How to build relationships with instructional coaches

Teaching at any level can often be a solitary occupation. Even with a classroom full of students, teachers often work in isolation from peers. Teachers rarely receive instructions on how to work with co-teachers or teacher assistants in their pre-service teacher education programs. Therefore, it is often difficult or awkward for teachers to ask for help or collaborate effectively with others. Instructors often don’t know how to accept help from the instructional coaches, even when they would like to.

Educational practice is shifting from isolating practice to collaborative efforts, and creating healthy and productive team dynamics is often a challenge. Instructional coaches can positively impact these relationships, but the trust must be in place for it to occur. Even in systems where working with a coach is expected, building those initial relationships can be challenging.

Instructional coaches, instructional designers, and even assigned co-teachers often struggle to establish working relationships with individual classroom teachers. Librarians regularly complain that they spend more time clearing jams from printers instead of assisting students with reference questions. However, clearing that paper jam can help the student see the librarian as a resource. In the same way, the instructional designer might start to build a relationship by helping an instructor properly format hanging indents for a research paper. One instructional coach started building a positive relationship by making copies for classroom teachers. Just like the proverbial salesman who had to get a foot in the door, sometimes the first step is a small one.

Just as teachers rarely learn about collaborating with others in their classroom, instructional coaches and others of their stripe are often trained to focus on analyzing student learning data or the technical skills. However, that is only one facet of the coaching role. Gathering and analyzing data is an important aspect of instructional improvement, but it is rarely successful as the first facet.

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