Over this ongoing series of eight posts, we are identifying and addressing the seven primary barriers to changing instructional practices and the appropriate response by leadership. I present to you Part 5 in The Response to Barriers Series – Fear.
Fear is a tremendous barrier to change, especially in education. If you look at the typical educator, you will find that person is much more risk adverse than their peers in other professions. This is in no way an indictment. In fact, in many instances this is a strength, but any strength taken to an extreme can become a liability. What are some of the things that teachers fear? Not being competent and not being in control are two significant teacher fears. The adoption of a new instructional practice generally requires an initial step backwards in both areas.
As an instructional leader or support provider, once I recognize that I have staff members that are dealing with fear constraints, I can become a powerful teacher resource. First, I can ensure and remind my staff that as we adopt a new practice or tool, expertise is not the expectation. Instead, all we initially require is effort. Just engage in the learning curve, free of judgement. The honest permission to not be perfect is all that some of our teachers need to begin moving forward.
For other teachers, this may not be enough. The fear of losing control of their classroom prevents them from attempting any new practice. For these staff members let them know that you are there to help. Tell them that being concerned about losing control in the classroom is valid and legitimate. As such, they should really focus on implementing the new practice when another adult is visiting the classroom. That way there are two adults monitoring the students, so behavior doesn’t suffer and if the teacher runs into any delivery trouble (which they rarely do) the visitor is there to step in if necessary. Since your campus already does a lot of formative classroom visits (if not, I suggest PowerWalks…. I hear it’s good), sit down with the teacher and schedule when the next couple of visits will occur. This allows the teacher to be ready to try the new practice and reduces the stress of wondering when someone is going to show up.
Here is the good news, if staff are stuck due to the issues of fear, you are a critical part of the solution.
RTB – Part 5: Response to Fear
Think. Work. Achieve.
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