Why Some Teachers Resist Your Support (and what you can do about it)


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 256

Hey builders. Before we begin, I have a quick question for you. Are We Connected on social media? The reason I'm asking is because as much as I love giving you the podcast episode every single week, I'd love to take our relationship deeper. So if we're not connected on on social media, let's connect. I'm on LinkedIn at Robyn, underscore mind steps. I'm on Twitter at Robyn underscore mind step someone's on Facebook and Robyn Jackson, please, let's connect so we can keep the conversation going. Now on with the show, you're listening to the school leadership reimagine podcast episode 255. How do builders like us make a dramatic difference in the lives of our students in spite of all the obstacles we face? How can you keep your vision for your school from being held hostage by resistant teachers, uncooperative parents, ridiculous district policies or lack of time, money or resources. If you're facing those challenges right now, here's where you'll find the answers strategies, and actionable tips you need to overcome any obstacle you face. You don't have to wait to make a difference in the lives of the people you serve. You can turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Let's get started.

Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host Robyn Jackson. And today we're going to talk about a huge frustration that I see a lot of principals have Have you ever provided professional development or support or resources for teachers or even something pleasurable, like you know, school swag, or gift cards or cake in the staff lounge? Have you ever done something that you felt was something good for teachers and they didn't appreciate it? In fact, instead of appreciating, they began to complain. And instead of making things better, it ended up making things worse. If you have then you want to stick around for this episode, because we're going to talk about why that happens, and how to fix it. But before we do, I have a couple of announcements.

The first announcement is that I have two slots available for people who are interested in doing some consulting. 

So you know that from time to time, I work with district folk, you know, builders ship universities, just for principals. But there are people at the district level who often want support. And usually it's to get something specific done. So if that's you if you want so if you are a builder at the district level and you are trying to implement builder ship and you are stuck, or you have something specific that you want to build like a school dashboard to help you keep track of all the schools and the work that's going in and all the schools or creating some system, some builder ship system in your school, then I often do short term consulting arrangements that are focused on helping you build the things that you need to build. So we get together, we look at where you are, we figure out what specific system you need to build, we work together over the course of a month to build that system and get it in place. So this is not me just telling you to go do it. We do it together we meet together. Virtually we build the system together, we put it in place, make sure that it's working. 

So at the end of our time working together, you have something there I've got two slots open for the spring. And if you're interested, just send an email to info I N fo at mind steps inc.com info at mind steps inc.com Let us know you're interested and then you and I can hop on a call, we can talk about your situation, figure something out and get started. Okay, so that's the first announcement. Second thing is not so much of announcement. But there's a lot of interesting stuff happening inside of the school leadership reimagined a Facebook group right now we are posting a lot more, we have some resources that we're posting inside of the group, doing a few more short, you know, 15 minute free trainings there. So if you are not a member of the school leadership reimagined a Facebook group, you need to go ahead and join this is for our school administrators. So you need to be a principal or assistant principal, or a district administrator. If that's you, then make sure that you join the school leadership reimagined Facebook group so that you won't miss any of the free resources that we're going to be releasing this spring. Now, if you are not on Facebook, but you still want to get access to those resources, then just go to school leadership reimagined.com and sign up so that you are getting our emails, and I also announced the free resources on the email so make sure you sign up there as well. Okay, now let's dive into today's topic. And I want to start by telling you a story a few years ago, I was doing a workshop for principals, and I met a principal who came to me over the break. And he said, I'm so frustrated. And I said, Well, you know, tell me what's going on. 

He says, Listen, I believe in this work, I just want to start by saying that I said, Okay, all right. And then he said, but I'm frustrated, because I can't get my teachers to believe in this work. You know, I'm a builder, I believe in 100%. But my teachers just aren't there yet. That okay. And so tell me, tell me, why do you believe and he says, Okay, so, after in order to get to 100%, we need more rigor. And so at the beginning of the school year, I announced that we were going to I told him my vision 100%, I said, we need to have more rigor in the classroom. And because and so a lot of it was because he had been going into classrooms and seeing that there was a fundamental lack of rigor. And so he said, this is the solution rigor. So he rolled out this whole beautiful professional development program, all around rigor, he's told the teachers, and for all of our PD, we're just going to focus on rigor this year, we're not going to focus on a whole bunch of things, just the one thing, just rigor. And he bought them books and created a professional library on rigor. He have the coaches as instructional coaches, trained and rigorous instructional practices, and made them available to teachers. He worked with his instructional coaches to design PD days around that he had PLCs, where they were focused on, you know, we're just going to focus on rigor, he gave them all the resources, he said, if there's a training that you want to attend that you find, and it aligns with our school goals, you just let me know, I will pay for it. He just said here, we need to focus on rigor, and I'm gonna give you everything that you could possibly need. And if it's something missing, let me know I'll get it for you. 

Now, let's just go out there and be rigorous. 

And guess what happened? The first month, teachers were excited, they had all the materials and everything, but they were a little paralyzed and didn't know where to start. So they were asking, What do you want us to read the books first? Or do you want us to go with a weight? Where do you want us to start? And he said, it's up to you. You know, if you are a book reader, then the books are here, if you are more hands on, you can work with the coaches, if you are a class person, find a class, I'll pay for it. It's totally up to you. I just want you to be more rigorous, and nobody moved. Next month, he's getting frustrated, he's going into classrooms, he's not seeing a chain. So he starts talking to teachers, hey, we really need to focus on rigor, he gives another robot speech about it, teachers get excited talks about his vision 100%, we got to get this trigger thing. Nothing happened. But month three, there was started to be a little bit of resentment. The teachers were saying that they did not feel supported. Here. He is giving them everything they could possibly want an offering to buy them what they don't have. How on earth could the teachers be feeling unsupported? And yet they were. And he was feeling that he was feeling resentful because he was pouring himself out, getting into classrooms, providing coaching and resources, having all the right conversations with teachers doing everything he could. And they were still complaining. And he couldn't understand why. And this had been going on for months. Maybe you're feeling the same way? Have you ever felt like that, that you're doing everything you can for teachers, you are providing all kinds of support, you're pouring yourself out, and they don't seem to appreciate your support. And what's worse, not only do they not appreciate it, but they're not implementing your support, nothing is changing in their practice. Now, if you've ever felt that way, there's a really good reason why. And it has to do with the way that we were trained. 

You see, the way that we were trained was that our job is to assess the situation and and figure out what's broken in our school, and then go to teachers and give them the support that they need in order to fix the situation. Because something is broken and the support is designed to fix it. That is not support, that doesn't feel very supportive to a teacher going into a classroom and saying here are all the things that are broken about your practice. And here is the solution to all the things that are broken to your practice. Doesn't feel supportive, it feels judgmental, it feels like an attack, it can feel like we are are looking down on them. It can feel like we don't really see them. It doesn't feel like support and yet that's the model that we were trained on. Here's what else our will drivers are getting in the way of the kind of support that we provide because we tend to feed what we need. So We're providing support, that sounds great to us. But it's not support that may be the best for teachers. And so a lot of times, we're giving support by looking through our lens, rather than seeing things through teachers perspective. And again, that does not feel very supportive. And then the third reason that that a lot of times our support doesn't work is because we think support is just PD. So we go in, and we give people a lot of information or a lot of tools, but we don't provide the follow up time, space. follow up conversations, that that teachers need to take that information and implement it in a way that works best for our students. 

So we were trained to just kind of go in blunt force instrument, and say, here's a problem, this is what I think I would love. I'll give it to the teachers, and they'll take it and they'll appreciate it. And when they don't, we're upset. Most of the time, our quote unquote, support does not feel supportive. So we need to do something different. And builders approach support differently. So first of all, builders don't see support as the antidote to fixing what's broken. Builders see support as her giving teachers the tools and the strategies and the sometimes the mindset that they need to get to the next level. So rather than going in with a deficit mindset and saying, Oh, this classroom is broken, I need to provide support to hopefully fix the holes in the classroom. What builders do is when we go into a classroom, we're looking at, okay, here's where the teacher is, this is where the teacher needs to be in order for us to get to 100%. What supports can I give them to help them get to the next level. And why that works is we've already agreed on 100%. If you have a vision, mission and core values in place in your school, then there is a common ground of agreement, we all have agreed, here's where we're trying to get when we go in, and we provide the right kind of feedback. We've also agreed that here's where you are right now in relation to where you're trying to get. And so your support, then is a natural next step to help bridge that gap. It's a very different conversation than going in with a rubric and saying, here's the rubric here, all the ways you didn't measure up here, take this book, take this article, take this training, so that maybe you can begin to measure up to this arbitrary rubric. When your builder Your support is saying, Hey, we've all agreed we're trying to get here. And I'm here to my role is as a builder is to help build our capacity to get there. 

Now, here's where you are right now. 

And the way the builders give feedback, you leave the ownership with a teacher, you are giving teacher information about their practice, from an FM or perspective that they may not have. And then teachers have the opportunity to take ownership of that. And the only way that happens is that you have to understand the root cause you can't just go in and say you did this, you didn't do this, you didn't do this, as a builder, you're going in and saying here is where you are right now. And this is the one thing that if you were to address this one thing, it could get you where you need to be. And then the teachers have the choice, the option. And so the way that you present that one thing, you do that in a way where there is no argument, they can see it. And then once they see it, then you follow up with saying, now let's talk about how we address that one thing, so that you can get where we all want to go together. Do you see the difference? And in the whole perspective, you know, the way that we were trained to do it is you are the expert. And the teachers are sitting there waiting for you to pronounce over their practice. And then to follow up with with the appropriate support. Is there no wonder that there's so much resentment around feedback and support happening in schools right now. Because our whole stance, the way that we were trained to do both of them creates this, this, this, this hierarchy where you are the the the magical superhero who has vision that teachers don't have and you go in and see things that teachers can't see, and then you swoop in afterwards and provide the appropriate support to fix what teachers are doing that's broken it I can understand why there's resentment. Not only that, but but it puts a lot of pressure on you to always need to be the expert versus here's our vision. Here's our mission, here's our core values, and collaborating with teachers to figure out how are we going to get there. That's the difference. 

So first of all, the reason that a lot of times we there's so much resentment around support it Is that the way that we were trained creates that resentment, the way that we were trained positions us in a way that that everybody's getting their feelings hurt, there's a lot of pressure, there's, it's almost inevitable. So we need a different stance. And that's the buildup lens, which is simply when we go in, to provide support it is not to fix what's broken. It's to help everybody take the logical next step, and our progression towards our vision, mission and core values. That shift in perspective, it's so important, so important to have going into support, because you will be surprised at how different your support looks when you stop trying to fix teachers, and simply try to provide the logical next step in their progression towards your vision. So that's the first thing now the second thing that happens is that a lot of times we give support in the way that we need support. So I always say we feed what we need. And so when we go in and provide support, we often offer teacher support, we would have liked, I'll live in here Administrators say this. I mean, if if I was a teacher, and I had all the support, I mean, I could have done so much. Yeah, I mean, great for you, but you're not the teacher. So what does the teacher need? Now? I have made this mistake so many times. 

So I think I can tell you from experience that this doesn't work. I remember when I first started providing PD I, you know, I would go in, and I was just talking to your friend about this the other day. First of all, my PowerPoints were horrible, I was trying to put everything I knew on one slide. And I thought that if I just hit it and then revealed it, then it wouldn't be so bad. So my slides were just so crowded with information. And then I would pour everything into that hour or that 90 minutes. And people would walk out just glit eyes glazed over, just exhausted by the amount of information that I was giving them. And I felt it was my duty, I only have you for 90 minutes, I need to give you as much as I can. And I will just pour into people and then wonder why nobody implemented, why people were overwhelmed why people didn't get it. I was giving them too much. Now, I would have I would have drank drunk, I can't I don't know my English teacher. I would have gobbled all of that information up. And there were some people like me in the audience who would say, Oh, my goodness, this was the best PD ever. I learned so much, because they were like me. But not everybody in the room was likely some people needed the information packaged differently. Some people felt overwhelmed by that information. Hey, Robyn here, and I just want to break in real quick to ask you a huge favor. You see, I want to get the word out to everybody about builder ship, and I could use your help. If you're really enjoying this episode. Would you mind just going to your podcast platform and leaving a quick review? You see the reviews get the word out. They tell other people this is a great show other people who have never heard of school leadership reimagined before can hear about it. And you'd be sharing the word about builder ships. So would you mind just leaving a quick review, it would mean the world to me, okay, now back to the show. And instead of getting mad at them, because they don't learn the way I learned, my job is not to to present a beautiful presentation that could win awards. 

My job is to take the information and help them to learn it in a way that they actually can use it. 

If how I package My information is not useful to people, then I'm wasting everybody's time. The same is true for you. Your job is not to fill a PD day, your job is not to, you know, have a award winning staff meeting once a month, your job is to impact practice. And if your PD is beautiful, but nobody's implementing it. Why are you doing it? If your PD is is award winning stellar research based all of the things and nobody's implementing it. So what does it matter that it has the latest research, it doesn't matter that you've labored over your slides? If nobody's implementing it? It what's the point? I mean, it's weird how we see that in a classroom. I mean, how many classrooms have you walked into to do a formal observation and you can tell the teacher is ready for you on that day. The teacher has everything perfectly done. But when you look at the kids they're not engaged. They're They're, they're, they're not learning. And so when you try to give the teacher feedback, the teacher argues with you and says, but I did everything by the book. And you're like, Yeah, okay, you could have done everything by the book all you want. If the kids aren't learning, then it doesn't matter. How is it that we can see that, but when it comes to our own stuff, we're so blind, right? When we, we, when it comes to our stuff, we say, well, I did everything by the book, I gave them everything, and my staff is still not implementing it. If they are not implementing it, then you didn't give them everything. You didn't give it to them in the way that they needed. We would never let that slide. 

If a teacher said I gave the kids everything, they're just not doing it, you have to find a way to reach the kids in front of you. Why is it that we're so eager to hold teachers accountable to that standard, but we don't hold ourselves to the same standard. If our teachers are not responding to the way that we're giving PD, it's not them, it's us. If our teachers are not responding and implementing the professional development that we're offering, then it's our job to find a way to reach them, in the same way that we expect them to find a way to reach their disengaged students. We got to be who we want to see, if we expect different teachers, we need to be doing it ourselves. I go to so many bad PT sessions where the the presenter is violating every single thing that we know about good instruction. Why don't we feel like it's okay to give adults bad instruction, and then expect them to go out and give students excellent instruction, we have to be who we want to see. So we have to make sure that we are not offering people PD that appeals to us, and make sure that it has to be PD that that actually reaches them. And so I'm not just talking about PD here, any kind of support, you know, sometimes the support is not a formal PD session, sometimes support looks like you know, following up after a feedback conversation, helping the teachers access the right resources. And so again, I've made this mistake more than once, I thought, and I especially now in the work that I do now, with builders ship University, people are coming into the program, and they're they are investing in the program. And I feel like every time somebody needs support, I gotta swoop in with the right resource. I gotta have the right answer, there's a lot of pressure. 

And just the other day I was, I was, someone sent me a private message. And on our platform, we have a platform called bu commons, where it's kind of our own social network. And so we were somebody sent me a message and bu Commons, and was talking about how she was struggling right then in there. And I immediately jumped into superhero mode, I started typing away on my computer, all of these solutions, because her message, broke my heart. I mean, it was she's, she was really struggling and needed some support, and, and wasn't getting it from anywhere else. And so I wanted to kind of support her. So I started typing away all these things, that I stopped myself, because I was giving her all the solutions and trying to fix it. But in reality, that was more about me wanting to feel useful me wanting to, to justify my existence and prove to her that that she came to the right place and that I couldn't help her. I mean, even when I say it aloud, I hate the way that sounds right. I hate having to admit it, but that's the truth. It was more about me than it was about supporting AR. And so I heard Brene Brown once say something that that that kind of stuck with me, which was she said she was talking about something and she said What does she said, Here's what support looks like to me she was she was advocating for herself and modeling. That is she says what support looks like for me right now is XY and Z and I was liked that. But I always thought it was just more about how I could advocate for the right support for me. And I've done that. I've actually said to bosses in the past, like, you know, listen, I see where you're trying to get me to be. This is what support looks like to me in order to help me get there. I've actually had that conversation with supervisors in school systems. I remember when I was an assistant principal, I'm about to layer a story on top of story but stay with me I'm talking about this principle. 

But here's the point. 

When I was an assistant principal at my area superintendent was training and mentoring me too, you know, as a part of my You know, so that as much because I was an aspiring principal, to go through all this stuff anyway, I remember sitting down with the people who were evaluating me, and they've given me some feedback. And then I said to them, okay, so I appreciate your feedback. Here's what I think I hear you're saying, and they're like, yeah, maybe I'll be honest. So I need this. And then that said, okay, if I'm gonna get there, here's what support looks like for me. So I thought that the way that I could use that term, and had been using it for years to advocate for myself, but in this case, with this principle, I looked at what I'd written, and I said, that doesn't feel supportive, that feels like fixing. And that's more about me than it is about hearts. I erased the whole email. And then I just went back, I wrote back and I said, sounds like you're going through a lot right now. What does support look like for you? Right now? That's it sent that email back. That felt so much better because it was not about me, it was about her, instead of saying, How can I support you? Because I don't know that she would even know how I could support her. I just said, What would support feel like for you? That's an easier question to answer. 

And ever since I've been doing that, I did that once. I now do that a lot when I try when people need support. When I see someone who's struggling in a classroom, I share the feedback the builder way. And once we've agreed, okay, here's the root cause. And here's where they are, here's where they need to be. And once we have agreement over that, and they have full date and full ownership over that, a lot of times instead of saying all right, well, here's how I can support you, I will often say what support, what does support look like for you, we now know where you need to go what what support feel like and look like for you. Now, sometimes a teacher may not be able to answer that question. I don't know, I don't really know what I need, I'll say, Okay, here's what support looks like to me. Alright. And then I start talking about all the ways that I would want to support them, or I'm able to support them. And I said, do any of those feel like that's the support you need right now. Again, ownership choice stays with a teacher. And here's the other piece that makes it so powerful, not only are you giving leaving things with the teacher to let the teacher let you know what kind of support that they need, but it saves you from running around and creating all of this support, that may or may not be what the teacher needs. So it's hard for teachers to be ungrateful for support they defined and they asked for, it's hard for teachers to to complain and feel resentful about support they defined and they asked for.

Now, it's also hard for us, because we're used to playing a superhero. It's hard for us because we think we know what they need. And a lot of times, we don't, we know what needs to happen, but we don't exactly know what support it will take to get there. So we have to let go of our ego, invite people to co create what support looks like in your school, so that they get the support they need. I'm not asking for how much time do you need? You know, I need more time. Okay, so what does that look like? Probe, ask the questions. Sometimes they're gonna ask for things that you can't give, you can say that, I would love to give you that. But I can limit it right now let's find a way to get exactly what to get you what you need. But we might have to use a different vehicle. Spend some time talking to your teachers and find out what does support look like for them. Stop trying to fix them, stop trying to feel like you have to have all the answers take that pressure off yourself. So back to the story at the beginning. That principal, I talked to him, I shared some of the same things I'm sharing with you in the email. I mean, while the email, I shared some of the same things with him that I'm sharing with you right now. And he thought about it. And he went back. And he did it. And here's what happened.

The teacher said we want direction from you. 

Now, that was so antithetical to his leadership style. He was a he was a hands off leadership style kind of guy. He was very autonomy driven, giving people choices. He believed in giving people choices, but his teachers didn't want choice. They needed direction. That's what support look like to them. So he said, Okay, let's start by, these are the things that I'm seeing in the classroom. And these are the things that I think need to be addressed first, and getting some agreement around that teacher said, Okay, I can see that. And then he said, so we're going to focus on this. Now, there are two ways that we can focus on this one One is I think we need to bring the coaches in to model some of that, and then follow up with some some additional support. And the teacher said, Well, what do you mean by additional support? He says, Well, what would support look like to you? If we were teaching you this? What would additional support look like for them? And they said, well, we need time time to. And so he says, Okay, well, what does time look like for you. And after going back and forth, because the teachers didn't really know right away, they said, Time looks like time to actually plan differently. He said, Okay, then let's use our PLC time to do that. We'll do some planning and PLCs, to help you implement. And the other thing that came out was that the teachers needed time to feel like they had it, instead of just doing the training, doing a couple PLC meetings, and then he comes in with a checklist or walkthrough tool, they wanted some time to practice being more rigorous in the classroom, where they could get non evaluative feedback. And so he says, why I don't feel like my feedback is evaluative. And he starts feeling yourself getting defensive. The teacher said, every time you come in, even if you're not writing anything down, it's in your head. And when you do our evaluations, you're thinking about it. So we need time to do this, and get feedback where we don't feel that pressure. And so what what they did was that they started giving each other a peer to peer feedback, so that they could feel like they were getting themselves ready for when he came into the classroom. You see, if they had just said time, and he had left it alone, he would have said, I gave him time and PLCs. And they're still not doing it. But when they said they needed time, it was more about we need space, and they just didn't have the language for we need, we need time for non evaluative practice and feedback to really get good at this. Once he did that, the difference was dramatic, from one month to the next. And when he did get back into classrooms, he finally saw the change. 

Now, if you are providing a lot of PD and support and feedback for teachers right now, but you're not seeing change happening, it may be because you're making the same mistakes that I talked about on this episode. And if that's you, and you're tired of being frustrated, stop fighting with teachers, stop blaming teachers, stop beating yourself up, and recognize that how we were trained to do this thing, is the very reason why we're feeling so resentful why teachers are so stuck. And when you can unlearn that training and get back to what you knew as a teacher, which is that doesn't matter how pretty your lesson is, if it's not reaching kids, if you could step back away from that, and start approaching this from an educators, dare I say, a builders mindset. They can turn things around really quickly. And so you got to make sure, first of all, that, that you invite teachers to be a part of the conversation, that you let them give you feedback around what kind of support they need, what does support feel like for them, they may not always be able to name it, because they're not even being used to ask being asked about it. But but if you could help them define what to support feel like, and you can stay engaged in that conversation until you truly understand it. And then you could provide support to them in the way that they need to help them get from where they are to where you want to go. And you've all agreed to code together through your vision, mission and core values, then you're providing support, like a builder. I'll talk to you next time.

Hey, if you're ready to get started being a builder right away, then I want to invite you to join us at builder ship University. It's our exclusive online community for builders just like you where you'll be able to get the exact training that you need to turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Inside. You'll find our best online courses, live trainings with me tons of resources, templates and exemplars and monthly live office hours with me where you can ask me anything and get my help on whatever challenge you're facing right now. If you're tired of hitting obstacle after obstacle and you're sick of tiny little incremental gains each year, if you're ready to make a dramatic difference in your school right now, then you need to join bill to ship University. Just go to build a ship university.com and get started writing your school success story today. Hey real quick before you go. If you enjoyed today's episode and you know someone who would really benefit from what you heard here today, maybe they're struggling with a thing that we talked about in today's episode, would you take a moment and share this episode with them? You see, not only will it help us get the word about build your ship out to more people, but you're gonna look like a rockstar because you're gonna give people something they can really use to help them get unstuck and be better at building their schools. Plus, it would mean the world to me. Thanks so much, and I'll see you next time.

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