Teachers are reluctant for a (or many) reason(s), so determining why is a big first step. Then, depending on the reason(s), we must develop a plan that will move the teacher beyond reluctance and into a feeling of openness. Sometimes, it is more helpful to surround and conquer rather than storm the castle.
The last line is the one that stuck out the most to the group, and this is what we talked about:
Surround and Conquer versus Storm the Castle
Our typical reaction to someone in need is to rush in immediately and offer our help. After all, we have ideas and resources that can quickly solve the problem. It's what many of us did in the classroom, and it is the natural thing to do as a coach: help. By storming the castle of reluctance, we are sending instant ideas that will captivate our audience and get them to turn their reluctance into risk-taking.
Nah, you know that's not how it goes.
For many of the teachers who resist change, there are reasons why. Once we know those reasons, we can begin to address them. Every now and then, though, the walls are so high and insurmountable that it is best to leave well enough alone and head elsewhere. The last thing we want to do is overwhelm someone who might be open at some point, only to shut them down completely. Bring in: surround and conquer.
Most of our teachers work in teams, be it content teams, grade level teams, intervention teams, or a combination of the three. When I am working to implement a new idea, I only have so much time to invest. This means that there isn't the luxury of waiting out a teacher who doesn't want to partake. So, rather than persisting, I back off and find the other team members who are receptive to change.
A good friend of mine, Karl Lindgren-Streicher, shared an article on Twitter about "weak ties" and how they matter. The entire article is worth reading, and I think it coincides quite nicely with this method of supporting teachers. If I am always trying to build strong ties, it can suffocate the creative freedom of a natural dynamic, which then has negative impact on my relationship with teachers.
Bringing both of these ideas together is quite simple. In those surrounding teachers, I am creating ties and providing them with the necessary help. They will get confident, then begin using whatever it is we have discussed. Then, the natural conversations begin about how _____ has made their life easier/better/more productive and that they couldn't believe they hadn't tried it before. It will typically take 2-3 of those interactions before the reluctant teacher realizes what's going on, sit down, and contact me.
No, this doesn't work for every teacher, for every tool, or for every situation. Knowing your staff, just like knowing your students, is the greatest asset you can have as an instructional coach, TOA, TOSA, or whatever your position is named. Once you have that, and as you work to maintain it, you can begin to find castles to storm. For the ones you can't, you begin to surround and conquer the fear of whatever is holding someone back from moving forward.
Help me get better: how are you supporting your reluctant teachers? Drop a comment below!
Happy "Surround and Conquer" Fishing