The Importance of Building Relationships with New Teachers

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Are you a coach looking to hit the ground running with new teachers? Paige Bergin, instructional coach in Oklahoma, shares how she focuses on building relationships with new staff right away, and some tips to make that easier.


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hen I became an instructional coach, I had the good fortune to be placed at the site I had taught at for 12 years. I had long been passionate about educational leadership, but not necessarily looking to become an administrator. My school had never had a coach before, nor had I ever been coached myself. But as I sat for an interview to become our site's first ever instructional coach, one thing I had going for me was the strong relationships I had with the staff I had already worked so closely with during my career.

As I transitioned into this role, we have all learned together what a coach is and isn't, what a coach does and doesn't do, and how a coach can serve teachers through a partnership approach.

Start at the surface

When I began my coaching journey, I didn't foresee that the work I would do alongside our building's new hires would be a source of pure source of joy for me. Like many districts, we have a New Teacher Induction program where we provide the first line of support for all new staff. While this training is valuable, the key to success at the site level is the deep relationship we build together, beginning with the interview.

My first step is to have a 1:1 interview with all teachers that are new to our building. These interviews help me understand their history and give me insight into how I can best support them. While I do have a specific set of questions that focus on dreams and goals for the year, I use this time as a way to get to know teachers personally and to start a relationship with them. I want them to know they can trust me, and that I will value our partnerships. I also want them to know that I care for them beyond the classroom.

I have come to value our new hires in a different regard than the teachers I have a history with. New hires need something different from me as their coach. I have to establish a relationship with them where they feel comfortable and safe being vulnerable with me. I need to be able to see potential blind spots, and rather than just telling them, to help them figure it out for themselves. They need to see me as someone who is not an evaluator, but a partner in the process.

Dive deeper

Once I've built a relationship with a teacher, we move into deep coaching where we focus on selecting a student-centered goal rather than a teacher-centered goal. This is where the real magic happens! I want teachers to work towards a change in student behaviors, rather than a change in their own. Frequently, teachers interpret goals as the heavy lifting they need to do, when instead it's about the supports they provide for their students to do the heavy lifting.

Oftentimes with teachers that are new to this process, it can feel a little difficult to put these goals into words. This is my opportunity to model providing scaffolds, just as they would with their own students. One of my techniques for diving deep is sentence framing. For this, I provide a sentence frame like the one below to place the emphasis on the work the students will do:

By _____ (date) at least _____ (%) of my students will _________________.

Not only does this sentence frame help nail down what we want our students to do, but it also helps us to identify the strategies we will implement together in order to reach this goal. I have used this with many teachers and it has been extremely beneficial to help us stay focused on the goal.

Final note

What I have come to learn, and am continuing to learn, is how to support teachers in all stages of their journey. I love the season of new beginnings with new faces to our building, but I also love experiencing building those relationships into something even greater year after year.


About our Guest Blogger

Paige Bergin is in her sixth-year as an instructional coach in Oklahoma and began her career in education as a 5th grade teacher in 2002. She received her bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education from Oklahoma State University and holds a master's degree in Educational Administration and Curriculum Supervision from the University of Oklahoma. In 2010, Paige was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching for Elementary math for the State of Oklahoma.

Outside of work, Paige enjoys her role as the only female in her household filled with all males: husband, two sons, and the two "good-est" boy dogs. In addition, she enjoys spending time with her family, walking the dogs, and lounging around with a book or movie.

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Topics: Tips and Tricks, Guest Blogger, Your Coaching Toolbox, Instructional Coaching, Coaching Relationships, Building Relationships, Coaching Conversations, Teacher Support, Student-Focused

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