy Peterson , Thu February 01, 2007, 07:05 PM MST - Relationship between principal and literacy coach
I am a graduate student who has worked in a city school district for 6 years. Our district has employed literacy coaches for the entire time of my employment. I had never thought of what would happen if I were to be seek employment in a school district where a literacy coach was not in place. I never thought about the planning and discussion that would have to take place to define the role of the literacy specialist. This forum brought this to my attention. I now understand that there would have to be an enormous amount of work to be done to clearly define the expections of the job. Essential to this would be the ability to work with the principal and any other members of the district who participate in decisions about literacy education. Not only would the literacy specialist establish a good rapport with the principal, they would have to be able to work closely with other professionals within the district as well. Exciting and scary all at once!
jennifer spence , Thu February 01, 2007, 07:48 PM MST - Building a Relationship Between Literacy Coach and Principal
I am currently a graduate student and have not yet had the opportunity to work in the public schools. This semester especially, I am learning about all of the roles and expectations of a reading specialist, and I must say that I am a little overwhelmed. With that said, I really found the information presented in the forum very informational and helpful. All of the specific sources and ideas provided were summarized, which helps to save time in researching this topic. I especially liked the suggestion that literacy coaches should invite the principal to be a part of professional development learning. This reinforces another reoccurring point, which is that there needs to be open and frequent communication between all members of the team responsible for improving literacy.
Lizzie Evans , Thu February 01, 2007, 08:40 PM MST - Professional Relationships

The more I learn about what it means to be a literacy coach, the more I realize all of the different components that go into it. There is so much more that a coach has to think about and plan aside from literacy instruction. I think that literacy coaches have to be very careful when entering a school not to come across as someone who is there to evaluate and judge the way teachers and principals do their jobs. You want teachers to feel like you are there as a collaborator and not as their superior. I think that relationship can be very tricky and one to be cautious about. I also agree with what those excerpts were saying about relationships with principals. I think it's extremely important that there is a clear understanding of the job that is expected of the coach and what everyone hopes to get out of the program.

Kim Deceder , Fri February 02, 2007, 06:57 PM MST - Literacy Teams
I agree with much of the information presented in the article "Literacy teams: Sharing leadership to improve student learning" by C. Cobb. I find that the job of the principal is one that is changing more than it ever has in the past. The principal used to handle the budget and the daily management activities of the school. Today the principal is refered to as the "change agent." The principal continues to be responsible for the above tasks as well as expected to be much more involved with the daily instruction and the curriculum planning. The principal needs to wear many hats and be a leader to the teachers, students, parents and staff. The principal is responsible for maintaining the paperwork side of the school as well as the day to day learning. These new expectations are a challenging task for even the best of principals.
Amanda Errington , Sat February 03, 2007, 10:33 AM MST - Literacy Teams

After reading Cobb’s article about Literacy Teams it gave me a better grasp of how our schools are going about improving test scores. He basically said that schools are looking outward for ways in which to raise scores but should be looking within. By doing this schools will realize that they have many of the solutions they are looking for. They also need to widen their vision past accountability and take commitment, sharing, and leadership into perspective. I know this is easier said than done especially in the era of NCLB. I do feel that the testing aspect is overwhelming our teachers and students which can in turn have an adverse effect on the scores. Cobb also adds that learning should be valued and that every effort will be made to keep learning at the center of school activity. I don’t feel that every school can own up to that statement. I feel that testing has become the center of the school activity and there is a big difference.

I feel very adamant about these literacy leadership teams this article spoke of. They consist of the principal, reading specialist/literacy coach, primary level teachers, intermediate teachers, and any resource teachers. The concept of the principal doing walk through to focus on student learning instead of teacher performance makes sense. I think a lot of teachers feel the principal or even the reading specialist is there to judge or critique their teaching. Another great idea was the reading specialist having study groups on a specific topic and then having discussions with the teachers. I think studying and then discussing a new reading strategy is more valuable then sitting in an in-service all day about PSSA test taking tips.

Jessica Hudec , Sun February 04, 2007, 08:45 AM MST - Shared Leadership
Do you think that most administrators know about literacy teams? This idea of shared leadership would take pressure off of the principal AND it would seem as if it would remedy the literacy problems in our schools. I would think that a principal would be willing to create a literacy team because it would ensure student success in literacy (and test scores too). If principals, literacy coaches, teachers, and parents took the shared leadership approach, it would be a recipe for meeting the literacy needs of the children in our schools. The question is who starts developing these teams...teachers, principals, or the reading specialist? Like I said principals even know about these literacy teams?
kelly cahall , Sun February 04, 2007, 12:14 PM MST - Reading Coach
I am a graduate student currently working on my Reading Specialist certificate and also a 2nd grade teacher. While my school district is large, our Title I reading program is rather small. I had always assumed that a reading specialist is one who worked with small groups of children on a pull-out basis. In my current class I have learned much about reading coaches. I was very much unaware of the many roles a reading specialist/coach might have! It is intimidating to me to think that I may one day be a reading coach who gives advice and works one-on-one with teachers. I have only been teaching 4 years myself. In order to be a reading coach, I cannot agree enough about the importance of having good relationships with both principals and teachers. Never having experienced a coach in my classroom, I would find it unsettling. It is so important for reading specialists to be foster good relationships so that they can be seen as the amazing resource that they are intended to be.
Heather DeMedio , Mon February 05, 2007, 09:34 AM MST - Literacy Coach

My name is Heather DeMedio, and I am a fifth grade math and language arts teacher. I am currently enrolled in a masters program to become a Reading Specialist. I am enjoying this opportunity to explore the idea of a reading coach which functions so much differently than the reading specialist that I work with. In my district, the two elementary schools have reading specialists, and they basically have two roles. First, they are to service the targeted Title 1 population according to the guidelines of Title 1. Second, they are to conduct study groups and share information through professional development sessions that focus on using a variety of strategies to reach struggling readers. On the other hand, my district has a reading specialist at the middle school that works very closely with the teachers and functions much more like a coach. Her responsibility is to work with the teachers on how to effectively use remediation with struggling students and how to use strategies in content area classes that will allow struggling readers to access the information and be part of the learning experience. For example, the reading specialist will do model lessons in a teacher's classroom or co-teach with a teacher to share how these new ideas and strategies work in the classroom.

I have had contact with the math coach at the middle school, and we talked about the role of a coach in general regardless of the area. One thing that she pointed out to me was that even though she had worked with the current staff she was coaching for 13 before taking the position she still met resistance when sharing new ideas and strategies or teaching techniques. The reactions or responses are embedded in the idea that people sometimes fear change. With that particular staff, there were individuals that just weren't going to change their way of thinking. According to both articles “What is a Literacy Coach?” and “What Makes an Effective Literacy Coach?” the key to a positive relationship between the coach and the staff is trust. Educators have to be able to trust one another. Sharing our own teaching methods, which includes our strengths and weaknesses, is like sharing a deep, dark secret. We don’t want to be judged or thought less of for it. If trust is involved, we should understand that growth is the goal, and we have to put ourselves out there to grow.

As Jessica mentioned in an earlier response, districts often only have a reading specialist trying to run the Title 1 program, conduct professional development sessions, do school wide testing, analyze data, and give advice/tips on the fly. In our last strategic planning sessions, both the elementary reading and elementary math plans included having a coach hired for each area in the final phase of our next strategic plan cycle. Now, the strategic plan proposals are more of a wish list, but I, too, would love to see my district have a reading specialist and a reading coach working with our staff and students to provide quality reading instruction and literacy experiences.

Denise Shumsky , Tue February 06, 2007, 04:05 PM MST - Literacy Coaches
As I read more about Literacy Coaches, I think it would be a great resource person to have at my elementary school. We have Title I Reading Specialists that service grades K-3 only. There is not a Literacy Coach in my district. I teach grade 5 and I think it would be great to have one of these Reading Specialists working along with me to help students become successful. It is very difficult at times to reach the needs of all of the students in the classroom. I have close to 90 students that I teach reading to during the day so having another person (Reading Specialist) actively involved in my classroom would be wonderful. My district says that Title I needs to focus on K-3 readers since this is a critical time in the life of a child to develop strong Reading skills. A Literacy Coach would be great also to have. It would be nice to be able to have another professional to go to for guidance and suggestions. I see that these Literacy Coaches must have strong relationship and leadership skills. If they have both of these skills mastered it would be a great benefit to all.
Kristi Tomayko , Wed February 07, 2007, 11:29 AM MST - What does a reading coach do all day?

For those of you wondering what a reading coach does all day, I'd like to highligh some of the maid ideas from an article found in the library section of this site titled, "What am I supposed to do all day? Three big ideas for the reading coach," by Janice A. Dole and Rebecca Donaldson.

This article simply summarizes what a literacy coach is and does. It shares some of the jobs of a literacy coach, include being a cheerleader, a critic, coach, model, guide, provider of feedback, assistance, and support, and mentor.

So how does a reading coach fit all these jobs into one day's work? Dole and Donaldson suggest three big ideas for reading coaches that summarize the where, when, why, and how of the reading coach's role.

  1. Focus your interest and attention on your primary goal. Coaches must center their work on their teachers, reading instruction, and student learning.

  2. Ensure that you are frequently in classrooms. You can offer to assist teachers in their daily work in classrooms. You might offer to teach a student in a one-on-one tutoring situation, or work with a small group of students on a specific skill. Another way to begin working in classrooms is to ask classroom teachers if there are some difficult areas of reading instruction with which they would like help. You could then model that skill over the course of a day or even a few days.

  3. Establish yourself as someone who can help teachers with their reading instruction. Teachers will not value reading coaches if they think cannot help them.

I thought this article helps give the reader a better idea of what a literacy coach's job is. I'm sure that there's more than this, though. Any suggestions of more detailed articles?

Erika Shavulsky , Wed February 07, 2007, 07:40 PM MST - Characteristics of Literacy Coaches

While reading the brief “What are the Effective Characteristics of Literacy Coaching”, I became intrigued with the impact that this position can have on a school. Although a literacy coach’s job and responsibilities may vary from district to district, what amazing potential this position has. Not only to work with the staff members to create a vision for students literacy learning, but also to be able to aid in teacher instruction. This sounds like one of the few position where you have the ability to affect every element of the school from staff and students, to administration and families.

The main points outlined in this brief generally defined the literacy coach’s role. Literacy coaches must be available to all staff regardless with how much experience or expertise they have. All staff members have opportunities to learn new things every day. Younger teachers may make up for their lack of experience with fresh new ideas, while seasoned professionals bring with them years of educational expertise. Every member of the staff has something to bring to the table. With this diverse team, a vision for literacy learning is developed and carried out by the literacy coach. Just as assessment is on-going and data driven, as is the literacy coach’s role in working with both teachers and students to successfully implement their literacy vision. Finally it is important to remember that a literacy coach’s role is cyclical and supportive versus static and evaluative. For anyone considering the role of a literacy coach, or are looking in to acquiring one for your school, this brief is an excellent resource to provide a basic coaching outline.

Joshua Mull , Thu February 08, 2007, 10:43 AM MST - What does a reading coach do all day?

It appears that I have simply jumped on the Kristi Tomayko bandwagon, since I again have a reflection on the same article, but for slightly different reasons. "What am I supposed to do all day? Three big ideas for the reading coach," by Janice A. Dole and Rebecca Donaldson, is an article located in the library section of this web site and an article found in The Reading Teacher, vol. 59, pages 486-488.. This article summarizes some clear responsibilities and roles of a reading coach. Most importantly it emphasizes that a reading coach work directly with teachers in the classroom to help improve student achievement.
It has been my experience through observation, reading, and conversations with the reading coach in a local school, how new reading coaches often field the questions/criticisms from colleagues, “What is it that you actually do?” This is not something she experienced, but something her predecessor experienced while establishing the position.
While observing her for a day, I could easily see how a person, who does not have direct contact with her, could pose the question, “What is it that you do exactly?” For me, this article is ammunition to defend what reading coaches do in response to these questions. Reading coaching, like teaching, seems it is not always a job of immediate gratification, but a labor to improve overall student achievement.

Gena Tokar , Thu February 08, 2007, 01:05 PM MST - Effective Literacy Coaching
Through reading the articel "What are the characteristics of effective literacy coaching, I am developing more of an idea about what roles a reading coach plays. I thought that they were like reading specialist but have learned that their role is much different. Instead of working with the students, they are working with the teachers to develop their skills. I know that in the school where I sub the reading coach, taken from her words, is "unsure" of what her job is. She has never been told what she should be doing. I wanted to observe what she actually does and when I requested to come in and observe her she ok with it but said that she would be testing students for the next couple of weeks. Is that supposed to be what she is doing? From what I have read, the reading coach should be working with the teachers and not devoting all of her time to testing students.
Jaime Harkins , Thu February 08, 2007, 02:40 PM MST - The Role of the Principal
After reading through the responses, I wanted to comment on the role of principals when a literacy team is created. Teachers can feel intimidated by having other teachers and principals, observing and evaluating student growth and areas of need in their classroom. However, having the principal as an active part of the process could help develop positive relationships among the staff if the principal is there to help and not to evaluate which I do not believe all principals are (after working for two). The principal I am working for now has made himself an active member of our classrooms. At first it was stressful to have him walk in and start helping out with the students but as time goes on and I have had more opportunity to communicate with my principal on common grounds, I feel that his presence in the classroom has given him a broader view of what is going on in our school daily and also better able him to see what the needs are of the students and teachers in our school. Also it seems that his respect for the teachers in his building has grown along with our respect for him. I would imagine there would be similar outcomes with reading coaches who are actively involved in the classroom.
Heather DeMedio , Thu February 08, 2007, 04:08 PM MST - Sharing Leadership...What an idea?

I really enjoyed reading the article, “Literacy teams: Sharing leadership to improve student learning” because my district has just started to implement some of these teams. Currently, we have a reading focus group and a math focus group, and our job is to focus on the curriculum to find strengths, identify weaknesses, look for consistency among grade levels, find consistency in common language used in the content area, and evaluate what is most important for our students to be successful in that area. I am on the math focus group, but both groups consist of a principal, grade level representative from each grade (alternating between elementary schools), and a few representatives from special areas like library or art. I have found the process of getting together to hash out these issues very labor intensive but rewarding because we are finally dealing with the heart of the problem.

My favorite statement from the article was “but, rather than looking outside for answers, schools could look within and find that they have many of the solutions already.” Who knows the curriculum and the kids better than we do? To have literacy teams to begin to really work at finding a unified vision for a building or a district is such a great concept. I am happy to be in education at a time when districts are taking time to listen to their educators and use their knowledge to build teams of leaders.

Plus, my grade level just developed the three key “look fors” during our second semester “walk throughs” that our principal is planning on doing. I am looking forward to having them.

Danielle Conrad , Thu February 08, 2007, 06:38 PM MST - Leadership

I want to make a comment on the article, Improving instructional capacity through school-based reform coaches, by, Coggins, Stoddard, & Cutler (2003). I had not thought of a literacy coach as an agent for change. I thought of the coach being a person who helps teachers do their best job possible. But the literacy coach has such a great opportunity to be an agent for change. After a coach has developed trust with the teachers they are probably more open to the ideas of the coach and more willing to try them out.

I also want to comment on the article, Literacy teams: Sharing leadership to improve student learning, by, Charlene Cobb. The model for literacy leadership provided in this article, reminds me of what I currently see being implemented in schools. In the school that I teach in, there is a chain of people that are involved in leadership. The principal is the main leader but shares the role with the curriculum director and teachers. The curriculum director is not only in charge of improving literacy but also other areas of academics. Then the grades are divided into primary, middle, and upper grades. Each group has a chairperson who has meetings with the curriculum director. While we do not specifically have a literacy coach our school does seem to have the type of leadership team described in this article. I think the shared leadership and responsibility is helping to improve the quality of education provided at our private Christian school.

jennifer spence , Thu February 08, 2007, 07:39 PM MST - Building Relationships
In response to the comments made regarding building relationships with children versus adults, I would have to agree with both sides. In some ways it is more difficult to build working relationships with adults because the interactions can be more complex. I think we often experience opposition from both children and adults, which can make building/maintaining relationships difficult. I definitely agree that the place to start is with one-on-one interactions, whether working with children or adults.
Amy Peterson , Fri February 09, 2007, 07:57 AM MST - What does a reading coach do all day?

I also read the article that Joshua read in the library of this forum. I have had the pleasure of working with a reading coach for all 7 years I have worked in my school district. I see what she is asked to do and what she does on a daily basis. Just a few items that are a part of her job description include: Reading First program, DIBELS assessment, Honor Society chairperson, TIGER team (group that meets w/in district to plan for instruction), teacher coaching, intervention groups in primary grade levels, staff development, presents at conferences around the state, etc. These are just a few. Not to mention finding a colleague an article or taping a teacher who is working to be a National Board Certified Teacher. I know that not all of these jobs are in her job description, but because she loves her job and cares about the students in our building so passionatly, she does all without breaking a sweat.

I also had the pleasure of attending a School Board academic worksession in the district that I live. The district hired a teacher from my own school district as their first reading coach. The school is going through a gradual change in their curriculum to balanced literacy. There has, as will all change, been a lot of growing pains. Several parents attended the meeting to express their concerns. The reading coach had to present another overview of what balanced literacy is, its benefits, and how it works. She also had to defend the criticism that many parents had sent her way. So after working all day, she spend four hours at the meeting. I call that a lot of work. At the end of the meeting, she was still smiling. She maintained her positive attitude and said that she expected that many parents would still have concerns about the change in the curriculum and that with time, they will see the tremendous benefits. How inspiring! These are the things a good journal article should be made of!

Heather DeMedio , Fri February 09, 2007, 12:11 PM MST - Reading Coach- What am I supposed to do all day?

Being a reading coach would be a challenging task whether your plate was too empty and you were required to reinvent the wheel or whether your plate was too full and you were forced to really focus in on your biggest responsibilities. After reading the article, “What am I supposed to do all day?”: Three big ideas for the reading coach, I found myself wondering why all districts weren’t making the investment. To me, a reading coach is an investment, not the type that leads to monetary gains, but the type that leads to educational successes and stronger visions for a district. Larger districts tend to have the funding to support teachers that are coaches, but smaller districts struggle to make that decision. In my opinion, reading coaches could make such a positive impact on teaching instruction, school/ district vision, data decision making, and student learning. With that said, I feel that taking that initial monetary risk would be well worth it to see more success with teachers’ instructional growth, reading instruction of the staff, and overall student learning. I would like to be part of a district that had coaches to see how the role of the coaches could influence the staff as a whole. I read some success stories of coaches that had so much to offer.
Are there any other success stories that haven’t been mentioned?

Does anyone have a preference on the position they might accept after this program? Would you prefer to be a reading coach or a reading specialist? I have to say that I am a fairly quiet person when surrounded by veteran teachers, and I don’t think that I would make a good coach because of the resistance I would encounter. I think that I would be more comfortable working with students in a reading specialist position. Any thoughts?

Kim Deceder , Sat February 10, 2007, 11:10 AM MST - Repond to Heather DeMedio - Demands of a Reading Coach

I agree with you Heather. I tend to favor a position as a reading specialist rather than a reading coach. The more that I learn about reading coaches, I realize that they have awesome responsibilities and challenges. Their job is not defined and it can involve many different tasks. In addition, they are on their own. They are the leaders and most likely they would be the only one with their job in the district. I do not know if I have the personality to handle such an isolated position.

However, the main reason that I prefer to be a reading specialist rather than a reading coach is because of the children. I have selected this field so that I can make a difference working with children. I am anxious to work one-on-one with them and monitor their individual progress. I simply prefer working with them rather than with the adults.

Jessica Hudec , Sat February 10, 2007, 11:28 AM MST - Reading Coach

Currently, I am a classroom teacher. Someday I would like to take on the challenges of a reading specialist. After many years, I think I would like the challenges of a reading coach. Even though a reading coach has little to no interactions with students, as a reading coach, I would feel satisfied knowing that I am indirectly helping students with their reading or writing. Plus, a reading coach still is teaching...just to adults, not children.

I think the role of a reading coach would be very intimidating at first, but I think most teachers would be welcoming to assistance and support for their literacy instruction. As a classroom teacher, I would be very open to having someone in my building provide me with new methods of literacy instruction. Not only that, I would love to have someone come in to model reading or writing instructions with my students. It would be a great learning experience for everyone! Reading coaches would really benefit first year teachers and newly established teachers. EVERY school should be fortunate enough to have a reading coach. We support the students and there needs to be someone to support us (the teachers) and what better role than that of a reading coach!

kelly cahall , Sun February 11, 2007, 09:05 AM MST - Teacher Leadership
After reading the article, "Literacy teams: Sharing leadership to improve student learning," I was again exposed to the idea that teachers need to take on more of a leadership role in their schools. I was encouraged especially by the quote, " The Principal can act as the instructional leader and supporter of teachers needs but shared leadership is the facet that leads to significant change in teacher and student performance." I totally agree with this statement. Teachers need to be involved in leadership roles now more than ever. We are the experts at what we do. School leaders should no longer be the sole decision makers and holders of power. Teacher leadership should be a part of one's job and not something that is appointed. Imagine the change that could occur if all teachers were involved in a leadership role.
kelly cahall , Sun February 11, 2007, 09:55 AM MST - Effective Literacy Coaching
The brief called "What is Effective Literacy Coaching?" highlights some of the important roles and responsibilities that a reading coach takes on. A coach involves all teachers, develops a vision for the school, uses data to drive instruction, has ongoing relationships with teachers that involve a gradual release of responsibility, and supports teachers rather than evaluates them. I think that the most difficult of those roles would be involving all teachers. My district does not have a reading coach and I could see how there would be much resistance on the part of teachers if one were to be hired. The article "What am I supposed to do all day?" suggests that the reading coaches present themselves as supporters of the teacher's goals. Coaches need to be asking how they can help and they need to be supportive. To me this sounds easier said than done. It would be a difficult task to establish oneself as the new reading coach. Are there any practical suggestions for making this happen?
Amanda Errington , Sun February 11, 2007, 04:52 PM MST - What am I supposed to do all day?

The title of this article caught my eye because it has crossed my mind a few times what you do as a reading coach. A lot of schools are adding new positions in the area of reading. This article gave me an idea of the two different situations I may find myself in. One of which is a job that is described as being a coach to classroom teachers. The other instance may be a new position in which I may have to develop my own duties and responsibilities. The difference between the reading coach and the reading specialist is that the coach spends their entire time with the teachers whereas the specialist spends their time with the students. I wouldn’t mind doing the coaching job just as long as the teachers were cooperative. I think I would be defensive if I had been teaching for over 20 years and a young twenty something came in with a new Masters and tried to tell me what to do. I gather it is how you go about your job as a reading coach which includes the following three key elements. The description Dole gave in the article was interesting where he described a coach as a way to support and guide teachers while acting as a mentor and assistant. I like the idea of supporting and guiding teachers instead of criticizing and teaching them. I was surprised to read that there is not a lot of research on the role of the reading coach. I did appreciate the three key points Dole explains in how to go about being an effective coach. The first, focusing interest and attention on primary goal and that is to work with teachers who are focused on student’s learning. The second, ensuring that you are frequently in classrooms. This is a big one for me because I feel that we spent too much time working with children throughout our coursework not to focus on the children when we get into the school I do think that paperwork, testing, and administrative duties takes away from reading coaches and specialists spending more time with the students. Thirdly, is to establish yourself as someone who can help teachers with reading instruction. I believe that reading the research and conducting your own is key to the third key element. If we as professionals don’t reading what other professionals are doing how are we going to stay on top of new strategies to share with our teachers?

Don Langrehr , Mon February 12, 2007, 11:33 AM MST - Krista McDaniel, interview

A group of Radford University graduate students (all practicing classroom teachers)working on a reading specialist degree and studying "the art of literacy coaching" have listened to the interview with Krista McDaniel, literacy coach at Littleton High School. We found it interesting and insightful, particularly for the majority of the class who teach in an elementary setting. Here is a list of questions we would pose to Krista if we had another chance to speak with her: • Are the teachers you coach required to give you feedback? …progress reports?...any data portraying the results of the literacy coaching? • As a literacy coach, do you have responsibilities outside of the school? Ex. In-services, conference presentations, etc.
• What are the responsibilities of the “instructional coach” as compared to your position as a literacy coach? • Can you describe the “PLC groups” you mention during the interview? • Do the teachers you coach receive any “credit” for time spent with you? • You mention a “coaching model” that you follow. Can you provide some reference information for us or briefly describe it? • Will you ever model the teaching of individual reading strategies in an actual, authentic high school classroom setting? Couldn’t the teachers you coach benefit from the explicit modeling of these strategies? • What specific reading strategies do you emphasize with your high school colleagues? • Do you feel high school teachers need more training to both identify and work with students who may be experiencing basic skills difficulties (decoding, syntax)?

Our thanks to Krista, Nancy and all others partaking in the forum! We are looking forward to listening to the interview with Carol Wilcox.

Melody Mackin , Tue February 13, 2007, 09:32 AM MST - Making Teachers/Principals Feel Comfortable
I am a graduate student in the Reading Specialist Program. I also teach Pre-K. I have an education coach who is like a mentor and resource to me as a teacher. When I first met her, I was intimidated, and was not looking forward to having to answer to an additional person besides the principal. My education coach made it clear form the beginning she was on the same level as the teachers, not a superior to us, and that we could use her as a resource for any questions or problems we may be having. It took a little while for me to feel comfortable, but she has stayed true to her word, and now I feel free to come to her with any type of issues I may be having. She always has resources to give me and constructive ideas to improve my classroom. If I ever become a reading coach, I would want to develop this same type of relationship. I would want the teachers to feel free to come to me with any questins they may have and to not be intimidated.
Melody Mackin , Tue February 13, 2007, 09:40 AM MST - Role of Reading Coach
I was able to work with a great reading coach while I was student teaching. She offered suggestions, taught model lessons, and provided resources. Once I was hired as a teacher I did not see the reading coach at the school I was working at. I think she was responsible for several buildings, and therefore spread pretty thin. This year the school district I work for is moving towards having a reading and math coach in every building. I am unaware of what qualifications these coaches must have, I do not believe they have to be certified reading specialists. I do know that they will pull out students to work on remediation, or in some cases to work with gifted students. I hope they will get a chance to work with teachers one-on-one like the reading coach I worked with as a student teacher. She helped all the teachers in the building to improve their reading instruction.
Melody Mackin , Tue February 13, 2007, 09:50 AM MST - Becoming a Reading Coach
Even though I am in a reading specialist program, I do not see myself becoming a reading coach. I am in this program so that I can become a better reading teacher. I think being a coach would be very difficult. You have to be aware of resources for any problem a teacher or student may be having with reading. You also have to work with adults and gain their trust, so that you can help them at becoming better at reading instruction. Also, much of the time that you are working with children is spent giving assessments. I admire anyone that can take on this role, because I think it would be very challenging. Reading Specialists/Coaches are an important part of any school, and I repect the difficult challenges they face.
Denise Shumsky , Tue February 13, 2007, 10:45 AM MST - What am I supposed to do all day?
Denise Shumsky , Tue February 13, 2007, 11:16 AM MST - What am I supposed to do all day?
This article's title was interesting to me. As I began to read, it is very clear to me that a reading coach and a reading specialist have different responsibilities. Specialists spend time with students and Coaches spend their time mostly with teachers. I do not see myself becoming a reading coach. I really enjoy teaching reading to students. I enjoy planning lessons and being able to see the growth that takes place with students. I think that being a reading coach would be quite challenging. You would have to think about everything before you said something or gave a suggestion. I would see teachers in my building feeling comfortable with a reading coach that considered themelves an equal(wanting to teach students the best way that they can learn.) I think teachers would feel comfortable if suggestions about their lessons were not critical, resources were provided, and even lessons were modeled so they could get another perspective of teaching. The teacher that I am using as my Title I mentor is an excellent example of a reading coach even though she is a reading specialist. Each time I go to her with a question, she is always ready to help in a positive way. She offeres suggestions and also gives me different resources that I can use while I teach different reading lessons. She is making this a postive learning experience for me. As I teach children reading, I remember how I like to be treated when I am learning, so I try to remember to offer positive suggestions, model to them what they should learn, and provide them with extra resources also. It is a great to see learning taking place.
Lizzie Evans , Wed February 14, 2007, 10:17 PM MST - Raising Scores

I think that many schools are looking towards outside programs, which are really just products, because they are looking for a quick fix. They want scores to improve vastly and they want them to improve as quickly as possible. We are a country that thrives on instant gratification and can't be bothered with things that will take longer than a year to become effective.

Instead of adopting some neatly wrapped program from a company that has probably never even heard of your school before and then forcing teachers to implement these programs, why not get everyone together to come up with a plan that works for everyone? Most teachers have a lot of ideas and things to contribute but are never asked what they think. If schools got their teachers and specialists together, they could come up with great programs on their own to help improve literacy rates among their students.

Kim Deceder , Thu February 15, 2007, 03:26 PM MST - Literacy Coaching: Coming out of the Corner
I really enjoyed reading this article. I am a high school teacher and I liked how the authors addressed the needs of middle school and high school teachers. Most information is presented for an audience of elementary teachers. Therefore, it was nice to read an article that applied directly to me. The authors did a nice job of pointing out that most high school teachers are more concerned with the content of their lessons rather than the delivery of the lessons. This is very true. High school teachers are very focused on their specific disciplines. The article pointed out that literacy coaches can be useful to high school teachers regardless of their disciplines. In fact, literacy coaches do not need to be experts in all areas to effectively teach high school teachers. A literacy coach can be very helpful to a science teacher, even if the literacy coach does not have a strong science background. The important thing is that these coaches can help the teachers be more effective teachers regardless of the content they teach.
jennifer spence , Sat February 17, 2007, 07:01 AM MST - Roles and Duties of Reading Specialists and Reading Coaches
In response to the one posted by Jaimed Harkin: I too am a graduate student about to finish my degree in reading and am just now finding out all of the expectations for reading specialists and coaches. I am not currently working in a public school, but I have been completely overwhelmed by what I have been reading about the roles and duties of reading specialists. I am afraid that I will not be able to fill such a tall order and am not sure how anyone could! I have just recently started shadowing a reading specialist for a school assignment and was hoping to see this balancing act first hand. However, it appears that she works mostly with a pullout program and spends her days working with small groups of struggling readers (which was what I already pictured a reading specialist doing). I am hoping to learn more about how all of these pieces fit together for a reading specialist.
Amy Peterson , Sat February 17, 2007, 07:18 PM MST - What am I supposed to do all day?
I wanted to go back an comment on a section of "What am I supposed to do all day?" by Janice Dole and Rebecca Donaldson. I have often wondered how I would approach the teachers in a school district that I have never worked with before. I have thought about how I would go about establishing a relationship with the teachers that would allow them to feel comfortable enough with me to let me into their room to work along with them. I never really thought about the fact that some teachers do not want anyone in their room. I am always inviting people into my room and always leave my door open. I found the suggestion in the article about how to establish these important relationships as a coach with the teachers: 1) Offering to tutor one-on-one inside of the classroom, 2) Small group instruction within the classroom, 3) Or even offering to complete tasks that would be helpful to the teacher that may not be specifically what I want to work with them on but help establish a relationship. I didn't realize that allowing the teacher to feel comfortable and trusting of the reading coach is just as important as it is with the students. I will add these suggestions to my toolbox of tricks that I will take with me!
Amanda Errington , Tue February 20, 2007, 01:07 PM MST - Voices from the middle

I felt very connected to this particular article because I have been doing my practicum in a junior high school. I tried getting into an elementary school and decided to try the junior high and feel it was the best thing to ever happen. I am noticing a great need for a literacy coach within this setting. All the reading teachers are reading specialist but are responsible for teaching reading. The content teachers are in need of guidance in order to help their students better understand the material they are learning in their specific content area. The article brings to light some ways in which a literacy coach can assist these specific content teachers.

The authors of this article make some great points about a district even considering creating a literacy coaching position. They suggested the administration and teachers agree on a job description that includes a non-evaluative role of a coach before the position is agreed upon. This I think would alleviate some of the fears we have all be talking about in regards to going into another teachers classroom. If the teachers understand beforehand what this coach will be doing then maybe there will be less tension at the beginning. I felt the statement about if coach are expected to be successful they need the support over time before they are even hired. I think some coaches are just set loose and not given the support by many parties involved and are then expected to change things overnight.

The portion of the article regarding middle school and high school was very relevant to my practicum in the junior high school. The authors suggested that coaches in these secondary schools help content teachers think about the why behind their instruction practices. Sometimes the focus is so much on the content subject and the actual teaching methods are missed. The authors suggest a model which focuses on developing a thorough understanding of the teaching and learning cycle. This article really made me realize my work in the junior high can be a starting point for a new wave of literacy coaching research that needs to be done.

Heather DeMedio , Wed February 21, 2007, 11:53 AM MST - Literacy Coaching: Coming Out of the Corner

I really enjoyed reading this article surrounding the effectiveness of coaching and what NEEDS to be in place. I often think that school districts make a lot of assumptions about creating new roles, which we know we shouldn’t do. In some cases, I think that schools hire “coaches” believing that they can independently solve all the instructional problems. I felt that the four key areas were important thoughts to keep in mind as an educator, coach, or administrator: 1) Effective coaches have clearly defined job descriptions, 2) Effective coaches have support over time, 3) Essential components of an effective coaching session can be identified and defined, and 4) Coaching may look different in middle school and high school. Each of these points is important when looking into the role of a coach. For me, I think that the first two points are most important because I think that districts need to have expectations of the role clearly defined for a new teacher, and I feel that coaches need to know that the district will support them as they grow and learn more about their new role. As we all know, there are districts that jump on an idea, and as soon as the idea doesn’t do exactly what they wanted, they drop it and move on to the next new teaching approach. Schools need to research and prepare to support a coach and share the vision of what they want with the coach. I love the idea of having a three-year plan of how to phase in a coach and prepare a coach.

I also enjoyed the statement “we fear that coaching will go the way of whole language, multiage classrooms, and developmentally appropriate practice where misunderstandings and a lack of systematically reported data on student impact prevented their widespread implementation.” Districts need to collect the appropriate data and use current research to assist them with their coaching positions and how to most effectively use them to support their student population.

Laura Mumaw , Wed February 21, 2007, 07:34 PM MST - Literacy Coaches
I am a graduate student in Pennsylvania currently working towards my Reading Specialist degree and eventually my Master’s Degree in reading. I teach in a large district where the position of coaches is fairly new. Our math, science, and reading coaches currently work primarily with new teachers. This has always seemed logical to me, as the newest teachers have the most to learn to familiarize themselves with the district’s curriculum. However, I have always wondered how the role of a reading coach would work with a more experienced, “expert” teacher. Taking myself, for example, as only a third year teacher, I had always thought it would be awkward to go into another more veteran teacher’s classroom to give him or her tips or advice. I enjoyed reading the article “From the Coaches’ Corner: What is a Literacy Coach?”, by Riddle, Coskie, Robinson, and Egawa. This article stressed the importance of fostering a positive relationship between the reading coach and the teachers, as well as between the reading coach and the principal. I think it is incredibly important to have an open relationship where it is comfortable to discuss lessons and ideas. I really like the idea of having the coach be a “lead learner” rather than the “expert with all the answers”. In this type of situation, the outcomes of the teacher/coach relationship would help create stronger teaching environments and ultimately, more learning for students.
Laura Mumaw , Wed February 21, 2007, 08:29 PM MST - Literacy Teams
The article “Literacy Teams: Sharing Leadership to Improve Student Learning” (Cobb, C., 2005) had some fantastic ideas for improving literacy in the classroom. These ideas would also be simple to implement in schools. Having the principal, reading coach, a primary teacher, and a secondary teacher together on literacy teams would be a great way to foster open communication throughout the school. Though it may be a bit nerve-wracking to have a principal drop in your room to observe, the feedback that you received would be incredibly helpful. Think of all the learning from which you could benefit, by beginning this type of teamwork in your school!

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