We can also be frustrated, because we can often see what else they could do, “if only they listened to us” or “if only admin would require all teachers to do this or that.” We can see the potential in our colleagues because we know what fantastic teachers they are, and we are excited by the next steps we could help them take.
But, the problem is, we can’t force them. As much as we might want to (and to be honest, as hard as we might try), trying to force a change just doesn’t work. We can force compliance, for sure, but not interest, motivation or engagement. And it’s only interest, motivation or engagement that will actually create a sustainable and long term change in practice.
So, as coaches I’m thinking we need to be less concerned with:
The bottom line is, we can force teachers to do these things, but we can’t force them to be the teachers we may want them to be. So we need to find their inner purpose, their drive, interest and motivation to be the person we know they can be. Because ultimately, the person making the change is them, not us. They have to want to do it, to be engaged in doing it, and to value the time it’s going to take to make the change.
In order to help them get to that space and tap into the motivational wave, we, as coaches need to:
None of those things will be surprising, we have all done them as classroom teachers, but somehow we tend to forget when we’re teaching adults that we’re all learners, and we all appreciate the same kind of experiences. Somehow, often when it comes to working with adults, we just expect them to deal with whatever professional development experience gets thrown at them.
Recently, in a teacher-training session in Marysville, we asked our participants to reflect on two different types of learning experiences: one where they were learning something they were interested in, and one where they were forced to learn. They created a T-chart to describe the differences:
You can see that when it’s something the teacher is passionate about they will do anything to learn, they feel engaged, that want to keep trying. But when it’s forced, it’s all about just “getting through it”. Unfortunately, when coaches are struggling in schools, they often feel the solution is forcing teachers to do the work, attend the session, or follow the protocol.
How many times have we heard coaches say (or perhaps said it ourselves):
“We need to get admin to tell teachers to….” or “well, since I’m not admin, I can’t force people to do…”
Even when we know forcing compliance is not the solution.
During a conversation with Ben at Learning 2 this year, at a weekend workshop I facilitated in Saigon, in a COETAIL Instructors GHO, in all of our discussions about our Marysville trainings, on a Facebook thread, and in a related Twitter conversation, this idea of re-thinking the way we shape professional learning keeps coming up.
Most recently, Rebekah mentioned this article in that FB thread, and this section stands out to me:
Less known is that there is a whole literature on how adults learn, originating with Malcolm Knowles and his work on andragogy. Knowles and his successors find that much of what we know about how kids learn is parallel to how adults learn, but that there are also some differences. Research on adult learning suggests that adults learn best when:
Instead of trying to force our colleagues to become the teachers we want them to be through sheer will, constant pestering, and admin expectations, let’s create a breeding ground for motivation in our schools.
Let’s do it through:
We all have outstanding learning experiences happening in our schools, but often it stays locked in individual classrooms, grade levels or departments. How can we ensure that we are acknowledging the great work of teachers already – not just in direct conversation with them, but also among and between our colleagues?
Teams have great potential for solving hard problems in challenging contexts. They bring together more skill, knowledge, and experience to work than any single individual can. They can integrate individual members’ diverse contributions into a creative problem that is what is needed. Of course, as many of us know, teams can also go badly by not getting anything done or falling into groupthink. The challenge is to identify what it takes for teams to maximize their potential.
Providing opportunities for teachers to share what they have learned with others, to inspire others to take the next step. From something as simple as speedgeeking, to unconference-style sessions during a PD day, or even a full day, week or year of PD that’s led entirely by our teachers, how can we tap into the outstanding teachers we already have on site (rather than force them to sit through someone else telling them how to do their job in this setting)? And along those lines, ensuring that we are involving teachers in the development of PD plans intended to professionally develop them. They might have a few ideas about what they need to learn and how they might best learn it too…
In empowering our teachers to lead PD, we’re also valuing the importance of connecting PD to the work teachers are actually doing in their classrooms:
Working in a busy school is hard (especially when the school is so big that you can “get stuck” in your building and rarely see teachers from other divisions), often teachers don’t know each other, or realize that there are others on the same campus interested in the same ideas as they are. As coaches, we have great connections – between grade levels and subject areas and between divisions. How can we connect our teachers that are ready for the same type of learning so they feel empowered and part of a relevant learning community customized for them?
This is looking at a broader scale, but this article highlights some key points about the power of sharing:
We try very hard to make our PD sessions as appealing as they can be, we create surveys, we talk to teachers, we look for every possible way to make our sessions as engaging as possible, but they’re still almost always about something very content-driven. We need to understand SAMR, we need to make effective use of our Student Information System, etc. Could we look at those needs as an opportunity to design challenges for teachers, perhaps even based on their personal interests, just like we would for students. Rather than focusing on trying to make the boring session more interesting, could we start with a challenge we have and see how our learners can use their individual skills to develop a solution? Is this something that can be ongoing, so it’s not a one-off session, but something that is so engaging it carries through the entire year?
Along those lines, I really enjoyed this article about the power of interest in learning:
As a coaching team, ideally everyone is on board for why we do what we do and what we believe about technology and learning in schools. And sometimes we think it’s so obvious we almost forget to ensure that it’s clear to all stakeholders. As we bring in new ideas and initiatives, how do we ensure that the reasons behind these changes are clear to teachers, so they can value the purpose and rationale for asking them to reflect and refine their own teaching practices?
These are just five prompts or thoughts that have been swirling around in my head this year – by no means is this an exhaustive list, perhaps it’s just a way to think about professional learning differently. The more ownership we can share with our participants, the more closely aligned we can make the content, and the more opportunities they have for sharing their knowledge, most likely the more engaged they will be.
How are you creating a breeding ground for motivation in your school?