The Do’s and Don’ts of Supporting the Reluctant Teacher

I have been a teacher since 2003. I qualified in Primary education, and went on to be Head of ICT and Head of Year in a secondary school London. I now work as a consultant, helping schools make the most of their technology. I spend my time showing schools the most appropriate use of free web resources, advising them on how to implement and embed ICT in their classrooms practically, and discussing all kinds of ICT issues with other educators, based on their individual and unique needs. I believe that ICT can help both teachers and students, equally and easily. You can follow me @heartofsol and find out more about how I help schools at www.21cln.org.uk

Reluctant TeacherI want to talk about a mythical creature – the Reluctant Teacher. This teacher has no desire to try anything new – it either does not interest them, or they do not see how it can possibly improve the way they teach. Despite the whole school, and even the whole profession heading in a particular direction, the Reluctant Teacher does their bit in holding back the tide. After all, they know best.

Eventually, though, the impossible happens, and they yield, cautiously embracing change. But how does this happen? Generally speaking, there are some things you can do that will help, and some things that most certainly won’t help. Here are some of the best do’s and don’ts I have experienced to support the reluctant teacher.

 

The Do’s and Don’ts

Don’t pair up your “strong” teacher with your Reluctant Teacher. I see this happen often, and I just don’t think it’s a good idea. It might be useful at the start of the process, but it will end up with the strong teacher doing all the work, and the Reluctant Teacher hardly benefiting. It’s the same thing as asking two students to share a computer – chances are, the more experienced student will be doing all the work, and therefore learning the most, whilst the other will be a viewer (which might be helpful, but is less effective than actually doing it). By all means, provide peer support; just be careful it doesn’t become one-sided.

Do let teachers know that this is training – that is, they are allowed to try new things and fail, without any concerns of being judged. Let them practice without fear. Liken it to their training years, when they were free to experiment and build experience.

Don’t set up templates for your Reluctant Teacher. They won’t appreciate it, and let’s be honest, what are they really learning, apart from how to fill in a template? And they probably already know how to do that. Templates can be useful once the Reluctant Teacher has learnt how to create that particular process from scratch. They are great to save time, but there are better ways for them to learn the nitty-gritty stuff. Templates rob staff of experience and practical knowledge of creating and maintaining things. But, once the Reluctant Teacher knows the basics of the process, by all means, use templates to simplify things – just make sure templates are not used to skip any potential training.

Do show them effective, simple and manageable reasons to use technology. Find out what their targets and priorities are, and show how technology can help. Work from how tech can benefit the Reluctant Teacher, rather than trying to shoe-horn technology into their lives. And don’t be worried if certain tech can’t help everyone. Just find the right resources for the right people.

Don’t encourage using technology just because it is available. Just because you can use the technology, doesn’t mean you should! Encourage staff to use it appropriately, and only if it makes something easier, and more efficient. If the tech doesn’t improve something, why use it?

Do avoid the glitz – show them function instead. Yes, it might look less “pretty”, and more “boring”, but if it makes someone’s life easier, and enhances their teaching, I am certain they will appreciate it. Glitz takes too long and can be a lot of effort, and students get bored quickly – and what is the educational benefit of making text dance in most instances? Try and show staff that a few minutes work on simple things could lead to lots of potential learning for their pupils.

Do show relevant examples – not generic ones. Your Reluctant Teacher needs to see how technology can improve their experience personally. This way, you avoid them feeling like technology is another thing they HAVE to do. A one-size-fits-all approach may make your life easier, but at what cost to the Reluctant Teacher? You might do the opposite of what you set out to do, and put them off technology even further.

Don’t rush them – teachers already have so much on their plate, and inevitably, learning something new will get pushed away first if it all becomes too much. Small and regular steps are key.

Do practice what you preach – those relevant examples that I mention above? Make sure you have trialled them personally first. This will help colleagues see exactly what you mean, give them confidence that it is possible to incorporate technology into their classroom, and will allow you to experience any potential issues first-hand. This will provide you with practical advice you can give your colleagues if they come across the same issues. It will also raise your stock – your peers will feel much more confident using technology if they know that you can help them.

Do use the appropriate trainers. In-house trainers are preferred, but if an external consultant is needed, so be it. Investing in your staff, ultimately means your students will benefit.

Do empathise with your Reluctant Teacher. Acknowledge that some people are uncomfortable and even intimidated by technology. Forcing someone to do something they feel they cannot do (or doesn’t want to) is undesirable for all and unnecessary. Encouragement and engagement will do much to ensure that things develop in a positive way.

Do try and involve the Senior Team as much as possible. Show them how technology can improve their working life. Get them to lead by example where ever possible.

Finally, Do keep in regular touch with anyone you are supporting. Pop in and see how they are getting on. This will reassure them, and allow you to see what works. You’ll probably even learn a few new things, too.

 

This list is not comprehensive – I am looking forward to hearing about your thoughts and experiences (and disagreements!) in the comments.

 

Image courtesy of Flickr, Tomi Tapio