Everyday adventures of a PD coach using technology for improved literacy.
GUEST COLUMN | by Christina Magee
Whether it’s in Raleigh or Rochester, every new day brings an exciting adventure as an Instructional Coach. This is a day-in-the-life account from a professional development coach point of view. At the company I work for, we’re a tight-knit group of former classroom teachers and we consider ourselves extremely lucky to have the opportunity to meet teachers and students in schools all over the country (and beyond – Hola, Mexico!). While the names of the city and school have been anonymized, the day’s events can (and do) happen in our experience from coast to coast.
6:00 – Wake up, hit the hotel gym for a quick run on the treadmill, coffee in my room, shower and go!
7:30 – Grab another cup of coffee to go (traveling takes its toll!) and hop in my rental. I check the GPS one last time to make sure I know where I’m going. It’s my first time in AnyTown, Minnesota, so I need to be sure that I can navigate from Point A to Point B. Also, there is So. Much. Snow.
We’re a tight-knit group of former classroom teachers and we consider ourselves extremely lucky to have the opportunity to meet teachers and students in schools all over the country.
8:15 – Arrive a bit early at the school and check in with Mr. P, ELA Coach and my main point of contact. My first teacher meeting isn’t for another 30 minutes, so I have plenty of time to set up, connect to Wi-Fi and find a good place to display the pen/styluses that I’ll be giving as a door prize. I prep my materials one last time, excited to share the “LightSail for Shared Reading” presentation with this group. I see the Minnesota Vikings banner on the wall and make a mental note not to mention the fact that I’m a Chicago Bears fan. This is the kind of thing I’ve learned the hard way, and a more valuable tip than you could imagine.
8:45 – It’s go time. The audience is a team of returning teachers, who previously used our platform only for independent reading. Now they’re looking to expand usage further into their literacy block, and want to try the technology for guided reading groups and, eventually, whole class novel. My objective for the workshop will be to highlight the features that support shared reading; annotating the text, assigning texts to groups of students and using in-app data to form groups. I’ll also spend time highlighting the MUPO titles (this means that they can be accessed by an unlimited number of users at one time) in our digital library.
9:45 – Planning time for teachers. I always give teachers enough time to write lessons and scope out the upcoming weeks. I know from my own experience that a teacher’s schedule is jam-packed, and if there isn’t time to apply what you learn right away, there’s a good chance that a lot of it will go in one ear and out the other.
10:30 – Head to Mrs. M’s 4th grade class to teach a model lesson on annotations. Getting back into the classroom is the highlight of most of my days. Twenty sets of bright eyes are glued to me, and their eagerness to hear what I’m about to say brings me right back to my happy teacher place. I teach the lesson to the group, then send them off with a prompt from the Annotation Brainstarters resource on main idea. Mrs. M has told me that’s the standard they’re currently working on, so I’m trying to provide students with some extra practice time during independent reading. That is, after we had gotten a bit side-tracked talking about our favorite places to run.
11:15 – Meet with teachers who are using the platform for the first time. It’s always important to find time to work with the newbies in the group to make sure they feel supported and ready to roll! We walk through the technology features, discuss implementation needs, and of course, leave time to plan.
12:45pm – I am starving. I remember seeing a Panera Bread down the road, so after a quick midday debrief with Mr. P, I scurry out to grab a smoothie and a sandwich.
1:15pm – Back in the classroom. This time, I’m leading a guided reading group in Ms. B’s 3rd grade classroom. One focus of this morning’s workshop was on shared reading, and I want to show Ms. B what this looks like in her classroom immediately. Ms. B and I worked together during the morning planning time to identify five kiddos (we sorted students’ by Lexile measure and then made groups) that I’d work with. Like Mrs. M’s class, they’re in the middle of a non-fiction unit, so I found a current News for Kids article (who knew sharks were invading the California coast?!) and used the annotation feature to drop in a question on main idea. This will help Ms. B gage comprehension and mastery of both the text and the skill. Win, win!
1:45 – Round two of guiding reading groups – this time with a group of Ms. B’s struggling readers. (Note: There’s a girl at my table wearing a Bears t-shirt. Apparently displaying your football allegiance in this class is NBD!) I’ve prepped the same text and will still hit on the main idea, but now I’m using the beginner version of the article (watch out surfers, sharks are still-a-coming!) so that it’s accessible for this group. Ms. B was especially psyched to see how little extra prep time this took. In fact, I’ve been watching her scroll through the library already, on the hunt for another article to use tomorrow!
2:30 – Debrief time! I catch up with Mr. P for a moment, just long enough to gush about how welcoming and lovely his team has been to work with. He’s arranged for subs for the last hour of the day, and the whole team has assembled to powwow about the day. What was helpful about this morning’s workshop? What did you learn during the classroom modeling sessions? Most importantly, I want to know – How can I continue to support you as you incorporate our solutions into your teaching and make sure it’s done in a sustainable way (isn’t that what it’s all about?).
3:30 – After one last round of questions and a quick scavenger hunt through our online learning community (got to make sure everyone knows where to find what they need before I go!), I say my goodbyes. I shake hands with the new friends I’ve made and encourage teachers to reach out in the weeks to come. Part of the beauty of my job is the relationships that are built after a day like the one I’ve had today. In fact, I’ve already made a mental note to follow up with my new running buddy, Mrs. M., during my upcoming marathon training. Now, off to catch my flight!
Christina Magee is Managing Director of Academics for Lightsail, an adaptive literacy solution. She has been involved in education in New York City for the past seven years. She began her career as a special education teacher working with kindergarten, third, and fourth grade students at a Harlem charter school, where she served on school curriculum development teams and as an after-school tutor. After seeing firsthand the dramatic impact that teachers can have on at-risk students, she became an instructional coach focused on increasing academic rigor and building strong classroom systems to foster learning. Christina has a BA from USC and an MS in Special Education/Inclusive Elementary Education from Hofstra University. Connect with her here.