5 Ways to Work With Resistant Teachers
Contrary to what some believe out there, I don’t ‘like’ everyone. There are people who make it very difficult at times to achieve the goals I have for inspiring and supporting teachers and learners in my school. However, as much as there are difficulties with them, those who are challenging to our best efforts often provide an opportunity for us to put forward better and more effective work. It may not always be apparent to us in the moment, but adversity inspires creativity and encourages alternative perspectives. With that in mind, here are some of the ideas I utilize in working with some of my peers who may not always be ‘on the same track’ as I am.
- Listen to what they are ‘really’ saying. Often, someone who speaks out against positive change is masking their own feelings of discomfort. It is not easy to admit that your practice needs change, or that you have not been working as effectively as you might. By exercising tolerance with these teachers, and asking effective questions, we can often get to the root of a deeper issue.
- Create opportunities for ‘open dialogue’ Our school has benefitted from this concept in so many ways this year. When teachers see that a truly open dialogue has been created, many of the old frustrations and beliefs can be ‘set aside’ to allow productive and proactive conversations to take place. How can you create these open conversations? In our school this year, teachers had roundtable discussions about their Professional Growth Plans (yearly goals) rather than just sharing them with an administrator. That simple act of sharing created discussions that were far more powerful than one-on-one conversations could be.
- Pick your battles. Try to be as open as you can be to the less important elements of practice. There is no point in creating a division with a teacher over a late policy, if what you really want is to benefit the teaching methods used in front of the class. Remember, change comes slow for teachers, and if we pick the right areas to work with them, the smaller ‘stuff’ generally takes care of itself.
- Open yourself up first. Not easy, but one of the most profound methods of gaining trust and support is to invite feedback on your own practice. This is one of the first strategies we put into place in our school as coaches. I haven’t had many teachers take me up on visiting my room, but we have been told over and over that the willingness to share our classroom practices with others set a positive climate for those who were resistant to having others in their rooms.
- Be there. If you are able to provide benefit to someone in their time of need, to be the extra set of hands, answer a question or provide the research, you forge connections that will pay massive dividends in the future. Even very simple acts can have profound impacts on those who aren’t expecting them. The key here is to be looking for ways to show value to someone who does not yet see it. Be creative!
One of my University professors says it correctly; (many times over, so I remember) ‘There are no throwaway teachers.’ If you are involved in professional learning, you have a responsibility to all students and to those doing great work to work with everyone you can and ensure best practices become pervasive in education. Let’s get teachers working together!
Thanks for reading, and have a great day!