In my blog post of May 28th I shared an interview I had with a colleague who was just completing four years of work as a school-based literacy coach in a combined middle and high school. In this conversation we discussed her experiences as a coach and discussed the mentoring process that was part of the support system designed to provide job embedded training and support. The two questions guiding our conversation were: What is the value of having a mentor coach? How do mentor coaches and literacy coaches develop mutually supportive relationships that allow them to learn and grow together?
In this month’s post I’m sharing the rest of that conversation.
Q. So, what do you think you’ll take with you from the mentoring experience?
A. I think the most important thing a mentor does is listen and be a sounding board; the bible talks about how the stones are refined by the fire and you guys kind of refined us. Through your different ways of doing things you shaved off the rough edges, and helped us shine. I think I’m much different now than I was four years ago.
Q. In what ways?
I’m an absolute advocate for using literacy strategies with anything you teach. I don’t think there’s any content area that the use of literacy strategies won’t make better; that won’t make learning more accessible to kids.
I kind of believed that before, but now I have a lot more tools at my disposal. I can look at my content and figure out which strategies will help me best teach the content.
Teaching with literacy strategies is completely ingrained in my head. I wish I could go back ten years, when I was in resource class, because I think my kids would soar now.
So, you’ve really internalized literacy strategies and the impact they have on teaching & learning.
Q. What do you think the difference is between being a mentor coach and a literacy coach?
I think the mentor coach has to have the big picture in mind. As a literacy coach I had a big picture in mind but it was only part of the picture. You had the big picture and I just had a piece. Because of this, you networked the coaches, and tried to make our vision bigger than just our school.
It’s really easy when you’re a literacy coach to get myopic and have tunnel vision, “this is all I have to think about” when it’s not true. Because of the mentor coaching we got, the coaches in my district ended up working closely together and providing support to one another. And because everybody brought a different perspective it was like looking through a kaleidoscope.
For example, at the beginning of the school year we did one training for all the new teachers in the district instead of doing separate trainings in our buildings. We all collaborated in the planning and delivery of the training. I don’t think that would have happened if there hadn’t been somebody out there continuously saying, “There’s a bigger picture than your school”. And my job as literacy coach is to say, “There’s a bigger picture than your classroom.” When the teachers can understand they’re a piece of the whole, they begin to work together and collaborate and that helps the kids make connections.
Photo: New Horizons, by drp