Building Relationships through Trust and Rapport

November 2023

When teachers take the time to build strong relationships with students, it increases their levels of interest, class enjoyment, and overall achievement (Murray 2002). Professor John Hattie is an esteemed education researcher whose areas of focus encompass performance indicators, measurement models, and the assessment of teaching and learning effectiveness. His notable contributions include the acclaimed books Visible Learning and Visible Learning for Teachers, which have brought his work to a broader audience. Hattie’s research reveals that student–teacher relationships have an effect size of 0.52 (2015). The same holds true for teacher–coach relationships. Research suggests that relationships between teachers and coaches impact the degree to which coaching can achieve its goals of improving teacher practice and student outcomes (Hershfeld, et al., 2012; Ippolito, 2010; Wehby, et al., 2011). Therefore, it is crucial that coaches take time to build their relationships with teachers just as a teacher strives to build relationships with their students. When it comes to fostering these relationships, trust and rapport are two essential elements that come into play. While these concepts are related, they represent distinct aspects of building relationships with teachers.

Trust is a fundamental component of any productive relationship, and it is vital for creating a coaching environment where educators feel comfortable seeking guidance, sharing challenges, and embracing growth. Trust is built over time through the coach’s reliable, consistent behaviors. Open and honest communication is crucial. A coach who is transparent about their intentions and methodologies helps teachers understand their perspective and trust in their guidance. Earning trust necessitates the perception that one’s intentions prioritize the other person’s welfare. Progress in this realm can be achieved by empowering teachers to choose their own coaching goal and actions, and coaches extending unwavering support to help them achieve their goal and implement their actions. Once a goal is established, interactions and inquiries must be grounded in an emotional focus on the teacher rather than the coach. Coaches who are consistently available, approachable, and responsive create an environment where teachers feel supported. Trust encourages openness, which allows for deeper, more meaningful conversations. This approach will foster a relationship where individuals are willing to unveil vulnerabilities surrounding their challenges while taking instructional risks toward their goals. Crucially, they need to believe in their own ability to execute the teacher actions outlined in their coaching goal before they place their trust in both the coach and themselves. You might even ask questions such as, “What feelings or emotions surface when you think about accomplishing your coaching goal?” or “How do you envision your classroom culture will change when you accomplish your coaching goal?” Building and maintaining trust requires ongoing effort, communication, and a genuine commitment to the teachers’ and students’ success.

Building rapport is another crucial aspect of the coach–teacher relationship, and it complements the foundation of trust discussed earlier. Rapport refers to an empathetic connection between a coach and a teacher. It goes beyond the professional aspect and aims to create a comfortable and friendly atmosphere where open communication and collaboration can thrive. It involves mutual understanding, respect, and a sense of camaraderie. Building rapport requires active listening, showing interest in the teacher’s perspective, and finding common ground. When rapport exists, it creates a comfort level that allows for greater engagement in the coaching process and a deeper level of communication that exposes both the teacher’s and the coach’s belief system. Allowing teachers autonomy during the planning process and being genuinely interested in the strategies they choose builds rapport. Ultimately, building rapport complements the establishment of trust. It creates an environment where teachers feel valued, understood, and supported not only as professionals but also as individuals. When there is a positive rapport between a coach and a teacher, it can expand the effectiveness of coaching.

While trust and rapport are interrelated, they serve different purposes. Trust creates a safe and supportive learning environment, while rapport enhances communication, understanding, and collaboration. Building trust and rapport will require the coach to be an active listener and a skilled paraphraser and questioner, and to have the ability to read non-verbal cues. It will require the coach to be curious about the teacher’s beliefs and have the ability to activate compassion for what that teacher is experiencing in their career. By focusing on building both trust and rapport, coaches create a comprehensive support system that addresses both the emotional and professional needs of teachers. This holistic approach enhances the coaching experience, empowers teachers to embrace growth, and contributes to the overall improvement of teaching practices and student outcomes.


Hattie, J. (2015). The applicability of Visible Learning to higher education. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 1(1), 79–91.

Herschfeldt, P. A., Pell, K., Sechrest, R., Pas, E. T., & Bradshaw, C. P. (2012). Lessons learned

coaching teachers in behavior management: The PBISplus Coaching Model.

Educational Psychologist Consultation, 22(4), 280–299.

Ippolito, J. (2010). Three ways that literacy coaches balance responsive and directive

relationships with teachers. The Elementary School Journal, 111(1), 164–190.

Murray, C. (2002). Supportive teacher–student relationships: Promoting the social and emotional health of early adolescents with high-incidence disabilities. Childhood Education, 78, 285–290.

Wehby, J. H., Maggin, D. M., Partin, T. C. M., & Robertson, R. (2012). The impact of working

alliance, social validity, and teacher burnout on implementation fidelity of the good

behavior game. School Mental Health, 4(1), 22–33.

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John Hayes, Victoria Holt, Ashley Boyd

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Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.