The Secret Ingredient to Better Coaching Conversations: Chocolate!

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Hershey’s Kisses, Ghirardelli squares, Snickers!? Learn how chocolate can help lay the groundwork for successful coaching relationships as Rachel Andress, instructional coach in North Carolina, shares how she wins both the partnerships and stomachs of her teachers.

Nine out of ten people love chocolate; the tenth is always lying!


eginning the journey of an instructional coach can be scary for anyone—especially in a new county and when it's your first time. However, when I started mine, I knew one of my first major tasks was to get to know the staff I served to build relationships and connections. I do this most effectively by first surveying my teachers' needs to find out what they're interested in, and then creating conversations with my favorite ice breaker: chocolate!

Surveying Needs First

As I progressed in my role I quickly learned that an instructional coach wears many hats and performs countless tasks daily. Nonetheless, in the midst of it all, I found myself losing creativity and forgetting to add little touches to motivate the teachers I work with because I'm always on the go!

At an early August PLC, I shared an instructional coaching survey with the teachers where I asked what resources or discussion topics they would like assistance with throughout the year. I'm sure you can all guess what happened to the stack of surveys I collected. Correct: they sat in a pile! One day as I was tidying up the room for the next professional development session I was leading, I came across the stack of surveys. That's when I decided to look at each one to determine what the teachers wanted. I combed through to see at what they wanted in a coach to learn how I could better serve the teachers. After all, this is one of the first steps in relationship building.

After reviewing the survey, the data showed a desire for classroom management strategies in addition to relationships with students and/or parents. Luckily for me, these are two of my favorite topics and I had plenty of resources to share! Also, these findings helped shape the topic for my next potentially professional development session: classroom management strategies.

Using Chocolate as the Carrot

Once I had an instructional focus for working with my coachees I looked at their calendar and decided to set up an afterschool chat session. Then, I pondered how I would actually get teachers to join me for a non-mandatory conversation after school. At first, I thought veteran teachers would delete my email; the new teachers would think it was overwhelming and would avoid coming. Then the magical solution came to me—CHOCOLATE! Teachers love chocolate!

Fun fact: from the first PLC I led in my room, I have provided chocolate to my guests. It was then I decided to call the chat session "a chocolate chat with the coach." I invited all the teachers to come enjoy some chocolate—chocolate fountain, chocolate cake, chocolate brownies, chocolate cookies, and other baked goods—while we chatted about classroom management and building relationships. The chocolate chat was amazing: I had beginning teachers, veteran teachers, and even the principal came in to check it out. It was a revolving door of teachers sharing their personal stories relevant to the topics.

The chocolate chats proved successful for me for building relationships with my coachees for two main reasons: the chocolate helped create a friendly environment and I allowed the attendees their choice to be there. I told the teachers they could stay the whole time or they could leave when they wanted to. Next time you're looking for a creative way to kick-start a coaching conversation, look to chocolate! 🙂

About our Guest Blogger

Rachel Andress is a first-year instructional coach with 14 years of educational experience in both kindergarten and first grade. On top of her experience in the classroom, she received her degree in education management in 2018.

Outside of school, she enjoys spending time with her wonderful husband and her four amazing children!

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