Today's post is brought to you by Jaimie Howe.
I consider myself very lucky. It is not all that common to find an educator these days that can actually say mostly positive things about their position, administrators, colleagues, and/or school. Times are hard politically and financially, and to be honest, some days I can hardly believe that public education still functions. School morale is probably at an all-time low in public education. Most teachers are worked way too hard, are battling severe stress, pushed too hard, and implementing one new initiative after the other. How is it even possible to keep the students at the center of our focus when teachers are barely treading water?
I have been fortunate enough to have worked in the same school from the start of my career until now and can honestly say, “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” Though the last few years have been tough and we, like any other public school, have been forced through change after change and initiative after initiative. We continue to smile, push harder, and teach our students day after day.
So why, do you ask, is the morale in our school still so positive? Why are students still learning and why are teachers staying put?
We build relationships.
We reach out to each other and ask for help.
We work together and we take one thing at a time.
We are a team.
My role as a literacy coach is huge in this process. I need to model all of the behaviors above every day in order to move forward. I am an advocate for change and change is HARD. Nobody likes change, but it has to happen. I am “the messenger” most of the time and most of the time “it stinks.” I am the one that brings more and more to the teachers every day. In the last two years I have been a lead in bringing them a new curriculum, PLCs, intervention blocks, Common Core State Standards (CCSS), formative assessments, “I Can” Statements, and the list goes on. From the get go I have always said that we will do this together; that I am here as a support and someone to help them through the process. I am one of them; I just get to put all of my energy into literacy and supporting teachers.
The best thing I did when I became a literacy coach was plan monthly collaboration meetings with each grade level at my building. I meet with each grade level team at least once each month. Our meetings range from professional development on the CCSS to developing monthly common formative assessments to reflecting on a lesson I had recently modeled in one of their classrooms. My collaboration meetings are so different at each grade level because they are differentiated. I build my coaching on the needs of each grade level and each individual teacher. I take them where they are at and support them with what they need and what they are ready for. I know that everything I bring to them needs to happen, but I know it cannot happen all at once. We take our time and do one thing right. Doing that one thing right, leads into the next and before you know it everything is fitting together. The teachers understand that I am not an administrator. I am not telling them what to do, nor is my intention to be punitive. I am giving them back time they don’t have by supporting them, helping them, and working WITH them.
The minute a teacher thinks you are “watching them” or “forcing them,” that is the minute when you’ve lost them. Coaching is about being a team, working together, and learning from each other. Understand that it takes time to build yourself as a coach just like it takes time to push through each new initiative. I don’t think I modeled one lesson for a teacher my first year as a coach. My second year, I worked briefly in one third grade classroom modeling a few lessons and now in my third year as a literacy coach, I have teachers asking to meet with me weekly rather than monthly and am modeling lessons in almost all classrooms. Needless to say, my schedule is booked. I have built these relationships over time and have gained the teachers’ trust. They understand that I am on their team.