I have been able to spend a lot of my time over the last few years really digging into coaching and learning more about establishing good coaching relationships. What stands out to me through all of this is the fact that we are really just talking about relationships. Whether personal, formal, coaching or any other form of relationship it all boils down to the foundation of the relationship and how it is established. In my blog post Empowered to Explore and Keep Trying, I talk a lot about the key things that I believe are needed in order to build trusting relationships. Of these it is the idea that no matter what, the other person needs to feel like they are supported, listened to, and that they are on the learning journey with you. This helps establish trust in the relationship, since there is a sense of community and openness. It is also important to work with others in order to establish relationships where educators feel free to make mistakes, try new things, and reflect on their learning without feeling judged. For me this means being transparent with the other person and letting them know when I’m not sure of the answer or even when I am questioning something or trying something new.
Other ways that I have worked to establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships is through my one-on-one meetings that I’ve been having with educators I am mentoring. During these meetings I have used strategies and ideas that I have learned through the OSPI Best Mentoring Academy and from the book Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration by Les Foltos. One of those ideas is the use of a third point. I try to use a third point during conversations, especially when it might be a hard conversation. For example when reflecting with a teacher about a classroom observation, I try to have a copy of the lesson plan or even the standards pulled up. This way we can reference those throughout the conversation and it helps depersonalize the conversation, making it less about the teacher and more about the learning. You can read more about the use of a third point in my blog post, Three-Point Communication and Coaching Relationships. When collaborating with teachers I also work to let teachers know that what they share with me stays with me, so that we can truly focus on personalizing the learning around their needs. We use a common collaboration document to capture ideas, goals, challenges, and strengths together and make plans for next steps. All of this helps me to establish a friendly and trusting rapport with teachers so that they do feel comfortable trying something new and asking for support.
Another example of how I have been building relationships with other educators is through the co-planning process. This year I have had the opportunity to work with a couple different teachers around co-planning a lesson with them and then observing their classroom in order to reflect on instructional practices. A recent specific example of this is I am currently working with a teacher in order to design a project that can be used at the end of the year as a final. We have been meeting to establish the goals and learning targets for the project, the structure of the project, and a rubric. Things that I have been supporting the teacher in thinking about is how they might provide choice for students in how they engage with the project. We have also been developing ideas for how they will formatively assess students throughout and guide students in their learning. Through planning together we are building relationships, sharing ideas, valuing each other’s thoughts, and working together toward a shared goal. I have been using skills like active listening in our conversations so that I can really hear what the teacher is saying instead of what I think they might be saying. This co-planning works because the teacher has trust that I am here to support them, that I am listening, and that we are working toward the same goals.
As I continue to work towards building relationships with those that I work with, I am thinking about something from Les Foltos’ book Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. How am I using the building blocks of trust in my coaching conversations?
It is important to continue to build relationships that are established around these building blocks in order to truly have a trusting and respectful relationship. To do this I plan on continuing to participate in the OSPI Best Mentor Academy work as well as other professional learning opportunities that allow me to work on coaching relationships. I also plan on continuing to partner with other educators in order to deepen relationships that I have already started to build and to build new relationships.
BEST Events & Trainings | OSPI. (n.d.). Retrieved June 6, 2020, from https://www.k12.wa.us/educator-support/beginning-educator-support-team/best-events-trainings
Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Corwin.
ISTE Standards for Coaches (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches