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.
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Herschfeldt, P. A., Pell, K., Sechrest, R., Pas, E. T., & Bradshaw, C. P. (2012). Lessons learned
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Ippolito, J. (2010). Three ways that literacy coaches balance responsive and directive
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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. https://doi.org/10.1080/00094056.2002.10522743
Wehby, J. H., Maggin, D. M., Partin, T. C. M., & Robertson, R. (2012). The impact of working
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