Coaches establish productive relationships with educators in order to improve instructional practice and learning outcomes.
It’s not easy to build relationships in the workplace. I think a lot of times, the workplace is competitive and focuses on quantity and quality of work, rather than some of the other intangible aspects of work like collegiality and collaboration. That said, I firmly believe that it’s important to take the time to build rapport with each person you interact with – whether it’s a brief 5 minute phone call or someone who keeps stopping by – as someone in an administrative role who faculty don’t necessarily need to seek out to do their job, my focus became not just fixing issues, but what can I do to make people come back?
Below you will find evidence, spread across four different subsections (indicators) of how I believe I am a collaborator where I work.
Establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies.
When I worked in ETM, I already had 10+ years of IT work under my belt at SPU. It made the transition to working solely with faculty, a little easier because I had already built up a reputation and had created my own “toolbox” of skills and practices that would help me build rapport with the people I worked with. Things like active listening, focusing on empathy and not sympathy, being non-judgmental, avoiding assumption, being open and friendly and working hard to make sure my body language and other non-verbal cues matched the words coming out of my mouth.
I was really excited to be able to explore the complexities of building trust during this program because I had often thought of building rapport and trust, like having a set of skills and practices, aka my toolbox of things I did to be trustworthy, but I think that caused me to initially have a transactional approach to my relationships, rather than a relationship that went beyond the “I have an issue and you provide me an answer” aspect and would start including “how are you really doing?”
The pandemic really helped me step into that more through the concept of affective labor. The idea that my team and I needed to be calm and consistent and “present” with each of our faculty to hear their struggles, stressors, exhaustion, concerns and on the flip side joy when things worked and went well, and excitement at future possibilities. There was an element of this before the pandemic, e.g. a stressed individual calling about an urgent issue, but these types of interactions didn’t happen as often as they did during the pandemic. I recall being on support with someone who just needed to vent – no solutions, just vent. I’ve done that for coworkers, but never really had the chance to be there for a faculty member and in that moment, what I felt was honor. I felt honored that someone trusted me enough to share their real feelings and felt like I was on their side and would have their back.
It’s that type of trust that helps get us into transformational work in our coaching relationships. This is what helps me introduce new ideas like Student Centric Professional Development, new technologies like when we changed our LMS 5+ years ago and our Lecture Capture System 3 years ago. It helped us move a largely face to face campus with less than 40% LMS usage, to fully online with 90+% of our courses on Canvas in a matter of months. These projects would not have seen the success they did if it weren’t for all the work, we had done ahead of time to build relationships with each other and the faculty we served.
ISTE Standards: Coaches. https://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards-for-coaches. Pulled April, 2022.