Need Support From Teachers? Here Are Questions You Need to Raise
You’ve been there before. You have a brand new idea that you are excited about. This idea will revolutionize how things are done. You see its extraordinary value, and you believe the teachers will too. To your surprise, they do not. After your efforts to encourage and support the change, your teachers still are not adopting the change as you would have liked. This is disappointing. You wonder why? What’s the problem? Did I get it all wrong?
It is certainly frustrating to develop or introduce a concept that no one else cares enough about. The good news is, it does not have to mean that there is something wrong with it or you. The attitude that the teachers display is beneficial and actionable information. This attitude is feedback. It tells you that you need to make some adaptations. At this point, getting teacher buy-in may require you to ask yourself the following questions:
1. What Perception Do Your Teachers Have About Your New Idea?
Without a tactful approach, the introduction of a new program can be seen by teachers as a vote of no confidence by you. Though that may not be your intent, it can be difficult for them to perceive it the way you intended. New programs may sound like innovation to you but an insult to them. Your approach matters. Present it as an opportunity to build on top of their existing and continued successes. After all, if they were not already doing a good job, you would not still have them on board. The understanding that you must convey is that you know that the many things they are doing are working. Your innovation is, therefore, there not to derail them but to enhance their efforts.
2. Is This a Prudent Financial Investment?
It can be distressing for caring teachers to see hungry and ill-clothed learners in their classrooms. Seeing finances allocated for programs that seem financially irrelevant can further exacerbate their distress. Often teachers use their resources to support their learners in ways that go beyond the call of duty. Having to reconcile how the institution prioritizes expenditures in light of other pressing needs may send the wrong message to teachers. Finding ways to cut out the frivolous expenses helps teachers see that your concern is adequately geared towards their students.
3. Did I Capture Teacher and Student Needs?
Being heard is important for anyone. It also helps stakeholders embrace initiatives when they know and feel they had a say in the outcome. Bringing on a new solution without consulting teachers first will not help in getting teacher buy-in. It may even foster resistance or, at the very least, lack of enthusiasm. Throughout the academic year, teachers engage directly with students. They see first hand what their learners need and can share this with you. Without getting input from your teachers, you may never know what challenges they are tackling. You may also never know what special insights they acquired that could enrich your proposed solution.
Do consultations with a variety of teachers and not just the core subject teachers or the easy to engage ones. Look at your teachers as a potential wellspring of intelligence that will inform your initiative. A new member of your teaching staff, elective teachers, instructional assistants, special education instructors, extroverted teachers, and introverted teachers may all have something to contribute.
4. Am I Aware of What Teachers Are Doing in Their Classrooms?
Without getting their initial feedback, you can not know if they are already practicing what you want to introduce. Decide to inspect classroom practices as often as is reasonable throughout the year. This would help you stay on top of what teachers are doing. Without staying on top of their practices, you may find that what you suggest is something that they are already doing, albeit with a different name or in a different manner.
What’s more, implementing something they are already doing may foster resentment from the teachers towards your new changes. If you have or develop a supportive approach to interacting with teachers, you will find them voluntarily presenting their novel solutions and initiatives. Being engaged will help you to integrate or replace the old with the new.
5. Was I Sold Dreams?
Many a great salesperson has sold solutions that under-deliver. Teachers are great at identifying what’s what. Programs that lack scholarly backing, potential impactful gains, or appear too fanciful are likely to elicit their distrust. Your proposal should, therefore, be grounded in credibility and relevance for your school’s unique circumstances and context.
6. When Last Did You Innovate?
Innovating is great. However, if change keeps happening too frequently, your teachers may feel they just can not keep up. This then can foster feelings of not wanting to fully commit to new changes. Understandably, the rationale being, “Why bother, it will be gone soon, and something else will replace it.” Additionally, if lots of new programs are continuously introduced and add on responsibilities for teachers, the cumulative efforts required can be too much for them. Therefore, try and demonstrate that programs have been given a long enough period to be proven successful or failures before replacing them.
As school leaders, we must trust and encourage the insights our teachers can contribute. If the proposed solution is introduced promptly with involvement from teachers and does not require overwhelming involvement of the teachers, then all stakeholders are likely to want to jump on board. For a different take on the subject, check out the article Education Leaders Don’t Need a Consensus.