The Foundation for Coaching

While Whetstone has your back when it comes to organizing your coaching notes and providing analytics to help you run data-driven professional development, we can’t make you form a strong relationship with someone else. (We leave that for

Seriously though, you are the one responsible for forming a powerful bond between yourself and the teachers you coach. That’s what good coaching is all about. As coaches we must be able to develop trust with coachees so that we can help them grow as educators and transform the lives of our students. So we’re kicking off our 17-18 school year blog series with a post on how to build and maintain trust in a coaching relationship.

As a company built around the belief that coaching can transform schools, we hold trust in high regard--it’s a necessary foundation for any coaching relationship. It requires constant care and support so we want to help you with both building trust during your initial meeting with a coachee and maintaining and improving that trust throughout the year. Here are some helpful tips and strategies from some of our brilliant partners in the New Orleans education community to help you have a successful school year.

Build trust at first meeting

This sets the foundation and expectations for the relationship.

1. Let the teacher guide the conversation. Vice Principal of Academics at Joseph S. Clark High School, Lindsey Cross:

“Ask the teacher about their strengths, goals and experiences - particularly if it's the first time you two have worked together. It's important that the teacher feel they have a voice and a say in steering the direction of your conversations and their work toward their own professional goals.”

Joseph S. Clark High School in New Orleans’ Treme Neighborhood

Joseph S. Clark High School in New Orleans’ Treme Neighborhood

2. Ask them how they learn best. Instructional Coach for Teach For America, Alicia Dagostino says:

“I begin by asking how they learn best and how they like to receive feedback.”

3. Set expectations together. Chief Academic Officer of Arise Schools in New Orleans, Cari Killian says:

“During the meeting I share what the debrief structure for our observation and feedback meetings will entail...When setting expectations it’s not just about the expectations for the teacher or leader I am working with, it’s also about expectations for me as the coach.”

Maintain and improve trust throughout the year

Our teachers will face stress, failure, and fatigue which can make the coaching relationship more challenging so make sure your relationship is equipped to handle it.

1. Ask for feedback. Cari Killian says:

“In one on one debriefs I ask questions like, “What can I do to support you better?” or “How could I have better supported you in that situation?” I have learned a lot from just asking these questions on ways I could improve my coaching.”

Arise Academy in the 9th Ward of New Orleans

Arise Academy in the 9th Ward of New Orleans

2. Practice with your teacher.

“Practicing techniques or strategies shows trust, it shows investment in the teacher and that we are in this together,” says Allie Rust, former math teacher and current Customer Success Manager at Whetstone.

3. Embrace the tough conversations. Leading Educators’ Leadership Coach, Kelsey Mclachlan says:

“If I don't have the tough conversations with the people I coach, I actually lose trust instead of gaining it. I think if you don't challenge thinking or give adjusting feedback that might be hard, people wonder what else you aren't being honest about.”

4. Follow through. Both Lindsey and Cari stressed the importance of making sure your actions match your words:

Lindsey Cross: “Your visibility in their classroom and in their sphere of work is vital to establishing and maintaining trust. And always give them a glow and a grow... Don't leave the classroom until you have both key ingredients.”

Cari Killian: “My goal is to meet the expectations I set with the teacher/leader in the first meeting and follow through on all the next steps I say I will do as time goes on. If I say I will be observing him/her twice a week, then I work to keep that commitment...I also think that it’s important that when a next step does fall through the cracks and goes unfulfilled, I apologize.”

Start using these strategies to build transformational coaching relationships this year. For more detailed coaching tips, we highly recommend Elena Aguilar’s The Art of Coaching as a resource. Thank you for tuning in to our first blog post of the year.

Have a happy and successful school year.


The Whetstone Team