Reflections of a First Year Literacy Coach

How did I get here? Literacy Coach. Coach. Reading Teacher. Classroom Teacher. Mentor. Learner. Colleague. Friend… For as long as I could remember, I loved performing, presenting, being a listener, learner and lover of all things literary and in the arts. When I was in 3rd grade, my “How To” presentation was all about how to apply makeup. I took my audience through the step-by-step process, explaining and clarifying every detail. I painted a face on a canvas so my audience had a visual of what I was doing. I was always aware of different learning styles. I know that I am very much a visual and Kinesthetic learner. I remember making a mistake during my presentation, and thinking to myself that the show must go on. So I reflected on how I could make my presentation better for my learners. What would I do differently? How could I communicate my message in a clear and concise way without sounding like “the expert,” but someone who has information to impart. After all, delivery is extremely important when teaching others. It is the way we are spoken to that determines how well we receive information.

4th grade was the year I knew I wanted to be an educator… I used to sit at my desk and gaze at my beautiful teacher who carried around Nancie Atwell’s book, In the Middle. Before every reading and writing lesson, Mrs. Roth referred to her coffee stained, highlighted, annotated text. I used to wonder, what was special about this book? Why would my teacher take the time to refer back to this text every time she taught a reading and writing lesson? I longed for access to this book and begged my parents to buy it for me. When it was finally in my hands, I began reading it… I am not sure that I understood everything in it, since it was probably way above my independent reading level; but I do remember that I was extremely curious, interested and determined to take something away from Atwell’s words. Just a few years ago, I was able to tell Nancie Attwell this story…it was like a dream come true. She had been the literacy guru and celebrity I had always wanted to emulate.

I am passionate about everything I do. When I commit to something, I give it my all. I have to say that I was a bit nervous to take on the role of Literacy Coach… After all, I am NOT the expert in everything nor do I have all the answers. I am just an educator who is always in a constant state of learning. The difference now was that I would be sharing my philosophy with my colleagues. I was worried about how they would perceive me. I was worried about working with adults, people who already have their pre-conceived notions, beliefs, values and perspectives on pedagogy. They have had many experiences in life and in the education field. Adults are more self-directed and set in their ways, whereas children tend to be more open to learning new things and perhaps can be convinced to shift their mindset more easily. I was worried that my colleagues would not trust me… TRUST, that takes time to build, but I am patient and will continue to be.

This was a learning year, I got to work with an incredible team, delved deeply into curriculum writing and helped make decisions for the teachers and students in my district. It was an honor to assist the teachers in creating goals for themselves and their students by using a variety of formative assessments, and by providing job-embedded professional learning opportunities around best practices and the Balanced Literacy philosophy. It was stimulating to have powerful conversations with administrators, teachers and students that pushed my thinking, and helped support the teachers with resources for their classrooms. After all, how can we ask teachers to support their students without having access to a strong curriculum with the means and support? I valued every single formal and informal conversation and viewed them all as professional learning opportunities. To be completely honest, there were times when the conversations did not go as I would have planned, but I still appreciated each and every one of them.

This year, I took the Twitter plunge and broadened my Professional Learning Network or PLN. A year ago, I knew very little about Twitter, but I watched, observed and slowly became a participant in a few chats where I was able to interact with some of the most passionate, savvy educators from across the country. I even got to meet many in person. Building these relationships through social media has made me a better person, educator, mother, wife and friend. Twitter really does break down those walls of communication- you feel supported and get to chat with like-minded people. My views on various topics have been expanded and I have been able to transform my own belief system with newly acquired information.

I think that I am very lucky… why? Because I met my literacy soulmate this year. She is my partner and the other Literacy Coach. Positive energy is contagious and she has it…we motivate each other, finish one another’s sentences, laugh, cry and love what we do together. Everyone needs a Literacy Soulmate with whom to grow. I have also felt extremely supported by my direct boss, central administrators, principals and colleagues. It is powerful to have people surrounding you that make you feel incredibly valued, and who also motivate you to become better at your craft. These are the people who plant the seeds because they want to nurture your development as a person and educator.

Learning and life is messy…. there are many paths to learning; taking the wrong turns is where much of the thinking happens. Success does not come easy…. there are always going to be bumps in those paths, but it is the way we respond to those bumps, that reveal who we truly are. So, how did I get here? Literacy Coach. Coach. Reading Teacher, Classroom Teacher, Mentor, Learner. Colleague. Friend. The journey continues and I look forward to another year of learning with my colleagues, after all, we are all here for the same reason, to help the children grow into lifelong, independent learners…yes, it’s all about the children. That’s why I am here…