Written by Gen
This one might make you feel indignant. You work hard. Who am I to tell you to work harder? This positive experience isn’t about you, it’s about the classroom teacher’s trust in you. Let’s face it, most of the time literacy coaches do not face the same pressures as classroom teachers. Days and days of classroom preparation over the summer, meet and greets, orientations, 20-30 children pouring in the door morning after morning. The buck stops with the classroom teacher when it comes to accountability for student progress. That’s why it is imperative that teachers feel like you “get it” and that you are working as hard as they are to help their students reach their potentials.
I mentioned that literacy coaches do not face the SAME pressures as classroom teachers. That does not imply that you are not under the same AMOUNT of pressure-it just looks different. The problem is, that isn’t always clear to classroom teachers. This isn’t an invitation to complain to your teachers about everything you have to do, though. That’s very off-putting. Instead, show your teachers that you are an ally who is in the trenches with them. Let’s get started!
Actually be in the trenches:
If at all possible, work with hard to teach students yourself. This is different than teaching lessons for a teacher in the classroom. This can be valuable to your teacher-coach relationship in several ways. Firstly, teaching a few students yourself on the side allows you to have professional goals for yourself as an educator. If you can reference your own goals and struggles in conversations with your teachers, it creates a bond of vulnerability between you. Secondly, you are personally putting into practice not only what you communicate to teachers, but all of the district initiatives and demands. This gives you credibility- you become someone who understands. So appeal to your administrators for time to work with your own students.
Bring work with you:
Many times, literacy coaches have “down time.” Those times when a meeting ends a little bit shy of the end of the day, or you are not scheduled to work with a teacher for a little while. Our flexible schedules can sometimes look “easy” to an outsider. And, if we’re being honest, if we were to take advantage of all of these moments, it would be easy. Well, a classroom teacher’s job is never easy and resentment can abound if it appears that you are giving advice without working as hard as they do. Always have one of the many projects that you are working on with you to fill some of those unavoidable voids. Here are a few examples:
- Study a professional text or article that you would like to use to support your teachers
- Work on that upcoming professional development session
- Complete your own lessons for your own students
- Develop that resource that you recommended to one of your teachers
It is imperative that classroom teachers not see their coach taking long lunches, “hanging out” during school hours, or being idle. To make it seem like we are working hard, we have to actually work harder than our teachers if we want to gain, and more importantly, to earn, their trust.
Be early, stay late:
I don’t know many elementary teachers who walk in at start time and leave at the bell, particularly without bringing work home. We should not be above the work. A classroom teacher’s prep time during the school day is valuable time. Be willing to meet before or after school so that the teacher’s attention can be on the topic at hand. Be early or stay late just because- and keep your door open. Some of the most poignant interactions I’ve had with teachers are when they’re just walking by and seeing me reminds them of something that’s been on their mind. My door is open, and I look like I have time to talk. This opens the door for future conversations and goes a long way to establish a trusting relationship.
If you are putting out signals that you are not working as hard as the teachers around you, you could be causing negative experiences with your teachers without even knowing it.