clock-650753_640Relational leadership includes a focus on building trust over time in order to deeply impact practice. An important word in that sentence is “time“.

But, lately I’ve been curious about this.  I’ve held the importance of time and relational leadership as non-negotiables for many years.  I’ve always believed that any significant change requires these components.  I’ve assumed that you can’t rush trust.  You can’t ignore the element of time.

So this is what I’ve been wondering about lately when it comes to instructional coaching; what happens when leaders want to – or feel like they NEED to – ignore that essential ingredient of time with a teacher?

With the increase in urgency in our field, it is counter-cultural to state that something will take significant time.  It flies in the face of the way many of our schools operate.

We have data.
We act on the data.

Is it possible to minimize the “time” factor and still have impact as an instructional coach?  Or, does it even have a different kind of impact when urgency drives the coaching cycle?  Might urgency sometimes even have a positive impact in its own way?

I wonder if this relates to where a practitioner sits on the continuum of the instructional goal of focus.  Imagine a line that represents implementation of balanced literacy practices.  If this kind of teaching is brand new, then time is a necessity.  Trust will be essential as the coach and teacher learn together.  And this does not happen overnight.

On the other hand, if the teacher is already using a balanced literacy framework and the coaching goal is around implementing something like flexible strategy groups within reading workshop, this is more specific.  It will probably require less time.  The colleagues teaming together on this concept will be able to hit the ground running because reading workshop is already established.  The teacher is already conferring with readers and simply wants to add a new structure to, essentially, confer with more than one student at a time.  This is not a huge shift from the current practice.

It feels important to remember that when the factor of time is reduced it does not mean that the other aspects of relational leadership are forgotten.  The coach will still do well to use tentative language, honor the thinking process of the teacher, move forward with a servant leader approach, hold the teacher’s goal and wisdom in highest regard.  However, these essential can happen … AND the time involved in this coaching cycle might still be minimal.

So how does a sense of urgency come into play when we think of the factor of time with instructional coaching?

Urgency can be valuable.  It can help us focus all of our knowledge and energy on meeting students where they are and quickly moving them up a ladder of progress.  It can created a motivating “all hands on deck” culture. Coaching built on this kind of positive all-in sense of urgency breathes new life into a teacher’s work.  This is the kind of urgency our students deserve.

But, I’m thinking of a different kind of urgency.  It is when urgency is wrapped in worry or a frantic demand for change – pedantically telling a colleague exactly what should be done – this is when urgency is the enemy of change.  It is worrisome urgency.  Maybe in needs a new name… how about worrgency.  

And the teachers that suffer the most from this kind of disrespectful urgency are sometimes the colleagues who would thrive during a longer coaching cycle that included time for building trust and trying practices with support.

If we know that differentiation is effective for students, why not each other? Do we give each other the license to spend time together and develop new learning collectively.

Depending on the teaching practice of focus, some colleagues need time to explore and develop trust with a coach.  This leads to ownership in the new practices and the ability to clearly see the results of their instructional shifts in students’ work and thinking.

What about you?

When were you able to protect the importance of time with your colleagues?

Please comment and share an example of when you were able to raise the value of time up above the flood of stress-inducing worrgency.  What was the result?

How were students the ultimate beneficiaries of your focus and collaboration?

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