The Role of the Coach

By Jenny McFerin

What do you think of when you hear the word “coach”?  My thoughts go to my daughter’s soccer coach.  He engages the team in defining a purpose and love for the sport.  During practice he teaches them fundamental skills that will support the girls during a game situation.  More important, he provides the support they need in order to improve their skills.   The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a coach as:

  • a person who teaches and trains an athlete or performer
  • a person who teaches and trains the members of a sports team and makes decisions about how the team plays during games
  • a private teacher who gives someone lessons in a particular subject

We can glean much from this definition, adapting the role of a coach for sports to a coach for literacy.  A literacy coach provides support for teachers in the classroom and outside of the classroom.    In the classroom, the literacy coach and teacher work together to refine the teacher’s practice.  Outside of the classroom the literacy coach guides teachers in deepening understandings of reading, writing, and word study.

Most importantly, the literacy coach works closely with the building administrator and literacy team to ensure implementation.  Refining teaching practice and increasing student achievement can only be accomplished through a team effort.  Consider the literacy coach to be integral in increasing teacher expertise through one on one, small group, and large group scenarios.

What makes a literacy coach effective?  The following are a small sampling of practices in which effective coaches often engage:

  • Make yourself accessible.  Teachers need to know that they can come to you before or after school and during designated times throughout the day.
    • Use student data as the core of your conversations.  Analysis about how and why students are learning helps to focus teaching practice and reflection.
    • Work with students.  Maintaining your role as a teacher of children builds credibility with staff.  In addition, you have an opportunity to refine your own teaching practices.
    • Provide opportunity for reflection, collaboration, and communication among staff.  This coming together for support and learning with colleagues is essential to implementation.


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