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 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.

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.

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.

Literacy and Last Days: Keeping It Simple

Matt Renwick knew he didn't want any showy event for the last day of school, so he concentrates on finding quiet ways to celebrate reading and writing that don't stress staff or students.

School Leaders and Written Communication

Jen Schwanke is horrified at the quality of writing she receives when teaching a graduate course for school leaders. The experience gets her thinking about what motivates writers of all ages.

Teacher Guilt

Feeling guilty about the quality of instruction is a common state for teachers. Kathy Provost gives some practical tips on how a literacy coach can help build teacher confidence in authentic ways.


Ruth Ayres explores what literacy coaches can do when they are sidelined or marginalized by different conditions in a school.

Sustaining Trust While Maintaining High Expectations

Matt Renwick tackles a tricky issue for literacy leaders. How do you build a relationship of trust when there are clearly issues with the quality of a teacher's instruction?

From Somewhere to Somewhere

Brian Sepe struggles in a coaching cycle with an experienced teacher and realizes he has imposed his agenda on the work. His reflection leads to some changes in the ways he collaborates with colleagues.

Coaching for Confidence

No matter their level of skill or experience, teachers can find their confidence shaken. Melanie Quinn analyzes some of the reasons for teacher insecurity, and how literacy coaches can help.

Who Keeps You Up at Night?

Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan ask this question to launch a discussion of one challenging learner and open teachers to the possibilities of case studies.

Erasing the Lines in the Sand

Gretchen Taylor finds that many of us are more opinionated than ever, but literacy coaches will never find a home in classrooms without suspending judgment.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Gretchen Taylor reflects upon a poor relationship she develops with an instructor, and how the narratives we construct can inhibit our professional interactions with colleagues.

Always "On": Reconsidering Connectivity

Gretchen Taylor writes about the promise and peril of new tech tools that allow teachers, students, and coaches to always be connected. She shares some questions to help teachers make wise choices about how they will use these tools in classrooms.

Managing the Email Load

Jennifer Schwanke explains how she categorizes her emails and streamlines the time she spends reading them.


Ruth Ayres realizes that sometimes the most important advice coaches can give to teachers is to just hang in there when things don't go as planned in reading workshops.

A Test Run for Difficult Decisions

Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan describe a four-part protocol they use for working through their most challenging decisions.

Aligning Beliefs and Practices: Homework Policies

Melanie Quinn shares the process of coming up with a schoolwide homework policy that aligns beliefs and practices across grade levels.

Helping with Management Challenges in First Grade

Melanie Meehan is coaching a first-grade teacher struggling with management. She shares her top four strategies for focusing students during minilessons.

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