How will you lead today?

Tough Nuts

A teacher who refuses to work with her grade-level team to design new units. A principal who is always upending your schedule with new responsibilities. A literacy coach who is in tears because she feels so isolated.  A participant who continually interrupts an in-service session with “Yeah but . . .”

Tough Nuts are not easily defined, but you know one when you see it. They are the challenges that sit at the center of your forehead in the dead of night, robbing you of sleep. The stories of how we’ve dealt with these ongoing and immediate challenges are here.

The Third Rail: Coaching and Instructional Assessment

David Pittman finishes a coaching cycle with a teacher and realizes his hesitancy to evaluate the teacher during his classroom visits hinders any celebration of the teacher's growth during their time together.

Know Their Story

David Pittman finds that a teacher is dismissed as a veteran, which can be code for good luck getting that one to change. What he discovers is someone with a rich life and history beyond the classroom that is worth tapping into.

Whenever They Are Ready: Building Trust for PD Success

Matt Renwick finds he needs to take a deep breath, listen, and be open to options when there is a disagreement about next steps in a school improvement initiative.

Ms. Perfectly Nice

Dana Murphy understands the quiet go-along teacher she meets in professional development settings, if only because she sometimes was that person in the past. She shares strategies for challenging those agreeable folks to speak up and reflect more deeply on their practice.

I'm Already Doing This

"I'm already doing this," a teacher groans. And the literacy coach groans inwardly at the same time, because they usually aren't doing anything resembling the innovation being discussed. Dana Murphy explains how she uses validation and questions to move beyond this conversation killer in professional development settings.

Fail to Learn

Which grade level would you least like to teach? Matt Renwick explains why you need to confront your fears and do a demonstration lesson with those students. In Matt's case, the lesson involved entering the wonderful world of kindergarten.

Resisting Traditional Definitions of Productivity

Matt Renwick explores the differences between commonly accepted measures of productivity and the work that has the most value for literacy leaders.

A Change in the Weather: Moving from Teacher to Coach

Ruth Ayres finds that coaches can't help but feel a little ambivalent about losing their teaching role, but it's important to embrace the changes in responsibilities if you want to coach well.

Talking in Front of Peers

Jennifer Schwanke realizes it is never easy to talk in front of adults. She explains how she helps teachers accept the challenge of speaking to colleagues in professional development settings.

To Celebrate or Not

One parent is adamant that Black History Month should be celebrated. Another parent is adamant that observing Black History Month trivializes blacks. What's a literacy leader to do? Jen Schwanke brings up the thorny issues involved during a staff meeting.

Leadership Shifts

This is the time of year when principals and literacy coaches are weighing which teachers might take on leadership roles next year and which teachers in leadership roles might be relieved of these duties. Jennifer Schwanke shares her process for this delicate work.

Getting Emotional

It happens at least once a year for Jennifer Schwanke: she finds herself on the verge of crying in a professional setting. Here's her best advice for literacy leaders to keep the tears at bay.

The Awkward Chair

Jennifer Schwanke explains how literacy leaders are often in "the awkward chair"—the position of having to explain painful truths to others. She has tips on how to handle the hot seat in meetings and discussions with colleagues and parents.

Allocating Services

Jennifer Schwanke shares principles for leading those awkward meetings when staff need to decide between too many students who need a finite amount of services.

Culture for Coaching Part 2: Resistance to Cycles

Ruth Ayres faces passive defiance when teachers learn they will be participating in coaching cycles as part of a school improvement plan. This is the second installment in a four-part series on building a culture for coaching within a resistant staff.

Culture for Coaching Part 1: Introduction

A failing grade for a school was splashed across the local newspaper and resulted in mandated coaching. It wasn't a recipe for success. Ruth Ayres explains how she built a coaching culture under challenging circumstances. This is the first article in a four-part series.

Meeting Mind-Set

Christy Rush-Levine helps a colleague develop strategies for getting the most out of an upcoming meeting she dreads.

Protecting Your Coaching Time

Dana Murphy reflects on some of the mistakes she made early in her coaching career, as well as what her standards are now for making the best use of limited time.

Telling Our Story

Cathy Mere is keenly aware that coaching positions can be expendable during budget crunches. She and her coaching colleagues are proactive in explaining their value by creating a series of graphic representations of their work.

Do or Die

Melanie Quinn deals with a panic-stricken young teacher near tears after a lousy evaluation. She explains what she did to move him past emotion and into a plan to improve his instruction.

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