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 still find myself undecided in the debate of whether teachers should use “round robin/popcorn” reading or if there are better alternatives. My very first reading professor insisted that if we took anything from her class, it should be not to use “round robin” or “popcorn” reading in the classroom. The argument is that it causes unnecessary panic and self-esteem issues in students and really shows no gains in students’ reading fluency. Many teachers still do it, so I decided I needed to be the type of teacher that isn’t afraid to try something different.
With brand new ideas from my summer semesters, I went into the classroom determined not to use “round robin” reading. I found myself falling back into the habit because it was how I was taught. Yet, I decided to slowly make a change. I explained to the students that I would not make them read aloud, but I did appreciate any volunteers. What happened was that I had absolutely no volunteers! I had no idea what to do at this point. I read aloud to them and had them read silently until they slowly began to become more comfortable helping out with the reading.
What I have begun to do differently in my class this semester is allow more time for independent reading, partner reading, and group reading. Some researchers have suggested bringing in only high interest texts and reading just excerpts of classic texts. This is a bit drastic for myself right now, but my students do ask to read more high interest texts and it has been working just fine. It is a work in progress and I’m learning that it’s okay. What I am most proud of is that I am willing to try new things as scary as that may be. That is also the spirit that I want to convey to my coachee. Here is a good link if you are looking for alternatives to “round robin” and “popcorn” reading.
This semester and year is coming to an end and I now have a chance to look back at the intentions that I created and reflect on my progress. If you’re not sure what an intention is, don’t worry, I wasn’t sure either. According to Deepak Chopra, intentions are “the creative power that fulfills all of our needs”. Everything that happens begins with an intention and is powered by the Universe. If this sounds too “new age” for you, you could also go straight to the Merriam-Webster dictionary and you’ll find that an intention is: “the thing that you plan to do or achieve–a purpose”. The following are intentions I set at the beginning of the semester and my reflection. I hope this inspires you to set intentions for yourself as you start your journey.
Beginning a new assignment, I did what most students do: I looked online for “examples”. The trend I noticed is that “Journey of” blogs begin by digging into the blogger’s past to find the spark that led them on the journey. In a “Journey of a Hero” story, the main character will hear a “calling” that leads him or her on their quest. Search online and you will find “Journey of a Substitute Teacher” or “Journey of an English Teacher”, but there are hardly many, if any, “Journey of a Literacy Coach” blogs. Luckily, I was assigned a book by Jennifer Allen entitled, “Becoming a Literacy Leader”. What made this book so different from the others we were assigned is that she is not afraid to get personal. She understands that sharing a “journey” story will get personal, perhaps uncomfortably personal. That being said, I will begin this blog with one of Allen’s writing tasks that she assigns during professional developments entitled: “My Life in Seven Stories”. Below is my take on that assignment: the answer to what brought me to this journey in seven… short… stories : ).
1. All thanks to Big Bird
2. The Evil 2nd Grade Teacher
3. Special Deliveries
4. The Calling
5. Read? I just need to Survive
6. Finding My Way Again
7. The Beginning
Hi! My name is Valerie Camargo and I am a high school English teacher and am currently a student at UTSA studying to become a Reading Specialist. This blog documents my journey as a literacy coach. This year has been the beginning of the journey and I am hoping this site will be beneficial to those of you who find yourself at the beginning stages of the journey as well. I am hoping to help with some reflections of my experiences, helpful resources, and whatever else comes to mind. Here’s to the adventure that awaits us!