Teachers are resistant to change! #play #validate #integrate #review
Teachers are resistant to change! Well, are teachers resistant to change? Let’s think about that statement for a while. What does it say? What does it mean? What message does it convey? Who says it? Is it right?
This is something that I have been thinking about for some time. I feel uncomfortable when I hear the statement. I feel even more uncomfortable when I hear those in positions of leadership make the comment that teachers are resistant to change. But why do I feel this way? What is it that strikes this emotion within me? Do I feel a little disrespected? Is it a valid statement? Am I getting defensive unjustifiably?
I think as a broad overarching statement it is unfair and makes a negative assumption about a group of people who are constantly tweaking their practice to support the learning that is going on in their classrooms. I watch twitter chats that are filled with incredible educators who are involved in conversation that does not, in any manner, suggest they are resistant to change. Quite the opposite in fact. These people are constantly learning, challenging their mindsets and developing. I see this in staff rooms too, yet maybe it is not quite as visible. Sometimes you just need think time and the opportunity to eat your lunch. How this then plays out on the ground is an individual thing, a representation of them, who they are in the classroom, their values and beliefs.
I guess a question needs to be put back at those making the statement. Something like… what change is being resisted by the teacher/teachers and have they been mandated to undertake the change? The statement ‘Teachers are resistant to change’ makes me question is it fair and appropriate, as it is often used with regard to classroom practice, integration of technology and initiation of new curriculum (not it’s actual implementation) just to name a few areas of perceived resistance.
Teachers have studied, practiced and do understand their profession. Hence, as with any expert they need to validate any new practice, idea or perspective and or thinking. Validation is an incredibly important part of the process and cannot be underestimated. Sometimes I might appear to jump in and use tools as an earlier adopter, such as with Minecraft, however, this did not come about without considered thought, dabbling, trial/error and listening. I had used Quest Atlantis in class prior to Minecraft. I had good connections with people who were knowledgable about gaming and the underpinning learning associated with games regarding education. I spent time reading and writing Uni assignments to formulate my thoughts. In reality I needed time to validate the use of a tool such as Minecraft in the classroom setting. I needed time to play, tinker, think and explore. I needed to see how students reacted to it. I have undertaken a similar validation process with the integration of other tools, for example the use of photography in English. My summer holidays were spent toying with this idea, considering its value, would it provide better connection with learning and consequent learning outcomes improving, how would this work in the classroom setting. In a previous post you will note that my need to change my classroom practice was thwarted somewhat by policies imposed at school level. So sometimes change is not being resisted by the teacher, rather there are other things in play that might block the change.
If we are looking at the concept of change and managing that change, which I would argue is constant in the area of education, we need to provide opportunity for teachers to validate it. Validation is a process and it is slightly different for everyone. Experience and knowledge plays into this validation process. There is nothing wrong with not seeing something as valid at the time, it might be validated later. Healthy debate is vital, just accepting is passive. I think this is where the statement ‘Teachers are resistant to change’ bothers me most. We need time, the system we operate in needs to honour this by providing opportunities. Those in leadership need to support this validation process and understand it. In the busy interplay of the school day, juggling the competing demands of teaching and learning, this is often difficult and a discussion rarely had. It is easier to off handedly state teachers are resistant to change rather than acknowledge they are learners too, who come to the table with expertise and need to have time for play (one of the clear messages, underlying themes, associated with #ISTE2014 was that of play), tinkering, discourse, validating, integrating and reviewing.
I wonder if sometimes the statement ‘Teachers are resistant to change’ is more of an off handed way to deal with those not aligned to the direction being taken by the issuer of the statement… Does the statement create a divide? Relationships are an important foundation to change management.