Let’s face it, change is hard. Changing what we do or how we do it, whether the change is personal or professional, is seldom easy. So why should we encourage and embrace change? Would you believe a lobster can help shed some light on the answer?
A lobster’s strong, rigid shell protects its soft underbelly but it also limits growth as it is incapable of change. When the pressure to grow becomes too much, it's compelled to hide under a rock to cast off its shell and produce a new one. Accepting the need for change and making itself vulnerable is the only way for it to grow and survive.
What can we learn from this lobster tale? That the ability to grow is well worth some discomfort, if we know how to properly prepare ourselves for the process.
As coaches, it is our duty to prepare educators for change. This means acknowledging that change makes people feel vulnerable and fostering the readiness needed to engage in the process is essential. By utilizing a strengths-based approach, coaches can help educators view change as an opportunity to further enhance what they already can do and what is currently working for them at some level. Rather than seeing it as something imposed upon them because of their deficiencies, which usually leads to feelings of shame and resistance.
So how do we compel educators to cast off their shells and embrace change? Research shows that self-efficacy, or the belief in one’s ability to succeed in doing something, plays a key role in how people approach goals, tasks and challenges. Self-efficacy is a significant factor in determining a person’s motivation to engage with tasks and keep going when challenges are encountered.
The good news is that self-efficacy can be developed. Here are some ways to build an educator’s belief in his/her ability to successfully change:
1. They need to experience success along the way in what they are trying to change. This is why small, achievable goals lead to big changes. This is also why educators need help seeing the impact their enhanced interactions are having on children, as this leads to increased feelings of success and provides motivation to continue.
2. They need to see others like them experiencing success. This is why CLASS exemplar videos have proven to be so successful in impacting change, as well as modeling by coaches and peer mentors.
3. They need lots of encouragement throughout the process by coaches, supervisors, peers, parents, etc. This is why group learning and PLCs can greatly enhance PD efforts.
4. They need to develop increased feelings of comfort with the change process by reinterpreting negative feeling about change in more positive ways. For example, coaches can be proactive in helping educators accept anxiety as a natural feeling when doing something new, rather than as a sign that they will not be able to do something successfully. Another way to increase comfort is by asking educators about the challenges they anticipate when making a change and brainstorming solutions with them in advance so that they feel prepared to handle roadblocks along the way.
It is empowering to support someone in striving to change for reasons that are right for them, helping them believe in their ability to continuously grow in their effectiveness as an educator. In this way, growth provides educators with a sense of possibility and purpose. And just as it is for our friend the lobster, growth is an essential part of living and believing in your ability to change matters!
"I’ve just begun my journey into the world of coaching. I am eager and excited about this opportunity to help pave the way for more effective teaching. I’ve recently been given my list of classrooms that I will be working with and I’m anxious to get started. I get ready to meet my first teacher, Ms. Linda, and I just know that she will be excited to meet me and we will form an instant bond and work together for the benefit of the children in that classroom.
Being an instructional coach or mentor is difficult. Sometimes it may feel like you don't have any support—especially when it comes to providing effective feedback to the teachers you work with. Have you, as a coach, ever asked yourself any of the following questions?