Smith, A. T. (2007). The Middle School Literacy Coach: Considering Roles in Context. National Reading Conference Yearbook, 56, 53-67.
Author: Smith, A. T.
Are you a middle school literacy or instructional coach? If so, it will be worth your time to read this chapter, and it might be valuable to explore Smith's entire dissertation of the same title.
This paper, a discussion of Smith's findings from his larger dissertational study, considers two questions: 1) What roles do middle school literacy coaches play in different school settings? and 2) In what ways do contextual factors, and the coaches themselves, affect these roles?
Smith discusses his observations of three literacy/instructional coaches, each with 1-2 years of coaching experience, in order to clarify how coaches' work changes within varying middle school contexts. Smith found the following contexts to significantly impact coaches' work: assignment of one coach to multiple schools, block scheduling, school climate, and administration. When a coach is assigned to multiple schools, travel time limits coaching time, and managing multiple class schedules can prove difficult. When schools use block scheduling, it can limit a coach's ability visit classrooms with much frequency. This issue is exacerbated for those coaches working in schools that align blocks by content area. When all the language arts classes are offered during the same block, a coach cannot visit multiple classrooms each day. In regard to school climate, Smith explains that a negative climate undermines the coaching process. Negativity can make it difficult for coaches to gain access to teachers' classrooms, can lead to resentment, and often serves to weaken trust between coaches and teachers. Finally, Smith emphasizes the influence of schools' administrations on middle school literacy/instructional coaches, saying that principals have considerable power in determining the roles coaches assume and in influencing how coaching is received by the teaching staff.
In light of these findings, Smith suggests that although the varying contexts of middle schools potentially fragment the coaching process, literacy/instructional coaching can be very effective in middle schools. He suggests the following: Middle school coaching programs must remain strongly focused on teachers' instructional needs, and they must be on-going, sustained, and administration supported.
Smith's chapter is an interesting read, and offers multiple points of reflection for middle school literacy coaches. It is an important read for middle level literacy/instructional coaches, teacher leaders, and administrators. Smith's work serves to clarify characteristics of the effective middle school coaching programs, and so will be useful for educators seeking to improve or implement such programs.
Date Added: 05/07/2008
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