#PandemicEdu: Building Relationships

After almost 3 years of varied forms of self preservation/protection, and concern for the general health of each other, we just might be coming out of the darkness where this pandemic is concerned. Yes, something new is hovering on the horizon (monkey pox) but at least, momentarily, folks in education are at least pretending there’s some normalcy in the wind.

Which means, the buzz word for the year is “building relationships” (ok, that’s 2 words, but yanno). Teachers need to build relationships with students. Administrators need to build relationships with teachers. Teachers and parents need to build relationships. Administrators and parents need to build relationships. EVERYONE BUILD!

I’m not in the classroom anymore, but i too, have been placed in a position where I need to build relationships. In case you missed my last blog post, I’m a training specialist “coaching coaches”. I’m enjoying it so far and a little piece of me misses my classroom (just a little piece, I’ll be ok). I’m having a great time getting to know and building relationships with my team of specialists and my team of coaches.

In conversation with some of the 8 coaches I work with, the topic of how to get buy in and trust from the staff has come up. Some of these coaches have been doing this for years and know that patience and persistence is a lot of the secret. Others are brand new to coaching and/or new in their buildings, so the simple fact they have to interact with staff that has no idea who they are is building anxiety.

I have 5 tips for building relationships that have worked for me. Here they are:

  1. Be genuine. Nothing smells up a room more than someone trying way to hard to buddy up to people. I personally (for those who know me well) tend to be quiet, observant, and unfiltered as hell. I can be intimidating. I know this about my self, so I simply remind myself that these people don’t know me and until they get to know me, I probably shouldn’t be “that one over there” with them. So, my genuine me tells them up front about the broken filter, the pensive, observant behavior and the ominous quiet. I also tell them to tell me to shut the hell up if I lose it.
  2. Be professional. You’re there to do a job. Just do it. Let your team know the who, what, when, where, why and how of how you do you job and to feel free to connect anytime. As part of the team building and the relationship building processes, establish a sense of trust that only comes from you doing your job to the best of your ability and making sure that trust isn’t broken.
  3. Be available. Not available in a “why is s/he always sitting in her office” sort of way, but available in a “book an appointment and I’m there” sort of way. The expectation should always be, “my coach is here to help me perfect my practice.” So be available, physically, emotionally andn intellectually for your staff.
  4. Be supportive. Not everyone knows what an instructional coach is supposed to be doing. Some have had poor experiences with coaches. Occasionally there have been negative experiences involving admin. As you work with your teachers, remember, they are trusting you to support their learning AND maintaining their privacy. It’s not easy for anyone to come to someone else for assistance to do better. Don’t ruin that trust by not supporting their desire to grow as teachers.
  5. Be a facilitator. It’s easy to simply sit down with someone, listen to their issues and then tell them what to do. When working with new teachers, fresh out of school, this might be the way to go. They need the support of someone holding their hand and guiding them through their issues. With more experienced teachers however, consider coaching them through by asking questions, guiding them to a place where they figure out what they want and need to do on their own. It’s their classroom and they know what they want to happen, they just need someone to help them steer the boat if you will. Co pilot with them, don’t do all the driving.

Some of these tips I’ve used in the past, some I’m using now with my coaches, I’m reminding the “ole heads” to not run a muck over everyone, and pushing the “noobs” to not be timid in stepping up and being there for their crew. If done correctly, the relationships will take root, begin to grow and in due time flourish. It will work, trust me.

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