Thursday, February 21, 2013

Working with a Reading Coach

The assistant principal beckoned me with his right hand waving across from my work desk.  "You might be interested in Team Teaching.  You will love it.  You are going to work with other colleges in the district once a month.  That was probably in my still fresh fifth year of teaching.  There were four other teachers, all older than me.  Respecting older people is essential in Japanese culture.  At same time, I was just got back from one year of an exchange teacher's program in the affectionate country of the U.S.  My way of respect might have been little bit too friendly and a little bit uncomfortable for some teachers.  These teachers were not offended by my mixed styles of respect, they were even acceptable. And meetings were fun.  But the lessons we designed were almost too boring.  They were all similar,, taking turn models.  For example, one teacher played the piano while another teacher taught students a vocal song.  Then, they flip flop their roles as a pianist and as a recorder teacher.  Math as well.  Social Studies as well.

In the private school years later in the U.S., I was a "co-teacher".  A Head Master told me, "It's like a team teaching."  She sounded extremely confident.  A short haired lady with glasses I worked with was the experienced teacher that put her in the position as a "lead" teacher in our classroom.  That put me in a position of an apprentice or her shadow.  I filled in something she forgot.  I ran for copies she should've done yesterday.  I wondered, "What is Team Teaching?"

Last year in the writing meeting, I had a great honor to get to know some amazingly humorous and thoughtful group of ladies.  One of these powerful women was Heather Rader who is a senior editor in Choice Literacy and also an active reading coach.  As a special friendship gift, she sent me her newly published book (I saw steam from a book!), Side by Side.  It sparked in my head!  There was an instant connection with the team teaching while learning about coaching sessions in depth.  She notes that coaches are collaborators.  Our district started reading coaches first time in their history this year, trying to create the best benefit on students' learning with instructional coaches.  One of the coaches was assigned to me in regular basis, sharing things she had and offering times for individual students' assessments.  Although she juggled her schedule and accommodating for all teachers, we felt being stuck at some point.  And our soles glued with unidentified goo that delayed our footsteps, though our reading coach was at her full speed, a mouse running in the wheel.  Then, I contemplated again, Heather's word, "My coach is my collaborator."

What if my coach and I design lessons together?

Good news.  My reading coach blocked the same time slot in my classroom every day for 2 weeks.  I brought up my idea, "I wonder if we divide 45 minutes in three sessions.  First session is your whole class instruction which I can learn your teaching reading strategy techniques.  Then 2nd and 3rd session are going to be guided reading with the same reading strategy.  You and I together, can differentiate four reading groups in my class.  The best of all, we can nail one reading strategy by whole group and small group sessions."  "Oh, Claire.  I love that idea!" My reading coach exclaimed.  She added, "Of course, I will find the texts based on the strategies and reading level."  Wonderful!  "Let's meet next week and map out our plan!" 

So, really, nothing, technically, happened yet, the conversation started.  the hopeful and positive one.  It is like a pebble in the pond.  Some rings  from a shiny pebble sensationally appear but often being ignored and soon disappear.  But once you find  good ones, rings keep evolving bigger and bigger.  And perhaps one little pebble could make a big wave. Heather's book is a pebble.  My job is to make an ocean wave with my coach.