The most difficult part of my job, in my opinion, is getting buy-in from teachers. We have all heard the excuses…”It is too complicated”, “It probably won’t work anyway”, “I don’t have time”…the list could go on and on. All of these can most times be summed up to this: It scares the “you-know-what” out of them! Teachers have been doing what they do for years. They have been successful, so in their minds many don’t see a reason to change. Those that do feel they need change do not know how to go about it. In either of these scenarios, it is easier for them to just put their head down and keep moving forward. If they don’t see it, it doesn’t exist, right? (Insert tree falling in the forest here).
Change is inevitable, although many times not welcome. Our job as instructional technology specialists is not just to train teachers how to use technology, but also to show them how to integrate. They need to see the benefits of integration. How hard could that be? We are only asking them to completely change how they approach preparation, instruction, structure, and grading. Simple…
This is a HUGE undertaking. I honestly have no doubt that most teachers feel they need to change. Admitting they need to is another story. Getting them to change is harder still! What can we do to make the transition easier for everyone involved? Here are 5 rules I follow that work well for me.
#1 Build a Relationship
Be approachable and genuine. Get to know each person you are working with on a personal level as well as a professional one, even If you only see them once a week, or less. Ask questions about them, their family, pets, etc. What are they doing over the holidays? Take notes if you need to keep things straight. Share things about you as well. Anyone will respond better to you if you create a comfort zone with them. Pop in just to say “Hi” if you get a chance and ask if there is anything you can help with. This is where a lot of buy-in happens for me.
This really goes with #1 as well. Many times your conversations start out having nothing to do with technology. That’s OK…just listen. Give them all of your attention. Offer suggestions if it is warranted. Sympathize when it is needed.
#3 Know the Limits
Try not to overwhelm them with information. Teach in small doses. Keep the trainings light, yet focused on the task at hand. Make sure your training is relevant and can be used immediately to provide an impact to their classroom.
No question is a “dumb” question. If they don’t know, they don’t know. Too often the simple things are overlooked. We assume everyone knows “Step 1”. If they don’t know that first step they can’t move forward. This is where approachability comes into play. They must have faith that you will not judge them. Patience plays a major role as well. Any show of frustration on your part will shut down the communication lines you worked so hard to open.
#4 Find What Motivates
Intrigue them with hints of what others are doing. Get them to ask questions. Praise teachers for effort, keeping in mind that no project that is done will ever be perfect. The first few may not turn out well, but if the students understand the process and learn from the experience it is a win! The products will improve as the teachers and students both become more comfortable.
When you finally get your foot in the door, do whatever it takes to swing it wide open. Adapt your schedule, training, modeling…whatever it takes. When teachers see success in their students they will be hooked and ask for more. You first need to set that hook.
#5 Remember Your Place
My wife reminds me of this often…although I really don’t think she needs to. My job is to be there to support the teachers and staff. I am not their boss, I am their colleague. I depend on them just as much as they depend on me. When I talk to them I am honest and direct, yet tactful. If they ask me something I don’t know, I have no problem telling them “I don’t know”. I have a bunch of smart friends, I have Google, and I have Twitter! If I don’t know I can surely find someone who does! Showing a bit of vulnerability can go a long way.
Following these 5 rules has really helped me through the years. I hope they have the same results for you!