Module 4: Enriching the Mature Educator

EDTC 6101

ISTE Standard for Coaches : 7b: Partner with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology.

Question: Question: How do we help teachers, with limited technology experience, effectively communicate their knowledge and methodology through digital platforms?

There is nothing more stressful than trying to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. Teaching is a profession rife with ego, with many classrooms self-contained economies, whose leaders do not take kindly to outsiders. This is particularly true in rooms where the educator has found a pattern that has ‘worked’ for a long time with few hiccups. As an instructional coach, how do we walk into that space and ask for change? Will the endless slew of studies done on this new methodology be enough to sway their opinion? Will the offer to model in order to show how effective the new strategies could be in their classroom work? How about relationships building? Is that the answer to creating transformational change? Will that new app truly make the difference between a classroom discussion that falls flat and one that is remembered for years to come?

Some of these work, some of them will not, and I believe we need to start with the knowledge that the only way to make a real change in how teachers approach the use of technology in their classroom is to start at a grassroots level. We have all been the unlucky beneficiaries of decisions made about our curriculum by stakeholders who have never set foot in our classroom, and to make a lasting change in the minds of teachers, we need to come into their space with a clear vision of the changes needed, how the transition towards that change could go, and sound reasoning for why the changes need to take place.

One of the most influential books I have read is “The Practice of Adaptive Leadership”. There is a section in it that speaks to understanding the difference between technical problems and adaptive challenges. The authors use the example of an older woman whose pride it has been to still be able to drive at ninety-five years old. Her friend and family notices that there are scrapes and dents on her car when they meet up. The situation could result in one of two responses. They could take the car to the shop, and the fact that she is not seeing as well as she used to could come to light and her driving privileges could be taken away. That response would fix the technical problem, but this would be an immense loss, as she is very proud of the fact that she is still able to drive at night. The adaptive challenge of needing to learn how to ‘refashion her identity and finding ways to thrive with new constraints’ would still be present (Heifetz, Grashow, & Linsky, p.20).

Whenever there is change, there is loss, so it is important to address that loss early and often in order to create a ‘relationship-based environment’ where there is a built up sense of trust with our teachers. Something that I do not think is talked about enough, but the authors focus on in “Adaptive Leadership” is that “What people resist is not change per se, but loss.” When we are asking a teacher to make a change in their curriculum, or their method of delivering learning, we need to be cognizant of the relationship that they have with their own past experiences. Students, successes, lessons, and the memories and nostalgia that come with those, are tied to that curriculum they created over years of struggle and stalwart determination. To build relationships that are based in change, we must first help them understand that we recognize, and truly appreciate, the years of service they have given over to the community of learners and teachers who have come through their door.

“those of us who intend to practice it as a vehicle for transformation must be responsible for presenting a clear definition of what it is, who we are, what we do, and why we do it.”
― Elena Aguilar, The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation

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