Being a teacher leader can be intimidating. I found myself in a position in which one of my former teachers was on my team. How do I provide training to a person who was actually my instructor??!!!
If you’ve read about teacher leadership, instructional coaching, or taken a course or two, you know that there are tons of tips. Some books even provide a template that you can follow! Of all of the things that I’ve learned about being a teacher leader, facilitator, liaison, professional development specialist—call it whatever you like—one of the keys to success is relationship building.
Relationship building is the difference between someone toughing it out with you or abandoning you mid-project. Below I have outlined a few tips that can help you with relationship building that will be the key to your success!
#1: Be honest. Be honest about your role. A misconception is a teacher leader equals administrator, or worse yet, “administrator’s pet”. A teacher leader is simply a colleague who takes on leadership roles in the building, but that does not mean (s)he is an administrator. I always make it clear to my colleagues that yes, I may be the liaison or facilitator of a new practice or initiative, but it is the expectation that I do the same work as everyone else.
#2: Be transparent. As a teacher leader, I’m usually the liaison for new best practices and initiatives. I make sure I explain everything that I know and the expectations around it. I don’t keep any secrets about implementation or follow-up.
#3: Be supportive: Listen to what your colleagues have to say and provide positive support. People respond to things differently, so it is important that you are supportive, not judgmental.
#4: Be respectful of people’s privacy. At times, people will tell you information that is confidential—keep it that way! If a colleague needs to blow off steam about something, provide that safe space for them to do so. This is a normal response to implementation woes and change!
#5: Talk to people! I try to talk to everyone on my team or provide spaces where people feel comfortable talking to me. Talking shows that you respect everyone’s personal situation and care about them as people.
#6: Don’t be pushy. Everyone won’t do everything! You have to determine what you can do and do those things well! Always let people know that you are there for support, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get 100% of your colleagues onboard initially. It may take a year or two to get everyone, and even then, it may only follow that 80/20 rule.
Now, this is NOT an exhaustive list of what to do as a teacher leader to build strong relationships! They are simply tips that have helped me along the way.