Forum 6: Gaining Entry - Shari Frost, Moderator, National-Louis University

Shari Frost, Sat August 25, 2007, 04:16 PM MDT

You have taken the classes. You have read the books. You have collected and developed a repertoire of strategies and tools to help teachers make a real difference in their students' literacy development. However, it is all worthless if you cannot get on the other side of the classroom door. Let us start by reviewing the recommendations by the authors of some popular coaching books.

Cathy Toll (2005) in The Literacy Coach's Survival Guide: Essential Questions and Practical Questions recommends setting up a schedule to visit all classrooms at strategic points throughout the school year. This approach does not single out any particular teacher. It also gives the coach valuable information about the instructional practices in the building. The coach can use this information to plan future professional development activities, book clubs, and study groups. This suggestion would work in an elementary school. However, coaches in larger middle and high schools would have to make adaptations to plan to make it workable.

Jennifer Allen (2006) in Becoming a Literacy Leader became a coach in a school where she had previously worked as a teacher. She reports that the first classrooms that she worked in as a coach were her friends' classrooms (Choice Literacy Workshop, October, 2006). It was a safe place to get started. It was safe for Jennifer to try her fledgling coaching skills and safe for the other teachers in the schools to observe what the coach does from a distance. The word soon got out. Before long, other teachers in the school were requesting Jennifer's coaching services.

Diane Sweeney (2003) in Learning Along the Way, Professional Development for and by Teachers believes that coaches should only work in classrooms at a teacher's invitation (National-Louis University Summer Institute, June, 2007). She advocates working with teachers in cycles rather than drive-by coaching. The coach's work with teachers comes from the teachers' own questions. The questions are grounded in children's work. Diane says that coaches should always be on the alert to identify teachers' questions as they emerge.

A coach in an urban, mid-west elementary school reports successfully getting into classrooms by asking teachers to give her an opportunity to try out an instructional strategy with their students. She will ask a teacher if she could try using an informational book for literature discussion or a new vocabulary strategy that she read about in a journal. This coach reports that this is a never fail approach. The teacher risks nothing and often asks for support in continuing the work the coach initiated in the lesson. Another benefit of this strategy is that the coach is viewed as a learner rather than an expert who knows everything about literacy.

In this forum, let us share our successful strategies for gaining entry into classrooms. 1. Have you tried any of the strategies suggested here? How did it work for you? 2. What obstacles does a coach need to overcome to gain entry? 3. Does your school have a predetermined coaching schedule or coaching cycle that makes gaining entry a non-issue? Do you believe it is working well?



Comments

Roberta Buhle , Thu September 06, 2007, 10:57 AM MDT - Gaining Entry
Two coaches from a large urban district have developed a two-column form to help them gain entry into classrooms. They call it a "Literacy Menu." The left-hand column, "Classroom Environment" has a checklist of activities such as organizing classroom libraries, leveling books, setting up a word wall, assisting with student assessment, etc. The right-hand column is titled "Demonstration Lessons" and lists guided reading, word sorting, shared/interactive writing, etc. Teachers are invited to check off any items with which they want help. The form had a real test this September when one of the reading specialists moved to a new school and put the form into everyone's mailbox. She recently wrote to say that she's already getting requests to come and help! She will soon share what the most popular requests are and how she handles providing the support. I'll post another response when I find out how things go with her.
Evelyn Acevedo-Nolfi , Thu September 06, 2007, 02:31 PM MDT - Literacy Menu
As a way to gain entry into new schools, a colleague and I developed a form that we called the "Literacy Menu". We decided to start off the year by sending an introductory letter to all the teachers in our schools. In my letter, I mentioned my teaching background as well as my background in coaching. Attached to the letter was the Literacy Menu my colleague and I developed. The menu was well received. We've only been in school for three days and seven teachers have already replied! Teachers have requested assistance with both management and instructional issues. This tool is helping me get to know my teachers a little better.

Literacy Menu

Shari Frost , Fri September 07, 2007, 09:13 AM MDT - Literacy Menu
Thank you for sharing your menu, Evelyn. Will you to update us on how the teachers respond to the menu?
Cassie O'Keefe , Wed October 03, 2007, 08:57 PM MDT - Gaining Entry
I have found the direct approach is best. It is my job to be in classrooms. My teachers know that. Most teachers sign up because they have a specific concern they want help with. For teachers who aren't signing up, I ask to come in. I tell them I need to get to know the children. I offer to do a read aloud and offer help with assessments; usually offers of help open doors. I am telling all my teachers that I need to know what is happening in reading, writing and word study in the classrooms. It helps me plan and conduct effective professional development. It is also an expectation of my job. I work at three schools and all of the principals expect me to know what is going on in the classrooms. One of my buildings is new to me this year, but the teachers are demanding my services as much as the others. Once most teachers see the coach as a resource, they appreciate what you have to offer. When first establishing a coaching relationship, I was really a cheerleader and I still am. I make a point of always acknowledging what my teachers are doing well and that I know how hard they work. Teachers need to hear that. I am amazed at how many wonderful teachers doubt themselves ! I suppose that is, in part, what makes them strive to improve. But everyone needs to hear that they are doing well. I think teachers need to reflect on what they doing so that they can recognize when they are being effective and congratulate themselves for it. There is always more to do and more to learn. That can be discouraging for some teachers. They need to be encouraged so that their learning is fun and rewarding-in the same way we would encourage and reward our students. Being an effective coach is really being in touch with the teachers. Just as in the classroom, it is all about relationships!
Johanna Napolitano , Thu October 04, 2007, 05:58 PM MDT - Gaining Entry
Hi All, Every Monday I come in with some food, usually donuts, I walk around greeting everyone in their classroom. It only takes me a few minutes to take a peek at the classroom decor. At that time I will talk about something that looks interesting For example, if the teacher has current event articles on the wall I will mention how I have some great Journal activities to use that would go well with the articles. If I go into a middle school science classroom and see some posters on the wall about certain scientific procedures, I will mention how I could help create a word wall from the vocabulary on the posters. You would be surprised, food goes a long way. Also, if I have a conversation with a teacher, I will always put a quick little thank you card in his/her box for sharing and talking with me. I always remember to give at least 3 people a day a compliment. People are so receptive to that. It builds a comforting atmosphere. Other times too, I will gather some graphic organizers, some information on a literary element, or a short story and let them know I have a great lesson on this topic could I try it in their room. Many times, too, I will bring in a picture book, geared towards a certain theme or population. There are some great picture books geared towards English Language Learners that help them feel comfortable, and safe. Most teachers want help with their ELL population or their lower achieving population. Many times, at first, I will make it about the student. Usually, after we have had several conversations on what the students needs are the teacher eventually opens up about some of their own needs. Listen. Listen. Listen. Share. Share. Share. Hope this helps. Enjoy to all.
Katie Kurumada , Sun January 13, 2008, 07:59 PM MST - Gaining entry and defining roles

Hello! I am a phd student in language and literacy taking a course on literacy coaching and supervision of school programs. I am certified to be a Reading Specialist, but have never had any experience in this position (partly bc these jobs are scare in our school districts). I am currently reading Becoming a Literacy Leader and have appreciated reading these previous responses about how literacy coaches have become a part of their teachers' classrooms in a variety of ways. It certainly seems like finding out what is happening in classrooms is key to creating or planning any kind of support to teachers. In her book, Jennifer Allen shares that forming teacher study groups on certain topics based on responses from a survey she sent out via email to teachers was an effective way to build relationships and 'gain access'. I think food always helps too! I am also curious about the question - "Does your school have a predetermined coaching schedule or coaching cycle that makes gaining entry a non-issue?" Defining the roles and schedules as a literacy coach seems to be one of the most difficult issues with literacy coaches I have heard about in our area...often, their role is focused on organizing for the standardized tests and helping with student support teams, etc. One of the assignments I will work on this semester is to create a job description of a literacy coach position and this is exciting, but still new to me! Can anyone else share about their experience defining their roles with administrators and teachers? How has this worked?

Kathy Boyer , Tue February 05, 2008, 05:26 PM MST - Gaining Entry

As a current graduate student in a reading,language,and literacy program and future reading specialist or literacy coach as well as an experienced teacher, I have been researching the roles of reading specialists and literacy coaches around the country. Even though IRA and NCTE have specific recommendations about the roles for each position, I have found that there is a wide variety of responsibilities required of these professionals and each professional has had to tailor their duties to meet the needs of their administrators, students, school(s), and districts. One of the literacy leaders in a multi-cultural suburban elementary school nearby has shared with me some of the ways that she has gained entry into the classrooms. Her coaching and teaching cycle is based on a three-year plan of coaching and professional development for each grade level K-2. As a team, the literacy coach and the administration decide which grade level will get most of the time of the literacy coach depending on the focus of the reading or writing work that will be implemented in the classrooms during units of study. The teachers in that particular grade level are required to allow the literacy coach to come in each week to provide instruction, support, and coaching. After the first year, this grade level engages in a book study to align the reading and writing maps created the first year into units of study - minimal coaching is involved. The third year this same grade level refines the integration of reading and writing into the units of study -no coaching unless requested. Each year the literacy coach will give a different level of attention to each grade level depending on where they are in the cycle, gradually releasing the responsibility to the teachers. New teachers received a different level of mentoring. So, the first year of work with the literacy coach for a particular grade level is mandatory and occurs weekly. The second year of work with that grade level involves a book study. It is up to the individual teachers to request support from the literacy coach who may also initiate occasional progress checks. The third year is a year of support from the literacy coach on an "as need" basis. My colleague finds that by working with an entire grade level for a year, she can establish a more consistent delivery of instruction and help foster comprehensive literacy gains across grade levels. Her coaching is about relationships as well as production and takes different paths with different people. She says that the adult issues have become less invasive and the teachers are having deeper conversations about the students and their work as they progress through the cycle.

Joshua Cuevas , Tue February 05, 2008, 07:25 PM MST - Gaining Entry

Hello, all. I'm a high school teacher of literature and composition and doctoral student in educational psychology. While I do not plan to be a literacy coach in the traditional sense, I do plan on implementing and improving reading programs across school systems.

As I have read the literature on coaching, I have begun to realize the tenuous position of the literacy coach. Since the coach is not officially in a supervisory position, it must be a very difficult job to work with teachers and implement change in an environment in which you will certainly encounter a good bit of resistance from teachers who are very set in their ways. Because teachers' cooperation is essentially voluntary, a great deal of diplomacy must be necessary on the part of the literacy coach.

We do not have a literacy coach at the high school where I teach. Although approximately 98% of our students pass the language arts portion of the graduation test, which is outstanding considering our demographics, if you were to examine the actual reading comprehension and writing levels of our students, it would be apparent that literacy coaches are needed at the high school level as well. However, thinking about my own school, I know the majority of our 20 or so language arts teachers would resist outside influence on their classrooms. And while most of those teachers are good literature teachers, I know that few of them use explicit methods to address improving their students' literacy.

After we get past the sighs and the eye rolls, if we can get teachers talking and focusing on how to improve skills rather than just having students retain knowledge, we may be able to make progress. I know most of our teachers would struggle to fit more meetings and planning time into their schedules (as I would with graduate classes and a family), but I also know they’re all in the profession to help students. So I guess the first hurdle is to somehow stimulate teachers to see value in developing greater understanding of literacy and to promote dialogue, thereby encouraging teachers to take ownership of their own professional growth.

Rebecca Glass , Thu February 07, 2008, 12:25 PM MST - Gaining Entry

I am currently a graduate student in a Reading, Language, and Literacy Program and anticipate graduating in May. To be honest, I have not put much thought into exactly what job I am going to pursue following my completion of the program. In my ignorance, I had tentatively planned to be a reading specialist thinking of myself basically working one-on-one with students who struggle with reading. I have learned this semester especially that this job can call for so much more. It really depends on how I define my position at the school where I teach and what exactly they need me to do.

After perusing through the textbooks for my supervision class, I realize that I need to be prepared to coach teachers in the instruction of reading just as much as being prepared to coach students. As the reading specialist, or literacy coach, it could very well fall upon my shoulders to support and help teachers the majority of the time. As Joshua explained, this could be a very challenging task. There are understandably many teachers who are set in their ways. They have taught a certain way for so long that a new idea has very little room in their routine. Also, time constraints for teachers who want to live a life outside of the school building ensure that extra meetings will often be viewed in a negative light.

I believe the most valuable information I have recieved thus far is found in Cathy Toll's The Literacy Coach's Survival Guide that I noticed has already been recommended by Shari Frost. Toll advises any literacy coach to always begin by establishing relationships with the administration, staff, and students before even thinking about implementing content and plans. This would be equivalent to a teacher establishing routines and getting to know the students during the first week of school rather than diving into all of the textbooks and assigning five projects. A foundation of respect and trust must be laid before progress can begin in any area. The same holds true for the literacy coach. Establishing trust with the teachers, students, and principal should always be goal number one. Furthermore, I found the input given by the other more experienced literacy coaches in this forum to be realistic, creative, and helpful.

Hannah Maharaj , Thu February 07, 2008, 02:43 PM MST - Gaining Entry

Greetings! I am currently a 3rd grade teacher in an urban school just outside of Atlanta, GA. Although I am not a literacy coach, or reading specialist, as of now I hope to be one soon! However I have been the subject of a reading specialist’s coaching and expertise.

At the school I currently teach at during the first year a teacher is at the school you must meet with the reading specialist on a weekly basis. This ends up being a great scenario because the specialist helps the new teacher become accustomed to the curriculum, state standards, routines and assessments present in the school. After the first year the reading specialist serves on an as needed basis. This “as needed basis” is either identified as necessary by formal observations or the teacher independently seeks out the reading specialist to ask for guidance. I feel that some teachers use the assistance and expertise of the reading specialist religiously because they had a good first year with them and built up a relationship. I have observed other teachers shying away from the reading specialist because they thing asking for help would be embarrassing or they did not form a positive relationship with them over the first year. I think to truly and successfully “gain entry” into a classroom a positive relationship is needed as a foundation for mutual respect and open conversation in the relationship between the reading specialist and the teacher. This is visible in my school.

I also think that the role that administration plays in the relationship between the reading specialist and the teacher is essential. If a teacher is encouraged through negative observations to seek the help of the reading specialist then the teacher may have a negative outlook on what help the reading specialist can provide. However if administration gently coaxes a teacher into using the reading specialist whether through a show case of his/her talents or by mandating weekly meetings at first then reading specialist may “gain entry” into the classroom.

Also it is my opinion that by having a positive attitude and encouraging teachers to seek advice from you, as a reading specialist, it can be easier to gain entry into a teacher’s classroom to offer advice. Finally by disbursing meaningful material, offering professional development classes, participating in book clubs, and offering constructive feedback with suggestions a mutual relationship of respect can be formed between the literacy coach/reading specialist and the classroom teacher. This leads to “gaining entry” into the classroom.

Adrienne Wilburn , Sat February 09, 2008, 11:44 AM MST - Learning the Ropes of Entry

I am a fairly new literacy coach with less than a year of experience. My first semester, I subscribed to the "drive by approach" to coaching where my focus was on observing and providing feedback to everyone equally. My principal has helped me to reconceptualize my role by targeting my efforts on teachers that need me most which she emphasizes should be determined through data analysis. While I can not say that I wholeheartedly agree that this should be the sole source of information used to determine a teacher's need for coaching, I do view data as a solid starting point. Now that I am adding to my toolbox different parts of the puzzle that will serve to guide my efforts, I feel a bit more at ease because I do not feel responsible for coaching so many teachers at the same time. As opposed to focusing on 32 teachers, I am now working with 2-3 teachers at a time. I guess now I subscribe to coaching in cycles. I can see this being more effective because my visits to particular teachers' classrooms are not spaced apart and disjointed but instead more consistent as I assist the teacher in improving student achievement.

Regarding entry into the classroom, there are so few teachers that invite me to visit their rooms. The first year teachers are pretty eager for my help, but this is not the case with the more experienced. I think that by listening to teachers questions and concerns, I can pinpoint ways that I can offer support to even veteran teachers. This area of gaining entry into classrooms, is one that I am still growing in as a coach. There is no doubt that this website has been invaluable in my development thus far.

Sarah Swingle , Sun February 10, 2008, 12:46 PM MST - Gaining Entry

Hello! I have enjoyed reading the previous entries in this forum on gaining entry into classrooms. I am currently working on my Masters in Reading, Language, and Literacy. When starting this program, I thought the only way to use my master’s degree would be a Reading Specialist – how wrong I was! I have learned there is much more available to students of RLL. One aspect of this program that peeks my interest the most is the position of Literacy Coach. I have been reading many texts about Literacy Coaching, including two of the books mentioned above: The Literacy Coach’s Survival Guide by Toll and also Becoming a Literacy Leader by Jennifer Allen. For me, Allen creates an ideal image of the Literacy Coach. Her positive outlook on her job and colleague makes her job seem like a welcomed and valuable resource to her school. Allen’s focus is on the teacher and helping them in ways which they are comfortable. She leads by example. She creates a teacher-friendly environment in her Literacy Room. Teachers are welcome to come to her room, browse materials, gain new ideas on literacy instruction, borrow text sets, borrow professional reads, and also ask her for guidance.

When I think about what type of Literacy Coach I would be, I like to think of myself modeling after Allen. Book Studies are very important to Allen. It is very important to let teachers have a say in the types of materials, topics, and books they want to learn more about. Hosting book studies on different topics gives teachers the freedom to choose books based on their interests. Also, when teachers are interested in the topics of the book study, the group will experience more positive learning. Book Studies are a beneficial way of continuing teacher education if they are conducted with the teachers’ best interest in mind.

Another idea that I think is very important when it comes to Literacy Coaching is being a model teacher. I believe Literacy Coaches should be actively involved in classrooms. Instead of going into classrooms to observe teachers’ instruction, literacy coaches should be going into classes to provide modeling of effective instruction. Modeling is a strategy used by every teacher with their students. Why should we not implement modeling among literacy coaches and teachers as well? This takes the pressure of the classroom teacher and makes them more at ease. No one wants to feel their teachings are being analyzed under a microscope. By have the literacy coach actively involved in the classroom, and the teacher observing the coach, the pressure for the teachers decrease and the benefits for the students increase.

Brian Dorman , Tue February 12, 2008, 08:39 PM MST - Gaining entry

One way that I have used fairly effectively has been to ask if I can come and teach a period because I want to try something out (or I have research that I need to do for a graduate course). The teachers that I ask have always said yes and then we end up talking about the lesson that I taught. Many times, I hear comments such as "Johnny did more work for you today than he has done all semester" which leads to further conversations about using different activities. That usually leads to an invitation to come back or work with a different class.

I guess as long as I am in school working toward my doctorate, I can keep that up!

Kristen Salsameda , Sat February 16, 2008, 10:44 AM MST - Gaining Entry

I am currently a graduate student working on a Master's in Reading, Language, and Literacy. This is my fifth year working as a Reading Specialist in my county. Based on my experience, in order to gain entry into the classrooms, there has to be administrative support. For several years, there was a lot of support at my school. I was pulled into different classes to demonstrate and model lessons; I taught several Reading Enhancement courses, and I created professional developments. Some changes were implemented, and now I just teach Reading Enhancement classes all day. Without that administrative support, the teachers don't look to me for help anymore. It took a lot of work to create that positive relationship with the teachers, one where the teachers would come to me with questions and concerns. Now that I don't have the opportunity to go to their classrooms and help them, they don't come to me as often. Even when I was going into other classrooms, it was definitely a slow process to get other teachers involved. It started with just my friends inviting me into their rooms because they knew I wanted to get involved. They would tell other teachers, and through word of mouth, I was invited into many classrooms. This was one of the most helpful was I was given access to classes. (Although, that food idea sounded great too!)

There is another Reading Specialist at my school, and we work together. One thing that we did to interact with other teachers was to go to their department meetings and model lessons geared toward their subjects. We would also stuff mailboxes with ideas and activities that we had copied for everyone. We would send out Reading tips over email for people to quickly skim over.

As I am going through this program and reading the texts about literacy coaching, I can see that my job really needs to be more than just being in the classroom. Teaching my 15 students each block is helping them, but if I can work with the 200 teachers in my school, then they can impact the 90 students that they see each day. The difference is amazing! I want to be able to help the teachers and share with them what I have learned. I love Jennifer Allen's book study idea in Becoming a Literacy Leader. The teachers at her school seemed resistant and apathetic to her at first, but she created a comfortable environment and is now a crucial resource to those teachers. I am excited about the opportunity to do that in my school.

Aimee Arens , Sun March 16, 2008, 09:45 AM MDT - Gaining Entry

I teach 9th grade English & am in the University of Colorado at Denver’s graduate program for Literacy. It is exciting to see so many people dedicated to literacy, our students and each other as seen in this website. Everyone has provided such helpful & useful suggestions: the Literacy Menu, food (everyone loves food!), and volunteering to teach a lesson (I can’t see very many teachers turning this down.) I would only stuff mailboxes or send e-mails if specifically asked. Our inboxes are already overcrowded & I could only imagine how many of my thoughtful, creative, decorative handouts would end up in the trash.
Reiterating what others have said, because it is your job, you can’t wait to be invited. You have to make yourself accessible. I was also confused about how many teachers a coach should coach at a time – 32, 2-3, 200? I understand that a 1st year coach will work with fewer teachers than a seasoned coach, but what do those numbers look like? I realize the more teachers you reach, inevitably, the more students you reach, but what about the quality of the interaction between the teacher & the coach? Any suggestions?

Suzanne Santos , Sun April 13, 2008, 10:07 AM MDT - Entry in classrooms

As I am finishing my graduate degree in the Literacy and Language program at CU Denver I continue to ponder the question if I will ever be a literacy coach. In District 50 in Denver, CO there has been big changes to the role of Literacy Coach. The coaches role has went from a instructional mentor to a manager and enforcer of district planned monthly continuum teaching guides. Obviously I would not want to walk into the latter as my new found profession. However, if I could be a sharer of information and an inspiring force in the school, I would jump to it! Of course gaining entry into the classrooms and the trust of my colleagues would be my biggest challenge. Having access to this forum is a great tool for asking questions and perhaps venting frustrations. But most importantly it is a community where coaches can easily share ideas. I saved a copy of the Literacy Menu for safe keeping- thank you so much for sharing! I think I would introduce myself at a staff meeting, give them the menu, and pass out food as the teachers fill out at least one thing that they would want me to help them with in the classroom. Another idea I like is getting your feet wet in your friend's classrooms if you are familiar with the building. But the best thing I learned from a previous coach is to have a sympathetic ear and strong next step guidance.

william adamsky , Tue April 15, 2008, 04:02 PM MDT -

I like Jennifer Allen’s approach: get into the classroom of your buddies, the ones who don’t see you as an “outsider”. You can debrief over a beer at happy hour on a Friday afternoon. It could be fun. After all, you’re spending time with someone you like, and meeting with them and discussing what goes on in your classroom is something you probably already do together anyway. If your friends are respected teachers in the facility, even better. Once the other teachers see that those respected teachers are welcoming a Literacy Coach into their domains, the coach then gains more credibility among other faculty members for what they are trying to do.

Of course, if you’re a brand new employee in a building, that puts the kibosh on that. An article I read recently told of a literacy coach who did nothing but attend faculty meetings and keep her mouth shut for almost a year, just so she could start building relationships with her new colleagues. Get to know them first.

Erika Eichelberg , Sun April 20, 2008, 04:07 PM MDT -
I am a graduate student but have experience with coaching because my district uses coaches. I think the best place for a coach to start is to build relationships with the teachers so the teachers feel comfortable with the coach and a trust can be build. I have seen situations when this did not happen and an already resistent teacher became even more resistent and it was just a mess. I think having the coach and the teacher establish expectations and goals together is also a good place to start. The teacher is the one who should ask for specific goals, but a coach can also help guide a teacher to other goals through coaching. I think having a coach demo a lesson is always helpful, because then a teacher can see the technique in action and there is no...I think I get it but how would that really look. With a demo lesson it is shown the expectation and the outcome, which is very helpful for many teachers. I think the relationships are the first thing that should be established so that each teacher being coached sees coaching as a helpful tool because coaching can be so beneficial.
Shawna Codrington , Sat January 31, 2009, 02:15 PM MST - Establish good rapport with classroom teachers.
I am currently a graduate student at San Diego State University in the Literacy Education M.A program. When I decided to become a reading specialist, I started paying more attention to the reading specialist at the elementary school I work at. We have a new reading specialist at my school this year who works 40% of the week. I noticed that when she started in August, she immediately started introducing herself to the teachers and started asking them what they expected of her as a reading specialist and asked how she could be a resource to them. The teachers responded positively by asking her for resources, strategies, and advice that they could use with their struggling readers and writers. I think that it is essential for a new reading specialist to establish a good rapport with the teachers. I also think it's important to offer resources and professional development workshops for teachers as well. When I get my first job as a reading specialist, I plan to develop a good rapport with the classroom teachers and students. I also look forward to modeling different strategies for teachers to use with their students and following up with them about it.
Stephanie Strachan , Fri February 20, 2009, 04:57 PM MST - Gaining Entry
As a current graduate student in a reading specialist program, I do not have any experience coaching other teachers. As such, I greatly appreciate the many ideas suggested in this forum regarding gaining entry into classrooms. I loved the literacy menu mentioned in earlier comments! It appears to be an efficient tool that could work well with teachers who have areas they desire to improve within their classrooms. I plan to use it in the future. Yet while this survey works great with some teachers, I wonder how many teachers respond to the survey overall? What about gaining access to teachers' classrooms who do not invite you in? I think that is where the concept of building trust with teachers is key. Based on my experience as a teacher, allowing teachers to view you as a collaborative learner, as opposed to a figure of authority, can open the door as a coach. I also find the idea of building deep relationships with one grade level very intriguing, as discussed earlier by Kathy. Not only could that model provide more in-depth coaching and a clear way into each classroom at that grade level, but it would also put the learning directly into the hands of the teachers during years two and three of the program. Has anyone else had experience with this approach?
Meghann Voigtritter , Sat March 14, 2009, 03:25 PM MDT -

I am currently a graduate student in a reading specialist program, and have never worked in the role of reading specialist. Furthermore, the school I work at does not have a reading specialist, so I have had no "real-life" experience with reading specialism, outside of my graduate classes. I am so thankful to have wonderful resources at my fingertips (such as this website) that allow me to converse with reading specialists and help me prepare for my own future career in this field. Through these resources and from my classes, I have learned a few positive methods for gaining entry into classrooms. One of my professors made a very wise suggestion: keep your ears open. If one of your colleagues says, "Oh, I'm really interested in literature circles," take note! Follow up by putting an article on literature circles in the teacher's box with a little note that acknowledges a shared interest in this topic. I think a lot of people on this forum hit the nail on the head: if you're friendly, and approach teachers with an attitude that suggests you're all in this business of education together, they will be much more open to being observed by you.

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