September 21, 2022

How to build relationships with instructional coaches

Teaching at all levels can often be a solitary occupation. Even with a class full of students, teachers often work in isolation from their peers. Teachers rarely receive instructions on how to work with co-teachers or teacher assistants in their initial teacher education programs. As a result, it is often difficult or inconvenient for teachers to ask for help or to collaborate effectively with others. Often, instructors don’t know how to accept help from instructional coaches, even when they would like it.

Educational practice is shifting from isolation practice to collaborative efforts, and creating healthy and productive team dynamics is often a challenge. Educational coaches can have a positive impact on these relationships, but trust must be in place for this to happen. Even in systems where one expects to work with a coach, establishing these initial relationships can be difficult.

Instructional coaches, instructional designers, and even co-assigned teachers often struggle to build working relationships with individual classroom teachers. Librarians regularly complain that they spend more time clearing printer jams instead of helping students with reference questions. However, clearing up this paper jam can help the student see the librarian as a resource. Similarly, the instructional designer can begin to build a relationship by helping an instructor properly format hanging indents for a research paper. An instructional coach began to build a positive relationship by making copies for the classroom teacher. Just like the proverbial salesman who had to put his foot in the door, sometimes the first step is small.

Just as teachers are rarely taught to collaborate with others in their classroom, instructional coaches and others like them are often trained to focus on analyzing student learning data or technical skills. However, this is only one facet of the coaching role. Data collection and analysis is an important aspect of improving teaching, but it rarely succeeds as the first facet.

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