ISTE Coaching Standard 3a

Relationships at the Core

For this final module, I wanted to explore ISTE Coaching Standard 4.3 a. Coaches will “establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies.

My questions were: when working with educators, especially those you have never coached before, what is the best way to establish a solid foundational relationship between the coach and the coachee in order to build trust and help educators try new-to-them things, especially in terms of new technology? Further, what are some strategies that coaches can use to encourage educators to open up to new and different technologies?

A good coaching experience boils down to good relationships. Positive relationships are at the heart of good classroom teaching, so it makes sense that positive relationships are important in coaching as well. 

Word Cloud - Coach, relationship, individualized, feedback, agency, individual, improve, time, help, value, professional, learning, personal, trust, patience, praise, compassion, frequent, assistance, conversation, advise, inspiration, boundaries, practice, model, often, strategies, empathy, goals, focused, growth, achievable, education, guide, advocate, positive-focused, and influence.
Coaching Relationships, Dunworth (2022)

There are so many words that come to mind when I think about coaching and relationships. Three words that came up repeatedly in my research were compassion, empathy and trust. These three words can be applied to all types of coaches, instructional and otherwise.

4 tied pyramid. the word relationships at the bottom, followed by: compassion, empathy, and trust.
“Relationships: Compassion, empathy, trust” (Dunworth, 2022).

Davison (2015) stresses the importance of compassion in a coaching relationship. She stresses that it is important to not just build relationships between coach and teacher, but that it needs to be on an emotional level. Showing compassion and empathy while remembering what it feels like to be a classroom instructor is important to coaching relationships. Walkowiak (2016) reminds instructional coaches about the importance of trust, because having a coach can be intimidating at times. Coaches can build trust with teachers by sharing past challenges you experienced as a classroom teacher, being open with teachers demonstrates empathy and helps teachers to be willing to take risks.

Another way instructional coaches can build strong relationships with teachers is to share the good that you observe. McGrath (2019) reminds coaches that it is important not to only remember to share the good things you observe but to keep your coaching student-centered. When you keep your coaching student-centered, it is less likely that feedback and suggestions will be taken personally. Benner (2019), goes on to include the following tips for instructional coaches: get to know the person you are coaching, share your story, listen patiently, problem solve together, get feedback, and provide praise. All of these actions will help to build strong relationships between instructional coaches and educators. 

In addition to establishing trust in a good coaching relationship, Walkowiak (2016) advocates for coaches getting to know their teachers both personally and professionally. Sharing past experiences and challenges faced as a teacher is one way to do this. Another way to build strong relationships is to show value for teachers’ ideas. Whenever someone sees that their ideas are important and valuable, it provides them with validation. Furthermore, coaching should be student-focused, goal-oriented, frequent and evidence based (Walkowiak, 2016; McGrath, 2019; & Rock et al., 2009). Santoyo-Bambrick, also supports the idea that coaching during the first year of a teacher’s career is critical to their success, and as a relatively new teacher, I completely agree. Having built-in supports from the beginning was key to my success. It is also important to remember that there is a difference between mentoring and coaching. 

A final thing to keep in mind with coaching relationships is boundaries and expectations. Bridgers (2020), reminds coaches that it is important to set boundaries, not only with the educators they are coaching, but also with the administrators. Boundaries are another way to establish trust with all involved parties. Finally, it is important to set expectations. Aquilar (2016) suggests that each coach come up with their own vision and definition of coaching and to share that vision with administrators and teachers. This will help to set expectations.

You’ve established the relationship, now you need to introduce the technology.

Intimidating Technology (Dunworth, 2022).

One aspect of technology coaching is encouraging educators to use new technology in their teaching practices. New technology, whether software or hardware, can be intimidating at times. As a technology instructional coach, it is important to learn how to introduce new technologies and make teachers want to use them in their classrooms. 

Stone (2022) tells us that it is important to provide training, this is where the technology instructional coach comes in. Part of that coaching should be modeling the use of new technology. Galey (2016) when asking teachers to make modifications to their teaching, it is important to model new techniques and skills. Educators often use the “I do, we do, you do” method for teaching new concepts, this can and should apply to coaching relationships too. 

Another important thing to remember when introducing new technologies in the classroom is to get educator and student input. Good coaching involves collaborating with not only educators but administration as well. When administrators tell teachers that they have to do something different or new in their classrooms, it can lead to frustration. Collaborating with teachers reminds them that their ideas and opinions are valued and continues the hard work of building relationships. Modeling and collaborating aligns with TPACK (MKoehler, 2012)). By valuing their content and pedagogical knowledge, the coach will be more able to assist in learning the technology knowledge required.

Instructional coaching can be boiled down to what Stevens (2014) calls the 4 R’s: relationships, relevance, rigor, and reflection. Good coaches will build solid relationships with educators, keep coaching student-centered, set boundaries and expectations, will model good practices, seek feedback and will regularly reflect on their coaching experiences with the desire to improve.


Aguilar, E. (2016, September 27). 20 Tips for new instructional coaches. Edutopia.

Benner, D. (2019, November 18). Relationship-building tips for instructional coaches. TCEA Technotes.

Bridgers, G. (2020, September 14). How to set boundaries as a teacher leader. Always a lesson.

Davison, S. (2015, March 17). Compassionate coaching: Support and encouragement go a long way.  The Teaching Channel.

Dunworth, M. (2022). Coaching Relationships word cloud.

Dunworth, M. (2022). Intimidating Technology.

Dunworth, M. (2022). Relationships: Compassion, empathy, trust. 

Galey, S. (2016). The evolving role of instructional coaching. The William and Mary Educational Review, 4(2), 54-71.

International Society for Technology in Education. (n.d.). ISTE standards: Coaches. ISTE.

McGrath, S. (2019, June 5). 5 Relationship-building tips for instructional coaches. Edutopia.

MKoehler. (2012, September 24). TPACK explained.

Ritter, K. (2022, April 5). 10 Tips for instructional technology coaches. The Cool Cat Teacher.

Rock, M., Gregg, M., Gable, R., & Zigmond, N. (2009). Virtual coaching for novice teachers. Old Dominion University: Communication disorders and special education.

Santoyo-Bambrick, P. (n.d.). How to effectively coach new teachers: And why first-year support is critical to everyone’s success. Jossey-Bass.

Short, J. (2022, May 20). 5 things you can do to motivate your teachers to use technology. Stone Group.

Stevens, J. (2014, August 14). Defining your role as an instructional technology coach – the 4 R’s. NC State University.

Walkowiak, T. A. (2016). Five Essential Practices for Communication: The Work of Instructional Coaches. Clearing House, 89(1), 14–17.

4 replies on “Relationships at the Core”

Hi Melissa, you have highlighted some very important points in any coaching relationship. Showing compassion is something that maybe many people forget and yet all of us need it. Being empathetic and putting yourself in the shoes of those we coach can really change our perspective and our approach. Thank you for your insightful post!

I like the pyramid showing how compassion, empathy, and trust form a relationship in coaching. After establishing a respectful relationship, introducing digital technology will be much easier. Thank you for sharing this insightful post!

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