My job as a Literacy Coach is to build teacher capacity. Sometimes that means jumping in and helping with lessons or materials or planning, but sometimes it means stepping out and saying, “Now you try!” I have to remind myself that this work is not about getting things done quickly or correctly, it’s really about approximating the work over time to build the teaching muscles that the teacher can use over and over and over again and in multiple settings and situations. I need to make sure there is transfer. I need to make my coaching sticky.
Some days I see the muscles building. Recently a teacher and I attended a session with one of our staff developers. The staff developer talked about the power of read aloud and how critical it is that the work students do during read aloud transfers to their independent work. We learned about something called the Repertoire Read Aloud. Over the next few days, the teacher not only tried this out in her classroom, but asked me for some more information on this technique, and then invited her colleagues (and me) to come and watch. These are the days when I know I’m building teacher capacity. These are the sticky days.
But then there are the other days…. The days when the muscles seem to atrophy. The days when a teacher stops in and says, “Can you model that lesson again. It was so great!” or, “You are just a natural. I can never get my kids that engaged! They always like a new voice.” These are the days when I think, “Well THAT didn’t work!” Or days like today when I’m running to a classroom with my materials to continue working side-by-side with a teacher, and when I arrive there is no evidence at all of the work we have been doing together in our coaching cycle all month! Clearly my work is not sticking. The muscles are not being built.
What is it that makes our coaching sticky? Why does it work in some situations and not others? What can I do to make sure I’m building capacity and not creating dependence?