Staff Developmental Relationships | Steve Barkley
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Staff Developmental Relationships

Last year I posted a blog focusing on building developmental relationships with students. The work of Search Institute helped me be clear on what it means to have teachers focus on building relationships.

They define developmental relationships as close connections through which young people discover who they are, cultivate abilities to shape their own lives, and learn how to engage and contribute to the world around them.

To promote these relationships, educators focus on:

  • Expressing Care
  • Challenging Growth
  • Providing Support
  • Sharing Power
  • Expanding Possibilities

I ended that earlier blog, pondering the thought that this same list could be used by coaches and teacher and administrative leaders to consciously focus on strengthening developmental relationships among staff. Just this week, I was facilitating a session with district coaches where I shared a presentation, I had done with some district teachers. The material on developmental relationships had been in the workshop and I was planning to ask the coaches if they saw a connection to their coaching practices. But before I could ask, they jumped into conversation pointing out the connection.

As frequently happens for me, within days of an experience, new connections appear. Search Institute posted a blog titled It Starts with Us: Building Relationships Among Adult Staff. As programs that partner with Search Institute implemented a focus on building developmental relationships with students, they made discoveries concerning relationships among the staff. Lauren Geraghty, with Communities in Schools San Antonio stated, “What we realized rather quickly is that if you don’t know how to model those elements– if you’re not expressing those elements from adult to adult and the students aren’t seeing you model that in your adult life—how much are they really going to buy into your relationship framework?”

What purposeful, conscious actions can be built into coaching conversations to strengthen relationships? These conversations can be implemented by coaches or administrators but must be clearly separated from any supervisory or performance accountability elements.

The Search Institute post shares these examples:

  • Conversations can begin with expressing care check-ins.
  • Discussions about growth, expectations, and goals can challenge growth and expand possibilities.
  • Providing support is evident when the coaching assists the teacher in taking action.
  • Sharing power occurs as the teacher’s voice guides the direction. The key is for the coaching conversation to be much more listening and asking than telling.

“What has been rewarding about developing developmental relationships has been getting to know our staff and our students more intentionally and not just to get to an end goal. In addition, it has created “authenticity in our relationship building” among staff and leaders as well as with teachers and administrators in their partner schools.”

(Tasha Booker Fowler/ City- Year, Columbus)

I am currently facilitating leadership teams at several schools that are redesigning their existing teacher professional growth plans (PGP’s). An earlier blog and podcast illustrate a process for designing and implementing PGP’s. I have always stressed the importance of separating a teacher’s goals in PGP’s from the evaluation process. While being told that they are separated, I frequently found them being discussed in the same meeting. Sometimes recorded at the same time in a common file. My recent approach has been moving from PGP goals to hypotheses. The PGP plan is based upon a teacher implementing an action plan that tests a hypothesis connected to increasing student success. The process is designed to produce teacher learning which could emerge from a “failed” hypothesis. A proven hypothesis results in increased student success.Cooperation, Together, Teamwork graphic

I have been highlighting that teachers collaborating to test out a hypothesis and/or teachers sharing their experiences/findings from their PGP’s can create increased collective teacher efficacy. As I explore developmental relationships further, I am seeing that a quality process for PGP’s can provide opportunities for enhancing relationships across the staff as well as between staff and administration.

Building Trusting Relationships for School Improvement: Implications for Principals and Teachers suggests, “Celebrate experimentation and support risk. Give teachers room to try new things and to make mistakes. Supporting innovation and risk-taking demonstrates respect for teachers as learners and as professionals whose judgment can be trusted. Trusted principals empower teachers and draw out the best in them.”

Let’s make the most of PGP time and energy.

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