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3 Ways For School Leaders To Improve Literacy Practice

Questions, Consistency, Support


I often liken coaching to mindfulness- paying careful attention to the current situation, bringing to the surface what needs to be addressed, making nonjudgmental observations, and becoming aware of what is most pressing. And in some of the discussions with school leaders of late, I’m realising these coaching conversations aren't just for the teachers (the coachees), but they’re also for the senior leaders. 



Coaching and mindfulness remind me so much of Eckhart Tolle. If we don’t know, then we don’t do. I also draw on the work of educational reformer and psychologist, John Dewey, in particular his work around reflective practice, describing…



Before launching into instructional coaching with the classroom teachers, the school leaders have an opportunity to share with me details about their current literacy practice, reflect on their student literacy data and reveal their desires for literacy achievement and growth. In doing this, they’re the ones who are raising their awareness, they’re the ones paying careful attention to their current literacy situation, they’re bringing to the surface what needs to be addressed in literacy, they’re making nonjudgmental observations, and they’re becoming aware of what is most pressing in literacy in their contexts. 


Being aware makes all the difference. 


I’ve summarised the 3 ways I believe school leaders can improve their teachers’ literacy practice for achievement and growth. 




1. ASK QUESTIONS 


There’s a theme within leadership teams that’s becoming more apparent and more frequent. The demands and pressures of their role make it difficult to take the time to find out what’s going on in their teachers’ literacy practice. Believe me, I’ve been there, and done that!


Being able to sit and discuss to learn more about the current reality of the literacy practice can be a challenge, but it’s important to understand the history of what’s gone on before (and why) and what the literacy intention is moving forward. Asking questions means leaders can better guide and direct their teachers, empower them to succeed in their practice, and effectively support teachers in taking steps towards achievement. 



SOLUTION: 

  • Ask questions, become curious and have conversations. 


  • Take the time to listen to what teachers are doing and why they’re doing it, by providing an opportunity for a safe and open discussion. 


  • Engage with the literacy data and data conversations about student achievement.


Lyn Sharratt





2. ESTABLISH CONSISTENCY


When I was in Senior Leadership, trying to bring about consistency in the 5/6 literacy practice wasn’t easy, especially with a range of experiences, backgrounds, skills, expertise and knowledge. Initially, we were doing different things, at different times, for different reasons in our literacy block. 


Teachers come to year levels with such varied experiences. They’ve also undertaken professional learning in certain areas of literacy, while others haven’t (it’s interesting to hear teachers talk about who’s done what PL, while others are unsure of what they’re referring to!). Establishing consistency ensures teachers have opportunities to collaborate, to learn from and with each other, and they have the chance to reflect on their approaches and practices in an effective way. 



SOLUTION:


  • Identify the programs, resources and approaches teachers are using in their classrooms.

  • Work towards a common goal with a rationale and shared beliefs and understandings. (And keep coming back to this when things go off course!)

  • Have clear expectations around literacy practices with opportunities for feedback and check-ins. 







3. PROVIDE SUPPORT (time, energy and resources)

Facilitating planning sessions is easy, following up is the difficult part! Recognising literacy goals is easy, being able to put strategies in place to achieve them is the difficult part! 


Being able to show up in my teachers’ classrooms at the time, consistently, was a constant struggle- no matter how many times we tried to reschedule our timetables!

 

Support from school leaders can come in three ways when improving literacy practice.

Time that’s dedicated, purposeful and consistent. 

Energy where school leaders are active and present and have their finger on the pulse with what’s going on in their teachers’ literacy practice. 

Resources in the form of financial or people power! 



SOLUTION:

  • Invest in teachers to invest in the students. 


  • Build teachers’ capacity where they need it. 


  • Provide them with opportunities to learn and grow from and with each other in their professional practice, such as Instructional Literacy Coaching.






Keep asking questions, continue being curious and help out when and where possible!






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