Reasons teachers might be resistant to change…and what to do about it: Growing as a Coach Series
Ah, change. Don’t you love it? Starting anew every year, scrapping every single thing you worked so lovingly on, and crafting a whole new approach, all with the understanding that, come August, you’ll be doing it all over again?
Wait- what? No? You don’t love doing that? Well guess what: most people don’t. Here’s why teachers might be resistant to change, and what you can do about it.
The problem: Unrealistic expectations.
One year, our district asked us to embrace a specific model for our literacy block. It was full of great stuff: read alouds, shared reading, word study, writing conferences.
The only problem? If you added up all of the minutes, they actually totaled more time than students actually spent at school.
What to do about it: Get real. Consider the realities of teaching and scheduling when you initiate change.
Teachers will appreciate your consideration and real-ness.
The problem: Not enough resources.
I’ve been on campuses where they asked everyone to DRA their students (assess them in reading) by sharing two kits across six grade levels.
Nope. Not happening.
What to do about it: If it’s important, find the funding to get the resources.
If it can be done in a different manner, for example, providing a staggered schedule to help teachers share the limited resources, do it.
The problem: Too many expectations.
A teacher’s list is oh-so-long, and anything that gets added to the list is seen as “one more thing” because it often is one more thing to accomplish in an already busy day.
What to do about it: If you add something to the plate, try to take something off (or at least consolidate it)
You can either figure out where there are redundancies, or ask teachers what they can do without.
The problem: Inconsistent and unclear expectations.
I knew a grade level who never wanted to do what the rest of the school was doing. If they didn’t like something they’d go to the principal. The principal was uncomfortable with conflict, so they just said, “Do whatever you need to do.” This meant the grade level didn’t do it at all.
When different grade levels are told different things, no one is happy. It creates frustration and hard feelings, too. The teachers who try to follow the initiative to the letter feel like their work is more difficult and unappreciated. And the ones who don’t try at all… well, they aren’t doing it anyway.
What to do about it: Be clear, consistent, and put it in writing.
Have a deadline? Write it down. Is the initiative required or recommended? Write it down. Do the details matter? Write it down. If it’s not important enough to require from everyone, why require it at all?
The problem: Not enough time to learn and practice.
How often have you been handed a brand-new practice and expected to roll it out immediately without the opportunity to try it out and get better at it? Probably too many times to count. We’d never do this to kids, but it happens to teachers all the time.
What to do about it: Give great, ongoing professional development.
Make sure people have seen the strategy, worked through it, practiced it, and have opportunities to ask questions. Once they’re trying it out in the classroom, honor the learning process.
The problem: Not enough support.
When teachers get a one-shot training and are expected to be experts in something totally new and foreign, we’re setting them (and their kids) up for failure. Teachers need support, too.
What to do about it: Provide different types of support for teachers in different places along the learning process.
Offer to model, share articles and resources, create opportunities for teacher-to-teacher sharing and modeling, help troubleshoot, and follow up frequently in emails, PLCs, and hallway conversations. Make a deliberate choice to be the support that teachers need.
The problem: Teachers are tired of top-down decision making.
Do I really need to elaborate?
What to do about it: Involve teachers in decision-making to make sure you’ve got buy-in.
This isn’t always possible, so at least try to figure out how to make the initiative more palatable and doable.
The problem: (not really a problem) Different learning styles.
Everybody learns differently. Some people learn something new and are ready to try it right away. Some people need some time to think and figure out how this approach or strategy is useful, valuable, or even how it relates to the work they’re doing.
What to do about it: Give people time to talk, think, learn, and try things out.
This is normal. When you work with kids, you don’t expect everyone to learn everything the same way at the same time. Give people multiple opportunities to see it in action, to talk it through, to learn about it, and you’ll have more people feel comfortable trying it out.
But wait! There’s more!
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I have totally experienced the inconsistent expectations problem. And the unfortunate part is it’s only a problem for those who truly are trying to follow what they’ve been told. Put it in writing with a deadline. I like it!
I have appreciated digging into your blog as I start my 2nd year coaching. Helpful and timely tips that have me excited for the new year. Thanks for a fun giveaway!!
These posts have been invaluable! I look forward to them everyday. First year reading specialist and coach…..starting to set up my grade level binders and get my calendar and notebook together! Thanks so much!
This post is so on point! I plan on giving my teachers more time to collaborate and just talk about new initiatives in order to better understand and share ideas of how they’ve done it before or plan to try a new approach!
Teachers have to trust the messenger before they will even consider the change. Relationships matter! Thanks for an awesome serious.
I love, love, love reading your blog! You're a wealth of knowledge and I love learning from you. 2nd year Literacy Coach in a middle school. Still have tons to learn.
You're awesome!! I really enjoy your style of writing and the fact that so much of what you write is truly relevant. Thanks
Oh my goodness I am so happy I came across your blog! This year is my first year as an instructional coach and I have found these posts very helpful! Thank you! I cannot wait to get organized girlfriend!
For some reason my name isn't popping up! My name is Hannah Pigman- firstname.lastname@example.org