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Herding Cats: How to Get Resistant Teachers On the Bus

Tips for getting resistant teachers to change their practiceresistant teachers

We all have dealt with resistant teachers.  The members of our staff that sit in the back of faculty meetings doing Sudoku, grading papers or taking a quick nap.

Getting resistant teachers to embrace new ideas can be like herding cats. The philosophy that they will be around long after this new fad has come and gone is a longstanding tradition of some veteran resistant teachers.

Most faculties are comprised of three groups: the Cheerleaders that will embrace whatever you propose as long as it’s child centered; the Fence Sitters that are waiting to see what others on the staff are going to do and the Resistant Teachers who are not willing to budge no mater what comes along.

Getting a resistant teacher to “get on the bus” is a major accomplishment.  If you can sway one or two, then the Fence Sitters are sure to follow.

Since I believe that a visual is worth a thousand words, there are several short videos that I’ve used to sway resistant teachers to get on board with changes I was trying to make.

In which classroom would you rather be?

One of my favorite videos to illustrate the use of student engagement, feedback, relationships and modeling vs. sink or swim teaching is The difference of how dogs and cats teach their young. I’ve shown this video to numerous groups of teachers and asked the question “In which classroom would you rather be?”

They key is to break teachers up into groups of five or six and strategically place your Cheerleaders amongst the Resistant Teachers and Fence Sitters.  What invariably happens is that the discussion evolves into an analysis of the difference in instructional styles of dogs and cats.

I have the teachers record their observations on my “Dogs vs. Cats Instructional Strategies” form. I won’t tell you which animal is the better teacher…you’ll have to watch the video and see for yourself, but there are usually a few “a-ha” moments for the resistant teachers.

What’s wrong with giving students more than one try to get it right?

michael-jordan-basketball-quotes-wallpaper-for-freeMichael Jordan said “I’ve failed over and over in my life and that is why I succeed.”  Failure or not getting it right the first time, is perceived as a negative in our classrooms. Take an assessment once, get a grade and move on.

We’ve all done a first draft of a paper and then re-written it based on feedback we’ve gotten from a peer, teacher or editor.  That concept can be applied to all aspects of instruction. To illustrate that, I use a video called “Austin’s Butterfly“.  This powerful video shows the benefit of formative feedback over a period time to encourage mastery of a skill, even at the earliest of grades.

I last showed this video to a group of high school teachers that were staunch supporters of the “If they don’t get it the first time, they haven’t been paying attention” theory of learning. The conversation that ensued after they viewed the video was so powerful that they started a grass-roots campaign that focussed on process-driven mastery learning.  One of my most resistant teachers, an veteran English teacher, made the comment “If we started training them to do this in elementary school, imagine what they’ll be able to do ny the time they reach us.”

The last video, but certainly not the least important, is one called “A Pep Talk from Kid President to Teachers and Students” and I’ve used it many times with teacher groups when I felt they needed a pep talk.  Sometimes all we need is a little pep talk to get resistant teachers to remember why they went into teaching in the first place.

So if you have some Resistant Teachers that need herding, sometimes a little subtlety is all it takes to at least transform them into Fence Sitters, if not Cheerleaders.