4 Ways to Build Relationships with Teachers at the Beginning of the Year
Building relationships is an important first step during coaching, and the trust created leads to more successful and impactful coaching cycles. Here are my top four relationship-building strategies that I found helpful as a Real Time Teacher Coach to start your coaching relationship off right:
1) Prep your coaching artifacts to share with teachers. I just reread the book The Art of Coaching, where the author describes the coaching vision as a vision statement that focuses, empowers and guides the coach. In this statement, the coach should answer the questions:
- What is your vision for coaching?
- Why do you do what you do?
- What’s the big picture you’re working toward?
By sharing your coaching vision with teachers, this will allow them to understand a little bit about you as their coach and your rationale for doing the work that you do.
In addition to the coaching vision, it is also helpful to include coaching beliefs or partnership principals. I am currently reading Impact Coaching: Scaling Instructional Leadership, where the authors suggest referring to Jim Knight’s principals of coaching to create “conceptual language” and a set of values to underpin a coach’s work with teachers. Coaches should check out Jim’s partnership principals here to guide their work or help draft their own. These seven principles represent the meat of Jim’s approach to instructional coaching and offer a basis for building strong relationships in coaching.
This sounds obvious, but it is also helpful to share logistical information teachers. Coaches should share their email, phone number and the best way to reach them along with hours that they are available and their response time norms. This is also a great time for coaches to ask the teacher for their contact information, the best way to reach them and the hours that they respond and their work schedule, as well as their teaching and prep schedule.
Lastly, coaching norms or a coaching agreement can help build trust during initial meetings. In the coaching norms document, a coach can share their response time and work to get agreement from the teacher about theirs (usually 24 hours), as well as what to do if a coaching cycle component needs to be rescheduled (whenever possible, 24 hours is typical), where and when conferences will be held, and how the coaches will solicit feedback as well as how the coach will share feedback with the coaches (see # 4 for more ideas)!
2) Schedule 2-3 touch points with your teacher before engaging in Real Time Teacher Coaching. In The Art of Coaching, the author asserts that “without trust, there can be no coaching.” In order to build this trust, it is important for coaches to plan and prepare for their initial meeting with teachers. During this meeting, coaches should gather background information, ask questions, connect, validate, discuss the coach’s role, and share and keep commitments set during coaching. This meeting can be done in a way that is authentic to coaches. For instance, I like to host meetings at coffee shops near the school whenever possible and since I am always working on getting my steps, I will invite teachers on a walk outside to meet!
It is also helpful to have an initial pre-coaching conference with teachers. During this second meeting, coaches can share why teachers have been selected for Real Time Teacher Coaching, the purpose of coaching, gather information about the teacher’s classroom, assess the teacher’s knowledge of the No-Nonsense Nurturer model, and introduce the coaching cycle process with walkies. This meeting will provide another touch point and answers many frequently asked questions about Real Time Teacher Coaching.
3) Plan out structures for how you will celebrate teachers during coaching. After getting a teacher’s contact information, my next step is to find out their favorite drink from Starbucks or favorite pick-me-up. I do this because breaking bread helps solidify a relationship and because during coaching, I want to make sure my teachers feel loved, valued and cared for, so I want to know what they like so I can provide some surprises throughout coaching. Beyond coffee and the authentic celebrations shared in conferences, it is important for coaches to plan other ways to celebrate their teachers. Some of the coaches that I train use weekly or monthly newsletters that include celebrations along with pictures when a teacher nails a deliverable or increases student engagement or student academic outcomes. Another one of my coaches brings a cupcake from a local bakery every time a teacher reaches a milestone with coaching and surprises the teacher at their post-coaching conference! Another coach brings a get-to-know-you basket when she surprises teachers after 1 or 2 coaching cycles that includes hand sanitizer, candy, expo markers, pencils and a card and leaves it on the teacher’s desk after coaching. Celebrating teachers can also be completely free – consider helping teachers prep materials for an upcoming lesson, make copies, or help with room rearrangements.
All of these gestures are great ways for coaches to celebrate and strengthen the relationship with teachers and to help teachers feel valued and celebrated!
4) Provide and solicit feedback. When coaches are building their relationship with teachers, it is important to establish how celebrations and adjusting feedback will be delivered. One of the ways that CT3 trains coaches to share feedback is to use AIC (Affirm, Impact, Challenge) feedback. This can sound something like, “It was effective when you tracked data for your Do Now. The impact was you were able to see almost all students mastered the review and preview question and that you didn’t need to spend time covering it in class. I challenge you to share this data with students and tell them why you are making the adjustments to honor their prior knowledge.” This way, the coach is sharing not only a celebration but evidence from the coaching session and the impact it had on the classroom. Many of the coaches that I work with have started sharing the sentence stems with teachers, so they know what to expect when they are receiving feedback.
In addition to providing feedback for teachers, coaches should also solicit feedback from their teachers. Coaches can let teachers know during their initial meeting that they will be seeking feedback throughout the coaching process in order to continuously learn and grow. A simple way to do this is to ask the teacher questions about the impact of coaching:
- What was effective? What worked during our coaching cycle that you want me to continue?
- What do you need me to adjust? What feedback do you have for me to grow?
- What else do I need to know?
Armed with this information, coaches can make adjustments to their practice in real time and improve their effectiveness while strengthening their relationship with the teacher.
Hopefully, the ideas I’ve shared will help you start your coaching relationship off on the right foot! Have more questions about coaching or need further support? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Heidi Towne, CT3 Associate