Most everyone around the country is back in the swing of things and school has begun. If you are experiencing anything like it is here (and I’m sure you are) then every able-bodied (and some of us that aren’t so able-bodied) person is running around trying to get everything and everybody where they belong. We all do our best to help out with whatever and whoever needs it. This feeling will last for a couple weeks and then things will start to slow down a bit. Before we know it, life assumes “normalcy” and we can focus back on what our actual job is.
As I move into a new year I always try to put things into perspective concerning the teachers I help support. We are “pushing” new technology and new procedures on them yet again. They are trying to maintain their sanity and keep from drowning. I am here to help them, not push them under! With this in mind I am referring back to a post from the spring and bringing to the forefront once again 5 rules I follow to help me reach teachers. They work…let them work for you!
#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 I f 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!