Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The [Rolls] Roles of a Literacy Coach

Today's post is brought to you by Penny Antell.

The Rolls Roles of a Literacy Coach

Where does one begin, with no job description that can truly ever contain the tasks a literacy coach is involved in, the job becomes all encompassing.  This is awesome!  It allows me, as a coach to reach farther, stretch and learn in new ways, and forces me to think outside the box while problem solving with teaching staff. 

So, let’s begin with a few adjectives and verbs to define the roles of a literacy coach: supportive, flexible, creative, leader, listener, follower, cheerleader, friend, empathizer, data collector and analyzer, comforter, observer, teacher, learner, and guide. 

I would add to these terms baker and cook as well.  I find when I provide treats to my team, there is a comfort that comes along with this.  The comfort provided through sustenance for my teachers and therapy for me as I am preparing the rolls, muffins, cookies, granola, etc.

Coaching is truly a job of service and growth for all involved.  The quote “It takes a village to educate a child,” fits well in the realm of coaching.  Everyone has different strengths and areas that can be further developed which they bring to the table for discussion and learning.  The literacy coach has the opportunity to strengthen weaknesses through modeling in classrooms, meeting with teams of teachers to discuss data trends, celebrations and concerns, to open the door to talking about what best practice instruction involves, and introduce new learning. Through modeling, observing and guiding instruction, areas where confidence is lacking are strengthened and areas of strength are shored up to higher levels.    While working with teachers, coaches listen for the unspoken as well as to the clearly stated beliefs and values the teachers hold.  They build on this with each teacher through careful listening, and carefully selected language.  They build relationships with the staff developing trust through their interactions.  They celebrate successes and grieve losses together, but more than anything, coaches support, guide, lead and teach.  By teaching and guiding teachers, a larger audience is being impacted.  Coaches have the unique role of creating shift among a vast population by working with those who are working writing our future.

Yes, it takes a community to teach a child the ways he should go.  Sometimes, as a coach, I represent each of these hands depending upon the setting/purpose of the current situation.  However, I could not do this job alone.  I need the community of learners at my side to learn and grow with me.  Together we make a difference and all roles are filled.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Many Roles of the Literacy Coach

Today's post is brought to you by Bobbi Campbell.

Role, Roll, Role

For this particular post, I informally interviewed several fantastic, multi-talented coaches. The work they do on a daily basis never ceases to amaze me. Here is why…

(Note:  I have changed the names to protect the coaches mentioned in this blog.)
Image taken from this source.
The Cheerleader:  Peppy Patty spends part of her day giving a shout out to a teacher over the loud speaker, as moral is way down and Patty needs to boost it.  She also spends some of her time sending out positive emails about shifts in the CCSS, best practice and the use of researched strategies, curriculum writing, new books in the library, and professional journals for check out.
Image taken from this source.
Disciplinarian: Prudent Patty keeps a tight ship, especially when she is covering for her colleague who does the regular discipline. I see Peppy Patty peeking out every so often, but then I see the pursed lip, straight spine, hands deflecting bad behaviors and I know that Prudent Patty has returned? 
Image taken from this source.
The Defensive Line Coach: Packs-a-Punch Patty delivers her coaching with fervor and precision.  She is determined to articulate a plan, deliver it, and have a post conference recap and sets a new plan in motion without taking one breath. 
Image taken from this source.
The Wonder Woman: Permeating Patty is like diffusion across a semi-permeable membrane – seeping in every crevice, focus, and agenda, that involves instruction. She does it all: facilitates team meetings, discipline specific meetings, whole staff meetings, and district meetings.  She has just enough time to show off her excellent skills with a whistle and ball bin when she monitors students during combat, I mean, lunch duty.
Image taken from this source.
The Data Analyst: Proficient Patty constructs data sets for teams to analyze for use in informing instruction. She helps teachers to make decisions based on evidence and tracks progress towards those goals derived from the data.
Image taken from this source.
Magician: Plentiful Patty finds a way to carve out time even when we all know there are only 24 hours in a day. No task is insurmountable for Patty; no task unbeatable; no task puts Patty up against a brick wall – she, like master of allusions, can make magic happen right before your eyes.
Image taken from this source.
Hats off to coaches across the state – they are many things, but most of all, they are appreciated for their brave endeavors, their daunting tasks, and their burning passion for all things literacy.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Mystery of the Literacy Coach Role

Today's post is brought to you by Heather Zimmerman.

What is the role of the literacy coach?  (Or… reading specialist, reading coach, reading instructional coach, or literacy resource teacher.)  This seems to be a question from not only teachers but administrators.  This position looks different not only in different districts, but sometimes within the district.  

For a graduate class we had to look for the job description of a literacy coach in the district we work in.  It was amazing what a task that was for some of the people in the class.  Every job description, if they were found, looked different.  Some descriptions even had wording along the lines of “...and any other tasks…”  My class began to notice that literacy coaches become the “Jack of all trades.”

I emailed teachers at the beginning of the year an email that explained how we can work together, I received a few emails thanking me, because they were not sure how literacy coaches could be of assistance. 

Since educators are confused by the role, it is understandable why students or parents might be confused by the role.  I received an email at the beginning of the year from a former student.  She was confused because she heard that I left the classroom and took a role as an assistant.  She seemed a bit relieved when I told her what a literacy coach does.  

I do think that literacy coaches, however you define the role, have to be willing to drive literacy forward in schools to increase student achievement.  Literacy coaches are apart of teams.  They help administrators establish the literacy goal and plan professional development.  They are apart of the teacher team and work together with teachers to discover how literacy plays a role in all classroom.  And they are apart of the student team and help students find success in all parts of literacy.  (The student piece looks varies for literacy coaches.  This might be working with small groups in the classroom, modeling a lesson, working with an individual student, etc.)   The key to the literacy coaches role though is to build relationships and work as a team.  

There is a YouTube video where a speaker, Simon Sinek talks about relationships in the business world. What he talks about can easily be applied to education.  The video is worth watching if you if you ever have an extra 15 minutes.

Direct link to Simon Sinek's Vistage Presentation on YouTube.

One quote I really liked he cited from an African proverb.  “To go fast, go alone.  To go far, go together."  This applies to not only the literacy coach role but all roles in school.  Working together will make the most impact for students.

Friday, October 25, 2013

This Week's To Do List

Today's post is brought to you by Andrea Reichenberger.

  • plan and deliver the last of 4 full days of professional development for all the 6-12 ELA teachers and co-teachers (ELL, SWD) on best practices in literacy instruction aligned to the CCSS.
  • check the teacher exit tickets from the Day 3 trainings and try to meet requests for teachers' need
  • observe, coach, and offer feedback to the 4 teachers who set up appointments with me this week to ensure they are implementing our 6-12 ELA program with fidelity
  • model close reading in a science classroom
  • help the new ELA teachers with their lesson planning
  • meet with the intervention class teacher for the 6 week progress monitoring check - look at data and develop the plan for the next 6 weeks based on students' needs
  • finish the design "look for" lists and protocols for peer, coach, and administrative classroom observations  (This week is Purpose and Modeling look for tool.)
  • attend the Secondary Leadership Team (principals, asst. principals, directors, and superintendent) meeting and communicate what they should be looking for in the classrooms
  • set agenda and meet with my building principal
  • meet with the technology department chair to plan creation of READ posters
  • meet with the high school math coach and the director of curriculum to design the end of the month staff development for both the middle school and high school on Standards Based Learning (more specifically on Assessment and Feedback) (Bring notes from last week's brain storming session)
  • design and finish the write up of the interventions for the RtI menu
  • figure out how to use the ALPINE system to triangulate the data and look at which students qualify for interventions (Almost done!)
  • train teachers (those who asked first) on how to read their data since MAP testing is almost complete. (Um...not sure I will accomplish this? May have to push off until next week.)
  • attend the FOCUS team meeting this week to evaluate and modify our current school goals
  • review and order books for our Parent Literacy Night and for the ELA dept. (Working with Scholastic so I can get points to order more books!)
  • finish writing grants and figure out other clever ways to build classroom libraries (see above item).
  • set up training for the social studies dept. on the disciplinary literacy standards. (Done.  Just need to attend the training and make sure the same message is delivered from all sides. Thanks to the consultants at DPI!)
  • check out the latest reviews for YA literature titles and schedule a visit from the Youth Services Librarian from the public library to do book talks.  (Need to get input from the ELA teachers about upcoming dates.)
  • order professional titles and find articles to share with teachers. (On-going)
  • meet with the district K-12 math, literacy, GT, ELL and technology coaches as a large group. (No meeting this week! Phew!)
  • meet with the K-12 district literacy coaches. (No meeting this week! Phew!)
  • plan for late start discussion about ELA curriculum spiral and encourage team members to have conversations and come to agreements about what they should be teaching and assessing.
  • eat (Only if there is time.)
  • use the restroom (Only if there is time.)
  • write my blog post for the Literacy Booth coaching blog! When am I going to find the time to do THAT too?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What Hat Will I Wear Today?

Today's post is brought to you by Carrie.

I think about the hats I’ve worn in my lifetime: a tiny pink knit cap the day I came home from the hospital, one especially memorable white Easter bonnet I wore for many weeks after the holiday season, the baseball cap during my years of playing college softball. Each of these hats represents a unique “part” of what makes up the “whole.” I view my work as a Literacy Coach in much the same way; year by year, day by day, hour by hour, or, at times, minute by minute, I change my “hat” to fit the need or situation. This ability to adapt and change and adjust is what makes the role of a Literacy Coach both invigorating and challenging.
In my experience, no one coach has the exact same “role.” In fact, year to year, I find my own role as a coach within the district changing. In my four years of work, at one time or another, I’ve been a: curriculum writer, instructor, interventionist, test proctor, substitute teacher, advisor, mentor, team member, and presenter.
As much variety as the role includes, I also work to define a consistent image as a coach. First and foremost, I still classify my role as “teacher.” Not only am I a teacher of children or young adults, but also a teacher of teachers. I value quality instruction, utilize best practices, and check for understanding. I work to build a climate of trust, respect, and communication. All of the values I held as a classroom teacher, I build into my role as a coach. Good teaching practices are good practices whether they are for children or adults. In this way, I believe my strength as a coach lies in my teaching expertise. Teachers in my district know that my strengths lie in curriculum planning, instructional techniques, and assessment.
For me, the struggle of my job as a Literacy Coach is keeping the “teacher hat” in the forefront. The day to day grind of paperwork, meetings, committees, and planning teams often leaves me feeling like a secretary. At times, the most important tasks that are real, true “teaching” fall second to filling out another purchase order or making another benchmark assessment copy. I continue to struggle to keep my priorities straight versus checking something off my ever growing list.

As a Literacy Coach, variety is both the strength and struggle of the job; but, at the end of the day, nothing is more rewarding than being brave enough to try on a new hat and finding that it fits just right!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Many Hats

Today's post is brought to you by Jaimie Howe.

Image taken from this source.

Like the peddler in Caps for Sale (retold by Esphyr Slobodkina), I wear many hats as a literacy coach.  The hats that I wore when I first started as a literacy coach have evolved over the last few years.  The hat that I wore most often in my first year as a literacy coach was interventionist.  I spent probably 75% of my day working with struggling readers.  The other 25%  of my day, I wore a few other hats: mostly staff developer and data analyzer. The staff developer portion of my job was solely tied to supporting the K-5 teachers in my building in using our new curriculum.  The data analyzer portion of my job was just that - analyzing a lot of data and not a lot of sharing or using of the data.  I had many other hats that I wanted to wear such as coach, mentor, collaborator, modeler, observer, and leader.

At times I put them on and tried to “sell” them like the peddler in Caps for Sale did.  Similar to the peddler,  I didn’t have many takers.  A large part of the problem I believe was a lack of understanding  of what the title “coach” meant not only by the teachers in my building, but by district personnel as well.  When I became a literacy coach, it was the first year the district had coaching positions.  There were 13 of us; one at each elementary school.  The good news was we were all learning together and collaborating as coaches.  The first year was spent building relationships with the teachers in our buildings and the administrators we each worked under.  As our relationships grew, the understanding of what we wanted our coaching to look like grew as well.

I started my second year as a coach with the intention of wearing my interventionist hat 50% of the time or less and wearing my coaching hat for a majority of the remainder of my time.  The percentages didn’t necessarily add up to what I had hoped; however, my coaching position did evolve.  A major step forward in my second year was establishing grade level collaboration meetings with the teachers in my building.  I met with each grade level once a month.  I tried to focus these meetings more on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and assessment.  I was a collaborator, facilitator, professional developer, and even a coach at any given time during these meetings.  The district I work for also sent all of the literacy coaches and elementary principals to Wisconsin’s RtI Systems Coaching six day workshop as well as a six day Professional Learning Community (PLC) workshop.  I used information gleaned from these workshops to support and enhance my grade level collaboration meetings.  About half way through the year I started using a protocol.  At first, the protocol helped me remember each month where I had left off the month before, pretty much just keeping  me organized.  I also learned to differentiate my coaching based on the specific needs of each grade level.  I met them where they were and tried to show them that I was a support for them, not just someone else telling them what to do.  Through these collaboration meetings, I was continuing to build relationships and build the teachers’ understanding of my role as a “coach” and/or support.

As I began my third year as a literacy coach this year, I was hopeful, yet unsure of exactly how much more coaching I would be able to do.  I was relieved and somewhat surprised to find most of the teachers in my building refreshed as the school year started.  They had the summer to recuperate and were ready to start anew.  I had teachers wanting to know more, wanting to understand how they could take the CCSS and immediately implement best teaching practices into their classrooms, wanting to understand how they could create common formative assessments that would align to the CCSS and their grade level report card.  I was invited in to help, support, teach, model, and ultimately “coach.” I was ecstatic, overjoyed, and ultimately overwhelmed.  My schedule has never been more booked.  I am teaching (modeling) each of the six  Notice and Note signposts in all 3rd-5th grade classrooms and our monthly collaboration meetings focus around a book study of this book (Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst) and how it aligns to CCSS, formative assessment, rigor, etc.  I am modeling and observing lessons based around the components of balanced literacy for eight weeks in first grade and eight weeks in kindergarten.  I would say that my role has almost flipped from my first year as a literacy coach.  I am now spending at least 75% of my time actually “coaching.”

Image taken from this source.

As I venture further into this third year of literacy coaching I relate to this photo from Caps for Sale.  The monkeys are the teachers (I know great analogy ☺) and they are wearing many of my caps.  They have asked for my support (my caps)  and are using what they have learned through my modeling, observing, and collaborating to improve their teaching and increase student learning.

In my collaboration meetings I now use a more focused protocol based on the four essential questions.  We actually use the data that I analyze.  We analyze it together and use it to inform instruction. This new protocol keeps our meetings focused, data driven, and student centered as well as continues to keep me organized.

Click on the link above and view a sample of the protocol that I use.  Let me know what you like about it, what you may use, and what could be added to make it better.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What Do You Do Anyway?

Today's post is brought to you by Julie Schwartzbauer.

My school district has 16 elementary schools, and within each school we have building coaches.  Many coaches are 50% coach and 50% interventionist.  I serve as the K-2 District Literacy Coach.  We also have a 3-6 and 7-12 District Literacy Coach.  Last year’s professional development targeted best practices through the workshop model.  All building coaches received training.

This year we plan to focus our professional development on specific needs within each building.  We (District Literacy Coaches) are committed to meeting with our building coaches on a bi-monthly basis.  

As we work with our coaches we find that the staff in their building are uncertain about the purpose of literacy coaching and often question their role.  Some teachers might ask “What do you do anyway?”  We want to make certain our coaches are equipped with the information they need to address this question.  Our district has put together a job description for Literacy Coaches, but that is not necessarily what classroom teachers are looking for.  Classroom teachers want to know how a coach can support their work in the classroom.  Teachers need to understand how they might work with a coach and how that will benefit them.

The first thing we recommended was for the coaches to submit a needs survey to their teachers.  We created a rubric which reflects the components of the workshop model.  The rubric asks teachers to look at the components and rate themselves based on how confident they feel in each area.  We felt that this would be a great way for coaches to get a sense of the teachers and their interests and needs.

We also shared the Literacy Coaching Continuum with our building coaches.  The continuum's differentiated formats of professional learning acknowledge that teachers are individuals who need and want various kinds of support depending upon content, circumstances, personal experience, and timing (Moran & Powers).  Just like we differentiate for students, we also need to differentiate for our teachers.  We recommended that our coaches share the Coaching Continuum with their teachers. We suggested they ask their teachers where on the continuum they would like support.  The Coaching Continuum seemed to lift the weight of trying to be everything for everyone.  They were now able to build on their strengths as a coach as well as the needs of the teacher.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Role of a Literacy Coach

In preparing to write this post, I asked the coaches behind The Literacy Booth to share their job descriptions. They laughed. 

I think the laughter was caused by a few things. First, it has to be said that these women love to laugh. It's just part of who they are.

I don't think that's what caused this particular laughter, though. 

Some laughed because they have been asking for or talking about writing a job description for many years. Others laughed because they have no job description and don't feel a need for one. Another group laughed because they have a job description that doesn't even begin to come close to describing everything they actually do.

In my experience (I had a job description in both places I served as a literacy coach), having a job description provided me with some guidance about how to allocate my time. Did I do things that weren't part of the description? Of course, but the description did serve as a guide.

I also did some pretty careful work detailing how I spent my time. Initially, I kept a detailed time log that I shared regularly with my literacy coordinator and principal. Later,  my online, public calendar was always current. I could easily review that to se how my time was allocated. Both of these tools allowed me to look for patterns in how my time was used, allowing me to reallocate where necessary.

As always, we encourage you to engage in the conversation the role of the literacy coach over the upcoming days. Use the comments to share your thoughts - including links to your job description.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

How do you build a relationship with an administrator?

Today's post is brought to you by Lisa Weiss.

When I think back to some of my most successful relationships with administrators, they were with administrators who were up front about literacy not being an area of strength for them. I appreciated that honesty—both times when it happened--because as coaches, we need to remember that most administrators started out as teachers, and it is likely that they had a focus area, and it may not have been literacy. The honesty and vulnerability it takes for a building leader to say, I need help in this area, is great because it allows for the element I think is key in building a relationship with an administrator: vision.

In both situations where my administrators were uncertain about what a literacy-focused school improvement goal should look like, I was able to provide the vision—the big picture, the details, the accountability measures, and the celebrations. The best part about having a hand in creating the school plan is that there were places where I could set up all-staff sessions, break out sessions focused on the literacy goals each teacher set for himself/herself, and small group and individual coaching sessions. The plan was heavy on coaching—I was responsible for much of the load, but since it was my vision, I had to accept responsibility for the action in carrying out the vision, using the administrators for support (and to send the administrative messages); using the teacher leaders on the school literacy team to provide professional development alongside me. Through the entire process of implementing the vision, I was coaching the administrators and developing teacher leaders in the literacy team while providing job-embedded professional development for the teachers!

Having a vision is important, but a vision without action and accountability is simply a good idea. I think these two pieces—action and accountability—also are administrator dazzlers. Beyond providing the long-term and short-term vision, are the steps to getting to the end goal! Administrators need to see that you can carry out the vision, that you can work with people, and that you can work through challenges. When they see you doing what you said you’d do, and seeing the results of what you do, they become believers that a school cannot thrive without a literacy coach! It is important to make the time to meet with your administrators so you can talk about progress and difficulties, so that 1) they are crystal clear on what you are doing, 2) they can support you through the mud when you are stuck, and 3) they can celebrate the small successes with you along the way.

When you can provide a vision, and show that you have the ability to gently lead teachers in the direction of the goal, your administrators become your cheerleaders! And let’s face it, literacy coaching is tough work-- we could all use a cheerleader!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Building Relationships with Principals

Today's post is brought to you by Bobbi Campbell.

As I began to think of ideas for this blog post, I struggled to choose an approach that would speak to readers.  My first idea was to write about the twelve principals I work with, comparing each one to a well-known cartoon character. The idea was to highlight their strengths as an instructional leader, while comparing them to the trait of the carefully chosen character.  I knew I was doomed from the start when my first cartoon character I chose was Homer Simpson.  No matter how much I love Homer, I am not sure it would send the right message. Therefore, I began thinking about other ways to write about the complexities of building relationships with principals – especially when there are twelve of them.
First, I started my walk down memory lane thinking about all the principals I have worked with as teacher and now coach. Why did I have a better relationship with _________ than I did with ___________.  I began to wonder about the commonalities among the principals of whom I forged strong relationships.  What was it about them that so many people, including me, felt it easy to build and keep productive and beneficial relationships with the leader of the building?
I cannot move forward without mentioning my very first principal, Vincent Maloney. We still exchange holiday cards, even though we have not worked together in over 18 years. He no longer serves in this grand profession but will always hold a special place in my heart and has definitely made a lasting impression on my approach to building relationships with principals.  Unfortunately, he spoiled me for all the rest…
The qualities he possessed made it easy to build a strong professional and productive relationship.  He shared many characteristics outlined in an article by GreatSchools, 2013.
1. Great principals take responsibility for school success.
Vince Maloney knew how to do this, while making everyone in the building responsible, too.

2. Great principals lead teaching and learning.

This was not his strength so he relied on key staff that could help him lead.   
3. Great principals hire, develop, and retain excellent teachers.
I think this was his strongest asset as a building leader. He empowered his teachers and coaches in the building to lead and be instructional leaders whenever he could.
4. Great principals build a strong school community.
Vince knew that building a strong school community meant he had to have relationships with his teachers.  He was invested in knowing his staff personally as well as professionally.  He knew that by doing this, he would build safety and trust within his staff so that he could have the hard conversations.  It was always a problem/solution based conversation.
So how does sharing my story help guide other coaches in developing relationships with principals?
I believe knowing how your principal sees himself or herself, regarding the four characteristics mentioned, will help guide you to a reciprocal and productive relationship. Reciprocal in respect, but also trust – the foundation of leadership that fosters growth in staff and students.
Depending on your situation, you might come right out and ask your principal’s opinion about the four characteristics every good principal share; however, most of us will not feel comfortable handing our principal a piece of paper outlining the four characteristics. Personally, I like the direct route, but I have found that is like playing Russian Roulette– some respond favorably, and some need a little more time to adjust to a 5”2  energetic (some say overly enthusiastic) short lady with attitude.
Instead, the more reasonable of us will have to take the other route – be patient and collect data as you observe your principal in action.  Use the characteristics as a guideline for collecting data to be used as a catalyst to spark conversations.  Knowing how he or she sees himself or herself as leader, will help you understand how your principal sees you as instructional coach in your building.  Ultimately, this will guide your work together, creating a true learning community.  
My repertoire of skills has hit an occasional brick wall. I am having a bit of bad luck with two of the twelve principals I work with, so I challenge you, readers, to share your trick, approach, or magic of how you successfully won over YOUR Principal Ed Rooney (Principal in Ferris Buehler’s Day Off).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

HABD: Had a Bad Day

Today's post is brought to you by Andrea Reichenberger.

While following a Twitter chat the other night, a coach from Colorado posted that she has an HABD (Having a Bad Day) file.  It consists of the cards, notes and emails that “refill her bucket.” Later, as I was deleting several texts on my phone, I realized I was struggling to part with some of them as they made me laugh, smile, and reflect while rereading.  It turns out they refill my bucket and should be added to my own HABD file.  It should also be noted that some of those messages are from Larry--the principal of my building.

In case, you are wondering, his texts are in the blue and mine are the gray.  It should go without saying that the relationship between the principal and the coach is the most important relationship when coaching for change within a school.  I’ve had conversations with fellow coaches who have no relationship with their principal at all and I’m not sure how success can be found without it. They are frustrated in their roles as coaches and I can understand why. I think every coach should have a Larry.

Figuring It Out
Maybe it is because our personalities mesh, but it didn’t take us very long to figure it out.  I spent some time observing, asking questions, and planning how we were going to make it all work.  I also had to establish trust between us.  I gave myself guiding questions such as: What kind of leader is he? How much can I say?  How much should I say?  What are his expectations of  me?  How will I communicate in a manner which will allow him to value what I say and vice versa? And my two most important questions: Is he a reader? and  Is he a learner?  I was able to find answers quickly.  Larry is rarely in his office unless he has to be. (He can't sit still for very long, but he is also often busy making himself visible around the school.) He responds to every voicemail, e-mail, and text.   He doesn’t like to be caught off guard-he appreciates having all of the facts and when it involves knowledge that I have—I am sure to provide it.  He genuinely cares about his staff, but it always surprises me just how well he knows how many of them tick.  He is pretty proud of that and he has every reason to be.  His knowledge and understanding often helps me in my role. And for the record, he IS a reader and a learner.
Why it Works
Larry and I meet every week (or biweekly if our schedules get too crazy) but having an open dialogue is a priority.  I set the agenda and he listens.  Usually I’m filling him in on district literacy initiatives or we use our time to clarify and problem solve together. The bottom line is—our decisions and planning for professional development are based upon where our teachers are at on the learning continuum and what is best for our kids.  In our first 4-5 months of meetings, Larry just listened  to me.  I was making observations, learning my way around the school, the staff, and focused on establishing relationships---with everyone.  In our meetings I would share what I felt were some of the triumphs and successes and the baby steps we needed to take as a staff. Although, I sometimes felt that we weren’t moving quickly enough in certain areas (I often still feel this way), Larry brings me back to reality with his usual reassurance, “Patience, my dear. We will get there.”
Larry was also very strategic in helping me to manage my workload.  The position is overwhelming in and of itself, but he was careful in how he presented my role to the staff as he didn’t want me to spread myself too thin. Not only does he want the coaching concept to be a success, but he genuinely wants me to be successful in this position.
Working Together for Change
Now that we know how to work together and have the same vision,  many of our discussions are more philosophical as to where we are in terms of literacy and we both continue to do a lot of listening.  We don't always agree on everything, but Larry is willing to think through my side of an issue and I’m willing to think through his.  I also have another advantage, because Larry was once an elementary principal, he has some background in the area of literacy, but he readily admits that he is certainly not an expert. What I respect about him the most is that when it comes to literacy or instructional practices,he will sometimes say, "I still don't have a clue."  His advice to fellow administrators is that they too should be willing to make this admission. As the administrator, he sees it as his job to trust and support me because a lot of what I bring is new to him. He is learning right along with the teachers.  This is the type of trust that leads to change.  

We were in a department chair meeting the other day and one teacher inquired if the role of a coach would still be necessary 3-5 years from now.  Larry very diplomatically assured everyone in the room that it would indeed as we are nowhere near the levels of proficiency we need to be at as a school.  He spoke to the necessity of utilizing the coaches to make us better teachers as it is one of the best forms of professional development.  He also stated that he doesn’t know it all—no one does--but if we listen, we can ALL be better together because he’s learned a lot too.  How refreshing it is to have a leader who models that he is a learner.
As we work through some of that discomfort that comes with change, I realize  I need to keep some of those texts as my bucket fillers.   Luckily, Larry is very supportive and has my back,  but I can still scroll through them when I’ve HABD.