Last week, I invited a fellow of the WNY Young Writers’ Studio and literacy-coach-in-training to accompany me on a visit to Long Island, New York, where we met with junior and senior high school writing teachers. A portion of this visit was spent exploring the Studio model and some of the more powerful practices that guide our work with teachers and young people. On the last day, we had the opportunity to co-teach inside of classrooms. This was an incredible learning experience for me.
As a literacy coach, remaining connected to teachers during demonstration lessons remains one of my greatest challenges. Often, teachers are uncertain what they are supposed to be doing while I am at the front of the room, despite the protocols we’ve put in place and the pre-planning that happens prior to my visits. Sometimes, teachers will find themselves distracted by learners who aren’t engaging me with me in the exact way that they would like them to. Sometimes, teachers will find themselves consumed by the phone or the students who wander in late from lessons or a thousand other disruptions. And once in a while, teachers will even turn their backs to me to surf the net, grade papers, or take care of prep work during the spare moments that my demo lessons seem to provide. Whatever the reason, it makes for a less than meaningful experience.
Enter collaborative literacy coaching.
Last week, while one of us was leading a demonstration lesson, the other was coaching on the sidelines. When it was my turn, I found myself able to explain the purposes behind certain practices in real time. I was able to point out formative assessment moments, and I could illuminate interventions that may not have been evident had teachers been left to observe on their own. More importantly, I was able to listen to the teachers as they reflected on what they saw and ask questions that prompted better connections and deeper thought. Talk about powerful!
Afterward, I actually had someone to engage in reflective practice with. We each noticed, felt, and assumed different things about the lessons that we taught and observed. Sharing our perspectives and the evidence that we were able to collect about these events, the needs of teachers, and student performance was clarifying.
Last night, I found further inspiration in this piece by Jan Miller Burkins and Scott Ritchie. I may never coach solo again.
Now, to figure out how to make that a reality…….has anyone else out there done so already? Ideas?