At TeachBoost, we love to ask instructional coaches what tools they include in their instructional coaching toolbox. Our guest blogger, Megan Ryder, was generous enough to share some of her acquired strategies for building relationships as an instructional coach.
Before becoming an instructional coach I was a classroom teacher for seven years. As a new coach, I came to realize that not only is building relationships one of the most important steps to coaching and collaborating with teachers, but that it doesn’t happen overnight either.
Now that I’ve been in schools for a few years, I have moved from building relationships to maintaining them with a majority of the staff. While there are new staff members who I start relationships with every year, for the most part I have worked hard to make connections that allow for more meaningful coaching interactions.
Below I’ve reflected over my favorite five strategies from my instructional coach “Relationship Toolbox” that have been successful for me as a coach over the past few years.
Strategy #1: Be Present
A few years ago, one my colleagues saw me in the teacher’s lounge as I was working on professional development resources and said something that really stuck with me. She told me that when she sees me, she always remembers something she wants to share or ask. When she doesn’t see me on a regular basis, she forgets to reach out to me when she has a question. This reminds me of the phrase “Out of sight, out of mind”--even though my office is in a different location from my schools, I am rarely there. I make it a priority to be in my schools as much as possible.
At the beginning of the school year, I remind the teachers where they can find me when I am not working with a teacher in a classroom. My schedule and location vary from day to day and, since I have multiple buildings, I indicate my location during the day by using the status updates in Gmail Chat or Hangouts.
Just as important, to “be present”, I’ve taken note where teachers in each of my buildings gather before, during, and after school. This allows me to join in personal conversations about everyone’s weekend, pets, children, etc.--getting to know teachers on a personal level is important when building relationships.
Strategy #2: Communicating Your Role and Sharing Success
Before I could start building relationships, however, teachers needed to have an understanding of what my job was and why I was there each week. Introducing myself and defining my role in my schools was important.
Every year I have given the same message in each of my buildings--just in a different manner and every year I have requested time from my building’s principals to be able to do this. Their support has been wonderful and has been an integral part in communicating how I can support teachers as their colleague.
Strategy #3: Visiting Classrooms
Most of my time is spent working one-on-one with teachers. In between teacher coaching, collaboration, and co-teaching, I take time to visit the classrooms. Since my role is non-evaluative and I am a supportive colleague, this helps in building relationships with the teachers. My visits are short, but they have a purpose.
The goal is to have an understanding of what students are learning so I can best support teacher and student growth, and I communicate this to teachers at the beginning of the year. Visiting classrooms can lead to small, but mighty coaching opportunities.
Strategy #4: Little Things
Who doesn’t love candy or chocolate? Throughout the year I create mailbox notes to communicate and connect with the teachers. Some notes are little “pick me up” notes to encourage teachers. Others focus on reminders of how I can support teachers after district institute days. Even though I send occasional emails to all of the teachers, I also try to create paper notes because this communication method stands out more than an email.
On the first day of school I try my best to see each teacher in my three buildings. I give them each a water bottle with a personal greeting and wish everyone a happy “First Day of School”. This lets them know that I am thinking of them and hope they have an awesome start to the year.
Strategy #5: Using Twitter to Connect
The tweets from teachers in our district are my priority. To stay organized with Twitter, I use TweetDeck. I setup my TweetDeck columns so that I have our district hashtag, individual school building hashtags, and my own generated list of district teachers.
These are the first tweets I look at when I’m using the tool. I can use teacher tweets to start up conversations that lead to coaching and collaboration opportunities, and teachers now come to me and ask if I have seen their recent tweets to talk about learning targets and classroom activities. Retweeting teacher tweets can help share our district’s story with the global education community.
Overall, it’s important to remember that building relationships with teachers takes time. I’ve worked hard to create positive collegial connections so that I can best support teacher and student growth and each year I reflect and add new ideas into my “Relationship Toolbox”.
About our Guest Blogger
Megan Ryder started her educational career on figure skates, teaching basic skills to skaters of all ages while working on her elementary education degree at Western Michigan University. Megan completed her masters degree in Instructional Technology from Lewis University in 2012. After teaching fifth grade for seven years, she became an instructional coach for two elementary schools and one middle school.