Unconventional Relationship Building in the Coaching World



I love being a mathematics coach! I have the pleasure of working with a variety of talented teachers and students who are all interacting with the same curriculum resource. I have spent my first official year as a coach getting to know teachers and their teaching styles, but I since I am spread out between 5 different buildings this year, it is more of a struggle for teachers to get to know me. I have been trying to create new ways for the staff to get to know about my interests and personal life.

In order to prepare myself for this coaching role, I have read many blog posts, articles, and books that speak to the importance of relationship building in the coaching world and how a coach needs to establish trust and a connection with a teacher first. Taking this approach might mean that the "coaching cycle" enacted is more teacher-centered versus student-centered. While I believe that there could be a true benefit to this approach at given times, I am finding it difficult to "schedule" this relationship-building time into the the school day. Thus, I have developed my own methods for establishing this relationship piece.

1. Weekly Calendar Share


As I said before, I spend my week traveling between five buildings, which means that I am planning out every minute of my day. For a gold personality like me, I love doing this, but the issue that comes is how to effectively communicate this schedule with the staff in these buildings. I didn't like the idea of one more email (teachers already have enough!) and I didn't want to share my Google Calendar with everyone because I keep my coaching cycle participants anonymous. So, after talking with some mathematics coaching friends, I decided to follow their lead and create a color-coded weekly calendar on Google Sheets. This format informs everyone of where I am, for how long, and for what, while keeping everyone anonymous.

On Thursdays and Fridays, I make sure that I have color-copies of the following week's calendar printed. I hang these eye-level above the copy machines, next to teacher mailboxes, and on the window of my office. This way, there is no question about what I am doing at any given moment and teachers do not have to search to find my whereabouts. Everyone goes to the copier and to the mailboxes-maybe even multiple times a day. Having this schedule readily available creates transparency, which increases the level of trust.

At the end of each week I come back to the Google Sheet on my computer and calculate the percentage of time spent at each school along with the percentage of time spent engaging in each type of activity (listed at the bottom). I am going to use this information at the end of the school year to help my argument in how the amount of coaching available in a school impacts the culture and instructional shifts in a school.

2. Check In Emails


Every three weeks, I send an email to grade level teams (that are not in a current coaching cycle) letting them know that I am here to support and to let me know if they have any questions or want to brainstorm anything together. I title the email "Math Check In" in hopes of separating this email from the headers of others. It is a totally open-ended email with no pressure or deadlines. Many teachers email back with either a quick question or a line indicating that they are all set.

3. Classroom Visits


For two days out of each month, I have been "blocking off time" to come into elementary classrooms to watch math in action. It helps me learn so much about how the curriculum resource lives in different settings and how students and teachers are interacting with the mathematics. It also gives me a chance to snap photos of math in action. I then take those photos, type up a paragraph or two explaining what was happening and thanking the teacher for allowing me to be a part of the room. Teachers don't know when the pictures will be posted, but at some point in the near future, I post these on our Facebook Group. This public celebration of math further builds relationships and makes people feel at more at ease with having me come into their room.

Another type of classroom visit that I am implementing this year is mathematical lesson modeling. Every two weeks, I look at the list of elementary teachers I serve. Going school by school, I pick out 2 to 3 names of teachers with whom I haven't had much contact. I then block off time in my schedule to possibly teach their class. I send them each an email asking about times and if this is something that they are interested in doing while emphasizing that this does not have to lead to a formal coaching cycle. Teachers who respond with a "yes" are given further directions. I find that this helps teachers remember that I am still a teacher first and that no one i

4. Posting on Social Media


Before this position, I had stepped away from Facebook and Instagram. I haven't gotten to the point of officially deactivating and deleting anything, but I had deleted the apps from my phone to help me break the trap of scrolling for a half hour after I said I would post something.

When school started in September though, I grabbed the Facebook app back from the cloud in order to have quick access to our district mathematics coaching facebook group. What I discovered from posting on the district page is that a huge percentage of the teachers I serve are active users of Facebook. I decided to use this fact as a reason to get back into my own Facebook posting and took the step of accepting Facebook requests from colleagues and requesting others. Snapping and postings pics about my weekends and feelings on my personal page is helping the teachers I am working see my personal side. This doesn't always come out in our quick 20-30 minute student-centered coaching meetings.

I suggest getting to know which social media platform your teachers are most interested in - could it be Twitter, or Instagram if not Facebook? Invest a little time each week in posting a personal snapshot to help teachers make a personal connection and shared context.

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