It takes a long time to earn someone’s trust, and it can be lost in an instant. As an instructional coach, earning that trust can take even longer. Even as a teacher or administrator, earning your colleagues trust takes time, and unfortunately can be crushed with one mistake. A good rule of thumb that comes from a long line of good, down-home living, is be yourself! No one wants to interact with someone who seems fake or questionable. Being yourself, a personable, approachable, genuinely GOOD person, is the best way to build trust among adults. I have encountered a few not so “personable” coaches in my experience as a teacher and will share some Do’s and Don’ts about how I feel are good and bad ways to build trust!
So first of all, DO make yourself readily available. Try to always keep a spot open somewhere in your schedule to meet the needs of teachers who may need extra support. Making sure THEY know that YOU are there for THEM and their students will help build a strong, trusting relationship from the get go. To some, this may not seem ideal, but let me tell ya, if you’re in this business of education for the right reasons, then you know what I’m talking about. Will you always have to drop what you’re doing to be available? No. But will you need to be as flexible as a pipe cleaner in the beginning? Yes! If you’ve been following my past blog posts, you’ll already know that this is crucial to building relationships. Once your teachers have an understanding that you are not there to dictate or change their teaching, things will run SO much more smoothly! So, make yourself available is step one!
Next up ~ Make your focus "The Students"! Let your staff know what they are feeling is their passion! KIDS!!! That’s why we’re in this business folks! When you build trust based on common ground, you will make more progress. Again, I stress the importance of making your focus on the kids! Coming into a classroom and wanting to change the way a teacher does something is not the way to build trust. Do sometimes techniques need to be changed? You bet! But focusing on what the teacher is possibly doing wrong is not the way to earn trust. Words as simple as, “I am SO pumped to see the progress your kids are going to make this year! We are going to be a powerhouse of a team!”, will get your cooperating teacher revved up and ready to make the necessary changes!
DON’T~ Unfortunately, I have run into a coach a time or two who has come into my classroom and has made comments such as, “What are you doing to fix ______?” This may not seem like a terrible thing to say because let’s be real here ~ that’s what we are trying to figure out! BUT….. there are better ways to say this. For example, I would turn this statement around and say, “When I was teaching, I was having trouble getting kids motivated to read. So something I tried, was introducing them to a genre of books in the most exciting way I could ~ even when I didn’t particularly LIKE the book myself! I would put on a fishing hat, come into the classroom carrying my tackle box and fishing pole, and plop right down and start reading. As ridiculous as I looked and acted, the kids totally bought into it right away and were hooked!” Right off the bat, you haven’t called the teacher out on what he or she may be doing wrong in the classroom, but you’ve put it on yourself and admitted that YOU TOO have had to make changes to better your techniques for the benefit of the kids.
It may seem that the common thread here is POSITIVE. And, you’re right. Simple tone of voice, rewording questions, making yourself available, and putting the focus on the students are quick, easy ways to start building that trust.
There may be many of you who have encountered a coach, colleague, or administrator with these exact tactics. Share your experiences (positive or negative) in the comments below. Add one positive that really made an impact on your career!