The role of a reading specialist varies from district to district, but I have learned that it is not solely about helping students who struggle in reading. Being a literacy coach is also taking on a leadership role at your campus and advocating for your teachers and students. The school where I previously worked had a literacy coach and she was (and is) amazing! I try to model myself after her while at the same time growing into my own style. I remember her telling me that one thing she wishes she had done differently as a principal was advocate more for her teachers. She said she realizes now that there was so much that she could have done. As a literacy coach, she is now very adamant about helping teachers. This year I made sure to advocate for the needs of teachers who I was coaching and my own students. Though I knew that I might find myself at odds with administration for speaking up for students and teachers, I knew that I did not want to look back in regret and feel that I could have done more.
I previously wrote about my journey with advocating for students when it came to choice books for the class. The school I worked for does not have a library and some classes do not have textbooks. Teachers do not get a stipend at the beginning of the year for materials and many times requests for materials are ignored. It is up to the teacher to find ways to bring in materials to promote student learning. This can be very frustrating for teachers and some have quit because of this frustration. This was the first semester where I branched out of my teacher role and took on the practice role of literacy coach. I knew that it was important to address this issue. I brought up at meetings and to adminstrators the needs of teachers and I also advocated for student needs, one in particular, the need for choice books in the classroom.
Kelly Gallagher, in his book Readicide, mentions that there is something very powerful about “surrounding kids with interesting books”. He says there is no excuse for not having books in your classroom. He pinpoints differerent avenues you can take to get choice books. I mentioned in the previous blog that I was able to get funded through DonorsChoose.org for choice books. What I am really proud of is that I spoke up about my students needing interesting books…and I was heard. The issue went from my vice principal to the principal and finally to the higher-ups and I was sent to the book fair where I was able to get a good amount of books for my classroom.
It was definately a challenge for me because, on a personal level, I have never been good at speaking up and, on a professional level, I am still growing into a leader. I cannot say that there will not be consequences when you advocate for students especially in a school where the culture is not open to critical dialogue, but it is always worth it.