“Another new initiative? Changing something else again? You’ve got to be kidding me!”
This is a familiar refrain that I hear from teachers on an almost daily basis. It seems as if they are constantly pushed and pulled in new directions, and never allowed to slow down, reflect, and refine their instructional plans to benefit their students. It’s true, there has been a lot of change recently in education, and there appears to be even more on the horizon. While your first gut reaction might be to complain, student achievement data of our country as a whole tells us that we can’t just stop and keep doing the same things over and over – some amount of change is necessary for us to prepare our students for college, career, and beyond.
What Does This Have to do with Technology?
Throughout human history, technological innovations have always faced resistance. To embrace technology is to embrace change – to go out of your comfort zone, to risk failure, to venture into the great unknown. When I talk to students about technology, I often mention the early explorers of the 1400s and 1500s. There were many that refused to adopt new methods and navigational tools, such as the compass and the astrolabe. I’m sure many of these guys were really good explorers and sailors that were dedicated to their careers and wanted to change the world. But their names are not written in any history books. They were unwilling to leave their comfort zones and embrace technological change, and, as a result, they were left behind by pioneers like Magellan and Columbus – guys who were willing to embrace new tools and stake their lives and the lives of many men on these new tools and new ships, venturing to places that no European had gone before.
Back to our question at hand: how do we as teacher-leaders help our colleagues to embrace change? How do we convince the teacher that always sits in the same pew at church every week to strike out and try something new? Alas, I wish there were a magic pill, a one-sentence answer that I could plop in here that would do the trick. If only life were that simple! I do, however, think that the key lies in the cultures we create at our schools. If we can build robust professional learning communities and infuse them with a “coaching culture” mentality, than we can impact the practices of every teacher in our building and radically alter the ways that they view change and technology.
What is a Coaching Culture? How Do I Build One at My School?
In their book Creating a Coaching Culture for Professional Learning Communities, Jane Kise and Beth Russell invite us to take a deeply personal look on how our thoughts, beliefs, and actions impact the culture at our schools. One of their participants describes belonging to a meaningful PLC in this way:
“Knowing the talents and strengths of more of my colleagues helps me refer a teacher in need of assistance to precisely the right person. I now understand that I am not equipped to help everyone personally and have started to utilize the talents of others more regularly.”
Once again, making a difference in professional practice comes down to building relationships. If you don’t know the strengths and weaknesses of the people you work with, how can you effectively help them? If you don’t have strong, collaborative relationships with your colleagues, how can you be expected to get them to adopt a new idea? To embrace BYOD? It would be almost impossible.
Building a coaching culture is not a weekly, monthly, or even a yearly project. It takes strong leadership and investment in mentoring other leaders in your school. I would invite you to reflect on these questions and decide what YOUR next step is as a teacher-leader or administrator in your school. What can YOU do to help create or to further the PLC in your school? How can you build relationships, know your co-workers better, and be a leader in embracing technology integration? Here are a few ideas.
- Read and reflect on a great book together, such as “Creating a Coaching Culture”
- Create or improve a strong leadership team that empowers teachers from all levels in your building
- Focus on an action plan after each professional development and invite teachers to share at the next meeting how they integrated the new technique/tool into their practice
- Do the little things to build up relationships – write notes, put in that extra time, help someone without being asked
- Model, lead by example, and always be willing to share your failures, not just your successes
What are YOU doing to help build the coaching culture in your school? I’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments section. Thanks for reading!