Laurie Elish-Piper and Susan K. L'Allier's book, The Common Core Coaching Book: Strategies to Help Address the K-5 ELA Standards, was a book I picked up in the fall. I found the first part difficult to get through. The writing style did not engage me so I put it down and spent most of my professional reading time devoted to professional journals instead. I picked it back up recently and reached the second and subsequent parts of the book which seemed more valuable.
The book, originally published in 2014, in large part discusses adoption and implementation of the CCSS. While the standads are being overturned in many states, they are being replaced by new standards for which the guidelines of working with a "new" set of standards are relevant. Interestingly, the authors do not address the idea that the standards are not universally adopted or accepted or that current political maneuverings have them being revised, rejected and replaced in many states. Further there are only limited references to specific standards so the book is a good resource for phasing in any new standard.
The book is arranged in five parts. The introduction on coaching around the Common Core, large group coaching strategies, small group coaching strategies, individual coaching strategies and a wrap it all together portion. The strategies have excellent templates, both blank for use and completed examples drawing upon vignettes embedded within the text. This format makes the book a useful resource for people looking at how to take off in the world of coaching.
Of particular note were a few items. One was a reference to Cathy Toll's (2005) "the question:... When you think about the reading and writing you want your students to do and the kind of teaching you want to do, what gets in the way?" I like the way this question frames the concept of coaching. It opens the door to discussion, eliminates the blame game and gets at the heart of the matter. It provides an entry point for coaching and professional development and a focus for collaborative work. I need to search out this work and learn more...
Another place that hit home for me was the author's comments about large group professional development: it provides "opportunities to build a sense of community within a school wherein teachers take collective responsibility for the learning of their students" (p. 76). They outlined effective practice means theat there is a "relevant needs-based focus, careful preparation, active engagement of all participants, and a plan for moving the work from one session forward: (p.76). Using these guidelines, I have participated in both effective and ineffective sessions. Team building activites for the sake of team building does not qualify. In my personal department, we have a faculty serving a very diverse group: preK to super seniors, students in highly competive private schools- students whose disabilities-cognitive, mental health and physical- are so significant they have home instruction, students working in public school programs to private programs to those in homes or public libraries, schools using CCSS to those who do not. It makes identification of relevant needs based focuses challenging. I almost think that we should frequently get together and then break apart into groups based on our target audience and participate in meetings based on personal need. The target audience of the book is far more narrow a group, which makes the concept of providing faculty meeting based PD far easier.
Lastly the part that rang true was when they commented about the time commitment required for an individual coaching experience. Co-planning, co-teaching and debriefing take a serious time set aside.They acknowledge this. Interestingly, in the special ed world, coteaching and inclusion programs rarely have adequate time set aside for the development of truly effective interventions. Consequently it is no surprise to me that coteaching is often the least effective intervention. If you are not going to give both people the time to do the job, it will not be what people imagine as helping students to be successful in the mainstream.