There are cultural changes in how children behave and navigate the learning experience, how standards are approached and have increased in rigor, and how technology can be integrated into the classroom.

Thus, every teacher deserves a great coach. Research studies by Jim Knight show that coached teachers were more effective in implementing new skills than just stand-alone professional development, and their students did better academically and emotionally.

Join me in exploring three characteristics of effective coaches:

Great coaches know their craft…and it all begins with building relationships.

Relationships take time to cultivate. In the world of coaching “Relationships eat skill for breakfast.” Yes, skill in effective instruction is important, but having a relationship helps us get to the skill and retain it.

In "The Speed of Trust," Stephen Covey describes trust as a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that can be created rather quickly and is essential for high team outcomes. Here are three strategies to build relationships:

1. Power of 3.

Before having an instructional conversation, aim to get to know and talk about at least three non-academic things about the teacher.

How is your dog, children, vegetable garden, weight loss goal, blog, marathon training, etc.? Signal, "I really want to get to know you in addition to your story on teaching."

2. Visit teachers' classrooms to learn about their students, and support them in teaching side-by-side without a checklist.

Send appreciative emails and share tools between coaching conversations to keep the relationship strong and consistent. A coach’s schedule is very busy, but if we want to achieve maximum results try to visit classrooms just to say hi and help out.

3. Be visible.

Hang out with teachers. In meetings, mention your own vulnerabilities and newly learned information to remind colleagues that you are a continual learner.

Great coaches develop skills by using reflective and cognitive coaching.

One of the greatest gifts of working with a coach is getting the chance to truly reflect.

According to Pete Hall and colleagues in "The Principal Influence," "the more reflective we are, the more effective we are."

Guided exploration with our coaches represents the most powerful venue in which to stretch our thinking and our skills. These collaborative conversations often enable us to determine a plan that you both feel enthusiastic about.

Our goal is to function as partners in the process of collaborating and problem-solving.

Three questions to ask ourselves:

  1. Who does the majority of the talking and reflecting during our coaching conversations? Our aim is a ratio of 30:70. Our cognitive and reflective questioning should account for about 30 percent of the conversation, leaving the other 70 percent for teachers to reflect and make meaning of possible next steps.
  2. Are we hearing or listening during conversations? Hearing is passive and easy. Listening requires skill. Listening helps us ask the right questions to help teachers identify what they are going to do next and how you can help.
  3. Does our feedback to teachers help them reflect on their practice, or does it just give them a checklist of things I saw? When offering feedback, we move beyond advice and praise, we want to deliver feedback in a way that sets teachers up as the experts.

O.R.I.D. is a framework developed in 2001 by Jo Nelson; it helps ensure that coaches develop a logical sequence of questions that invites reflection and insight and points to next steps.

The "O" in ORID stands for objective questions, which are easy to answer, these questions relieve stress and invite active participation. These are typically \"what" questions, such as "What were key points you noted about…" "What did you observe during the…?"

The "R" is for reflective questions. These questions elicit emotional responses and personal reactions, inviting a deeper level of participation. These questions ask, "What about…the what?" Examples include: What was the most/least successful thing you noted about?

"I" is for interpretive questions, which invite sharing and generate options and possibilities for the future, asking, "So what?" Examples include: What did you did you learn about yourself through this experience? What are things that you might have done/could do that would have enhanced the outcome?

"D" is for decisional questions that develop opinions, options, or solutions that lead to future actions and clarifying expectations for improvement or change. Essentially these are, "Now what?" questions, such as, "What things will you do differently? Which of your skills will you further develop, and what will you do to develop them?"

Great coaches are motivators

We encourage our teachers to go great heights and take some pretty big jumps to challenge themselves for the benefits of students. Great coaches prepare the teacher for each stage of development.

We may not able to eradicate every risk because it is needed for growth, but we can support and intervene to ensure the risk isn’t so great that it outweighs the opportunity to try it again.

A good coach realizes that if someone thinks they can’t do something, it guarantees that they can't. However, if they think they can do something, it dramatically increases his chance of doing it. One of the greatest motivators is the ability to open a teachers’ mind that they can. Open the mind to the possibilities.

Let us continue to value our teachers’ expertise, engage in meaningful dialogue around growth and progress, offer choice based on teachers knowledge of their students, create collaborative problem solving culture as we work to support teachers' goals.

Coaching is not about improving teachers. It is about creating the conditions where teachers can improve themselves and share knowledge with other teachers. Every teacher deserves a great coach. Coaching is the great profession there is.