The Magic of Three: Building Collaborative Relationships

At the beginning of the year as an Educational Technology Coach, I found I spent a lot of my time organizing my schedule and staying above water (well, I am still doing that…but…).  This meant rotating through 19 schools, all with unique systems and work foci in place.

I would arrive at a school for the first time, and work through the mental process of introducing myself to staff, listening to teacher inquiries and needs, and taking action as quickly as I could.  Sometimes it felt like I spun, like a tornado, in and out of a school, really unsure with if I was actually building capacity.  Sure, I may have helped, I may have had some good conversations, and given some suggestions — but, after the first few days, I was really spending my time making myself available and open to teachers, just so they could get to know me, and how my role could be valuable to them.

Now that I have been able to cycle through some schools, I realize that the third (and, in some cases, the second) session seems to be the ‘magical’ time.  The third session has yielded high results.  Here are some observations, and, perhaps, ways to connect with your coach, and get the cycle of co-planning and co-teaching to happen effectively!

Why The Third Session Makes Movement:

Here are the main reasons, based on my experiences, why the third session seems to be magical:

  • Teachers know you now.  They have seen your face, perhaps have been to a lunch and learn or have booked you, and are now open to conversation;
  • Trust is built, or, beginning to build;
  • Teachers seek you out and are more open and honest about their goals, deficits, and what they want to learn now;
  • Teachers are more willing to approach you with an idea and are wanting to share and expand on this idea (improvability);
  • Teachers who were unsure how or what to book you with may now be more willing to ask questions, and seek you out;
  • word of mouth between teachers you have worked with;

The Third Session is Almost Always After a One-to-One Meeting; so Co-Teaching Happens

Generally, another reason the third session is so effective is that teachers have met with you and you have co-planned, now it’s time to work with students.  This is when technology is extremely powerful.  Now teachers can see how technology can be infused seamlessly into their current program.

In the above images, these are all active co-planning and teaching — students are using tools that will further their learning, and teachers can see themselves using these tools again and again.  Not only do students feel empowered but the teachers do as well.


When I leave these sessions, I know I have not left a single tool, I left a frame of mind open to learning, trying new things, and a willingness to find tools to support student learning.


How to Approach your Coach:

Here are some possible ways to experience that ‘magic third’ session a little faster.  Since your physical time with your coach is fairly limited, time is of the essence.

  • As soon as you can, book your coach to co-plan.  Be ready with the curriculum expectations you want to focus on;
  • It’s fine if you aren’t too sure about the exact software or a piece of technology that you want to try, if you have a curriculum focus, your tech coach can give you suggestions during your co-planning meeting;
  • Simplicity may be more powerful, or, going deeper with one tech piece.  You may want to do WeVideo, Soundtrap, Flipgrid, etc. all in one session, but consider one for your first session;
  • Be ready to talk about how to bring the session forward, or to continue it forward;
  • consider how you plan to use the tool after the coach leaves.  You want this session to lead into future usings of that piece of technology; not just a one time use;
  • It’s ok to ask lots of questions and reach out to your coach anytime during the planning process, including after;
  • Ask your coach, during their next session at your school, to pop in and ask how it’s going, and if they can help you further.  Even better, book another session!
  • Share the lesson with your colleagues.  This will lead to supporting one another, and further capacity building with that piece of software.  Share your experiences widely (even if they didn’t quite work out!).

How have you successfully used your coach in the past?  When do you know you have had an effective coaching session – what are your indicators?  I’d love to hear your stories and experiences.  Feel free to comment, or share your thinking with me on Twitter @heidi_allum.

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