Fostering Strong Relationships Through Positive Feedback
By Nicole S. Turner
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The biggest and most important job we have as instructional coaches is to give feedback to the teachers we work with. While it can be easy to focus on the areas teachers need to improve on, it is always important to provide teachers with positive feedback. There are many ways and reasons to provide positive feedback to teachers and in doing so, you will create stronger relationships with those you work with.
One of the biggest mistakes made in coaching is not delivering positive feedback. We may make a note of the positive things we saw in the classroom for a future conversation or just as a note, but often times we don’t communicate that with those we are working with. In doing so, we are keeping a useful tool in the shed when we can pull it out as a way to create a stronger relationship with that teacher. When you talk to a teacher about what they did well, they are more willing to talk to you about what they may need to work on or concerns they may have for themselves. By opening up positive communication with your teachers, you are opening the door for better communication all around.
While telling teachers what they are doing well is a crucial first step, it’s important to also be specific. A general “good job” doesn’t go very far. This vague messages can be seen as generic and not as genuine. To help foster a positive relationship with the teachers you work for, make sure you are being specific. Tell them exactly what it was that you liked and why you liked it. For example, you might say, “The use of your word wall was very effective today. When Susie asked you how to spell a word you have been working on, you directed her to the wall and now she recognizes this is a resource for her in the classroom.” The teacher will be happy you noticed and he/she may share with you where they learned this skill. if it was from a blog they read or a professional development they attended, you just gained another resource for yourself while building a stronger relationship.
Another important part of providing positive feedback to teachers is making sure it is timely. We expect teachers to work on the skills we discuss with them in a timely manner and it’s important that we do the same with our feedback. After you have observed a teacher, it shouldn’t take longer than 24 hours to provide them with feedback. Keep in mind, some feedback can even be immediate by simply saying, “Wow, I really liked the way you rearranged your classroom. The students seemed more involved in your lesson today.” Not only does this give the teacher credit for listening to one of your suggestions, it also shows that you notice what they have done! Giving people credit in a timely manner keeps them motivated to keep working on other goals you may have set together.
Giving feedback is very important but it can also be very time-consuming. Sometimes a little compliment can lead to a long conversation that gets us off of our schedule and we could potentially fall behind. This creates more work for the instructional coach and can deter the instructional coach from giving positive feedback right away again. If you want to give positive feedback to a teacher right away, consider looking at the Themed Positive Feedback Walkthrough Forms. These very fun little notes (which are seasonal) that are quick and easy to fill out before you leave. You can put these notes in the teacher’s mailbox later on in the day or on their desk as you leave the classroom. This little gesture will go a long way and your teachers can keep them as little pick me ups when they may be having a harder day in the classroom.
There are so many reasons to give positive feedback to teachers and while our lives get busy it’s important to take the time to provide that positive feedback. Teachers need to know we are paying attention and that we care. It can be very intimidating to teach when you know someone is analyzing everything you are doing. By giving positive feedback, you are creating a better relationship with your teacher and in turn, getting a more authentic look at what they are doing in their classroom. As you build this relationship, you are creating a new comfort level and that will make your coaching a much easier job.