Beyond Building Capacity: Sustaining New Literacy Coaches in Their Roles

As an independent literacy coach, the districts that I serve contract with me to provide coaching inside of their schools as they work to identify those who may want to assume these positions internally over time. Part of my work involves supporting potential coaches as they learn more about what this work entails and how they might approach it themselves. Over the last two years, I’ve put several different opportunities in place for those who have expressed an interest in assuming a coaching role within their districts. I’m curious to know what other literacy leaders do to ensure that new coaches are well supported as they assume and settle into their roles. Here’s what I’ve been up to…..

First, potential coaches have been invited to participate in a variety of workshop sessions aimed at helping them learn and plan strategically. Participants in these sessions have assessed their needs and shared them with me in ways that have helped to shape our conversations and study. We’ve explored a variety of different texts, shared promising instructional strategies and tools, and considered factors beyond the nuts and bolts of on-the-ground coaching itself, including a study of group dynamics, leadership, and (very) basic systems thinking.

This year, with the help of Theresa Gray at Erie 2 BOCES, we’ve also launched what is (to my knowledge) our area’s first literacy coaching forum: WNYLIT. Current and potential coaches from different school districts and with varied experience are beginning to meet and learn from one other here on a consistent basis….beginning today! We’re welcoming others in our area to join us as well. If you’re interested, drop me a line. I’m looking forward to meeting other local literacy coaches, and I’m very excited to be connecting those who are interested in beginning this work to a wider network before they make the leap.

Those that I coach are welcome to join the WNY Young Writers’ Studio as well. Our work is influenced by our fellowship with Communities for Learning: Leading Lasting Change. The CFL framework and the Dispositions of Practice guide our thinking and inform our actions in ways that workshops and training alone cannot. Two of the potential coaches that I serve are now fellows of this community as well.

Finally, potential coaches have been invited to plan, shadow and collaboratively coach with me on the job. I spent a portion of last week “co-coaching” with a fellow of the WNY Young Writers’ Studio who is interested in assuming an internal coaching position in her school district should it become available. This was beneficial in a variety of ways, and one I plan to write more about tomorrow. Do any of you engage in similar collaborative learning experiences? If so, I hope you will share your stories in the comments section below.

I’m hopeful that opportunities like these will allow those who are new to coaching a variety of diverse perspectives and multiple layers of support as they gain their footing and begin building momentum. As an independent coach, my goal is to leave the districts that I serve well poised to work independently as well. These steps are just the beginning……what else do you consider when contemplating ways to sustain new literacy coaches?

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