Creating Positive Coaching Relationships Based on Collaborating and Communicating

Have you ever heard of the book, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten”? It is a book full of essays on life written by Robert Fulghum. It mentions a few short statements of things you learn in kindergarten that relates to how you should live. A few to note are:  

  • Share everything 
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody 
  • When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. 
  • Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.  

As I focused on this modules coaching standards, I was continuously brought back to the ideals of these essays by Fulghum. Here are my focus standards: 

ISTE-C Standard 2: Connected Learner 

Coaches model the ISTE Standards for Students and the ISTE Standards for Educators, and identify ways to improve their coaching practice. Coaches: 

c. Establish shared goals with educators, reflect on successes and continually improve coaching and teaching practice. 

ISTE-C Standard 3: Collaborator 

Coaches establish productive relationships with educators in order to improve instructional practice and learning outcomes. Coaches: 

a. Establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies. 

Standard 5: Professional Learning Facilitator 

Coaches plan, provide and evaluate the impact of professional learning for educators and leaders to use technology to advance teaching and learning. Coaches: 

b. Build the capacity of educators, leaders and instructional teams to put the ISTE Standards into practice by facilitating active learning and providing meaningful feedback. 

I decided to focus specifically on Standard 2: Connected Learner and Standard 3: Collaborator. These two standards in my mind are only able to be reached by first addressing the relationship that you have with your peer coaching partner. One can only “reflect on successes and improvement” if you have a positive relationship with one another. And one can only have a “relationship that encourages educators to explore new instructional strategies” if you have that “trusting and respectful coaching relationship”. So while the ends are the focus in these standards, the means to the end must be addressed first. This is where our friendly reminders of our Kindergarten skills come into play.  

“Share everything” 
 

  • The idea of “share everything”, while great for a kindergartener, really does promote the idea behind collaboration. As a peer coach you are called to also share everything with your learning partner. You should be sharing ideas, sharing workload, sharing the failures and in the end… sharing the successes. In order to achieve this, collaboration skills are incredibly important for coaches.  
  • In “Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration”, Foltos repeatedly brings up the importance of collaboration in a peer coaching relationship. He writes, “since teachers and coaches have worked largely in isolation, they have had little reason or opportunity to develop strong collaboration or collaboration skills”. Being an educator, I completely see the way that the type of planning and teaching that is normal in many schools can potentially harm the collaboration between coworkers. Collaboration skills help coaches to build the relationship with their learning partner that enables the hard discussions that need to happen to promote change and risk-taking. 

“Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody” 

  • In the coaching relationship, you sometimes have to have the deep conversations with your partner that helps broaden their pedagogical horizons. This is sometimes challenging to do and can lead to hurt feelings. The education system is blessed with teachers who stay in the industry for a long time. As educators, we know how frequently strategies can be changed or updated. Each new strategy comes with a period of learning for the educator to plan, practice, and implement the newest trend. As a coach, you have to have the communication skills that will encourage teachers in their journey to try new things while being okay with failing forward. And if in the process of walking with your partner on their adventure, you say something that hurts their feelings… you have to be comfortable saying you’re sorry and working with them to have a growth mindset. 

“When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together” 

  • Small changes, continuous improvement… TOGETHER – risk taking and failing forward and being okay with it 

“Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation” 

  • While the Golden Rule focuses on treating others the way you want to be treated, there is something to be said for thinking about the way you want to be treated. One great way to help make sure that a coaching relationship has the interactions that are expected is to create norms to guide your meetings. Foltos breaks the type of norms that help address lack of communication/collaboration skills into two groups: keeping meetings focused and productive and avoiding conflict. For the first purpose of keeping meetings focused and productive, you can set up norms that address meeting times, sticking to agendas, coming focused and setting up next steps prior to the meeting ending. For the purpose of avoiding conflict, you can set norms for active listening, respecting others views and assuming positive intent in your partnerships.  
  • For these norms to be helpful and kept in their original intents, you can go over them before each meeting and allow them to be revised after each meeting. A timekeeper and facilitator can also assist in the meetings and their productivity.  

Overall, peer coaching can be incredibly successful, especially when communication and collaboration strategies are kept at the forefront of the partnership.  

What ways have you been successful with communication and collaboration?  

References 

Ackerman, C. (2020, October 16). 49 Communication Activities, Exercises, and Games. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://positivepsychology.com/communication-games-and-activities/ 

Alber, R. (2017, June 19). Deeper Learning: A Collaborative Classroom Is Key. Retrieved October 10, 2020, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/deeper-learning-collaboration-key-rebecca-alber 

Batista, E. (2015, February 18). How Great Coaches, Ask, Listen, and Empathize. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2015/02/how-great-coaches-ask-listen-and-empathize 

Les Foltos. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Corwin. 

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