Supporting Literacy - Fulfilling the Role of a Literacy Leader

I have been a 'Literacy Leader' for some time now and read with interest the insights from Jennifer Allen within her book "Becoming a Literacy Leader".  I'll be the first one to admit that It is rare that I go to a professional development meeting at school and feel 'wow that was really helpful'. What is it about teachers not listening to teachers?  I think it comes from the autonomy many teachers have within the classroom. Once you are in your room it is your domain and dare anyone come in and critique.  I think it also comes from the professional standing teachers have when they graduate.  There is a large discrepancy between skill levels yet in general nothing except perhaps your years in teaching, rumor and staffroom comment generally denotes your level of skill.  This is why it is incredibly difficult for a teacher or even leading teacher to get up in front of colleagues and direct professional development.  So I could empathise with Jennifer coming into the school as the new literacy leader.  She does demonstrate well that the key to breaking down barriers is the establishment of solid relationships and trust.  Whilst I skipped over the sections in the book that discussed the administration and good will gestures Jennifer put in place I saw them as holding weight as I see myself doing just the same. Being available and open so that the teacher or curriculum coordinator might draw on your services or be receptive to your ideas. Anyone who has been in the same position will know that to go in with head down and demand access will only result in closed doors and cold shoulders.  This is especially the case when providing in class support for students with learning difficulties or disability. 

  • Setting up a room that is inviting and has resources that students and teachers can draw upon;
  • developing intervention classrooms for struggling readers and writers.  Including in these classrooms literacy specialists so that teachers and specialists can work collaboratively;
  • Monitoring and assisting teachers with assessment and tracking of students;
  • creating model programs for dealing with school wide problems like reading fluency, and then moving from the pilot to implementation in many classrooms;
  • coaching new and veteran teachers in the latest literacy practices, without taking on the role of expert;
  • analyzing and using books, videos and journals in professional development programs;
  • Getting up in front of staff regularly and carrying out effective professional development. It was interesting Jennifer's take on this. Despite the planning and engagement of most staff it is expected that some staff still will choose not to engage.  I always think would they tolerate this in their own classroom (i.e getting your mobile phone out and sending a text).
  • Create professional development study groups so that teachers can get together and discuss concepts and ideas.  I was reading somewhere that the greatest thing administrator can give teachers to aid inclusion is time. Time to prepare lessons and materials and time to collaborate and discuss ideas. 
  • finding and budgeting money for professional development programs in literacy;
  • protecting time and scheduling priorities, to ensure the literacy specialist position doesn't become a “catch-all” for the random needs of teachers or administrators.