How can collaboration between a literacy coach and a new teacher impact pedagogy?
As a literacy coach in a secondary school, I was concerned with
the way I communicated ideas about balanced literacy with English Language Arts teachers. Just explaining and demonstrating a lesson to a teacher didn’t mean that it was ever taught by the teacher in a classroom. Curricular calendars sat unused in cabinets. Students needed to cycle through the writing process each month but the pressure to meet deadlines was stressful for their teachers. I wondered what was I doing wrong and I considered the question: Am I talking at the teachers instead of working with teachers?
Juan Morel Campos Secondary School, a small school of approximately 800 students, is located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The student population reflects the demographics within this neighborhood where roughly 67 percent of the students are Hispanic/Latino and 26 percent are African-American. Approximately 69% of the student scored below the standard on the English Language Arts exam in 2005.
My role is to develop and support effective practice of balanced literacy with ten ELA teachers. This core curriculum has been implemented in New York City schools in order to improve students’ reading and writing.
Kathleen Manzo discusses how state education departments and districts are employing reading specialists to work in schools with teachers. She questions the qualifications of literacy coaches and informs educators of the International Reading Association’s development of professional coaching standards.
Thomas Kane suggests that certification status is not a strong indicator of teaching effectiveness. Effectiveness is defined by a teacher’s ability to raise ELA and math test scores.
David Wray and Jane Medwell described the philosophies, content area knowledge, and instructional practices of literacy teachers. Effective literacy teachers consistently applied research about reading to pedagogy and their students made considerable gains in literacy.
Teacher Interviews: a series of interviews where a colleague and I talked about our background and motivations to teach.
Field Notes: notes taken during our planning meetings and my visits.
Student Work: fiction short stories written by Tevion, Janiece & Maria.
The data I have gathered suggests that collaborating works best when teachers take the time to get to know each other. The foundation of a trusting collegial relationship made it possible for me to be a critical friend supporting the teacher’s work with literacy. It can be more beneficial to help clean up, sort the library and file. I couldn’t always talk curricula and I had to help teachers where they needed me. In terms of student work, I found that clear and concise teaching led to better quality stories. The volume of writing, understanding of genre, control of conventions improved with more effective teaching.
Now you need to make connections between your data and prior research explaining how it fits and what new things might have come up. Then go on to discussing the impact on your practice.
- Coaches should provide teachers with basic, hands-on support.
- Increased time for collaboration during the school day.
- Regional workshops for new ELA teachers prior to the start of school year. Ongoing weekend, vacation & summer in-service.
- Regional professional development for coaches on interpersonal relationships, collaborative planning & constructive feedback.