100 Positive Experiences: Experience #5, How to Build Relationships with Teachers

The number one priority for literacy coaches is to build strong trusting relationships.  Just like with our students we have to take the time to get to know the teachers we work with to best collaborate with them.  Here are some of the strategies I have used to help with building and strengthening relationships with the teachers I have worked with.

Make small talk

Taking some time to socialize does wonders for building relationships.  Small talk helps teachers to relate to you not only as a fellow teacher but as a fellow human being.  Show an interest in the teacher’s family, hobbies, upcoming events, etc.  Ask about their family member who has been sick or the new puppy they got over break.  Show teachers that you care about them by taking a genuine interest in them beyond work topics.

Be visible and accessible

Coaches have many responsibilities that pull them in various directions.  It is important to advocate for being present in your building and in classrooms, rather than in meetings, planning for professional development, or dealing with paperwork.  Teachers need to see that you are in the trenches with them the majority of the time.  Helping out with various duties at your school also helps teachers to see you as one of them.  Be present in the active areas of the school like the faculty lounge or pop into a teacher’s room during the day (as long as you know they would welcome your presence).  Being visible in the building provides opportunities for teachers to run something by you when they pass you in the hallway.  These small interactions can open doors to possible future planned interactions with teachers.

Be trustworthy

This is probably one of the most important ways to build positive relationships with the teachers you work with.  Teachers are at their most vulnerable with coaches.  Coaches are privy to a lot of information about the teachers they work with.  Teachers share their goals with their coach, they teach in front of their coach, they share data with their coach.  They need to know that it is safe to be vulnerable with you as their coach.  Trustworthiness is something that you will need to prove through your actions over time.  Sometimes we break this trust unintentionally.  An example would be sharing with administration something great you saw in a particular teacher’s room without that teacher’s permission.  That sounds like a positive thing to do right?  When this well-intentioned comment gets back to the teacher he may wonder if you have also shared negative information with his administrator.

Help out with little things

You have to be careful with this one because you don’t want to suddenly be in charge of making copies for an entire grade level.  You also don’t want teachers to become over-dependent on you.  Occasionally from time to time when the situation presents itself, you may want to volunteer to take something off a teacher’s plate.  For example, you are planning with a teacher who is talking with you about an upcoming author study that she is excited to be doing with her class.  You and the teacher share some powerful thinking and planning and go your separate ways. A few days later when you ask how things are going in passing she mentions she has struggled with finding time to touch base with the librarian to pull the books needed for the author study.  You could volunteer to contact the librarian to help get things rolling for the teacher.  Any little thing a teacher can check off their mile-long to-do list makes them happier.

Be transparent

It is important to be upfront with what teachers can expect when they work with you.  You will want to clarify your role and describe what type of work you can do together.  Let the teachers you work with know who you will be sharing information with and what type of information is shared.  Take the time to explain the purpose of any district initiatives.  When we aren’t as transparent as possible we risk coming off as secretive and untrustworthy which definitely does not support building relationships.

Be a leader not a boss

Our job is not to tell teachers what to do.  We are there to think collaboratively with teachers for various purposes.  Listen actively to your teachers to find out what their goals are and what they want from their work with you.  The more that coaches show through their actions that they are in the thick of things with teachers the stronger their relationships will be.  Be vulnerable by admitting that you make mistakes too and acknowledge that you don’t know everything.  Think positively about ALL of the teachers you work with (even the “hard” ones).  Recognize the individual strengths of each teacher and help them to use their strengths to grow in their craft.

If you intentionally work to build relationships with teachers you will find that in time teachers will be more likely to work with you.  They will seek you out for support.  They will find value in your role as a literacy coach.

Please check out our previous posts on 100 Positive Experiences

#1 Be on time. Every time.

#2 Work Harder Than the Teacher 

#3 No Agendas

#4 Really Listen

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6 thoughts on “100 Positive Experiences: Experience #5, How to Build Relationships with Teachers

  1. Pingback: 100 Positive Experiences: Experience #7, keep it confidential  – Literacy Pages

  2. Pingback: Support for Literacy/Instructional Coaches – Literacy Pages

  3. Pingback: 100 Positive Experiences: how literacy coaches can develop strong relationships with teachers – Literacy Pages

  4. Pingback: 100 Positive Experiences: #1 Be on time. Every time. – Literacy Pages

  5. Pingback: 100 Positive Experiences: Experience #2 Work harder than the teacher – Literacy Pages

  6. Pingback: 100 Positive Experiences: Experience #3 No agendas – Literacy Pages

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