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!
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When I was a teacher, I can remember taking care to intentionally plan differentiated, or individualized, instruction. And, when I was teaching pre-K I added the same level of intentionality to which materials were available in interest areas, and how I approached transitions throughout the day.
While any level of intentionally, specifically in relation to planning, is important -- I missed a critical opportunity in being more intentional in my interactions with the children in my class.
There is always an opportunity for interaction. Some opportunities are easily recognizable: times of play, free choice, centers, small group. We often see teachers engaged in activities alongside children during these times or hear questions being asked. Other opportunities might be a little less obvious. These are the times of your day that you might see as mundane moments that merely require your supervision or monitoring. The times where you’re going through the motions. “I’m doing this thing so I can move on to the next thing.”
In a previous blog, colleague and early childhood environment extraordinaire, Heather Sason, discussed how your classroom environment can help promote effective teacher-child interactions. In this blog, I propose we explore some of the often overlooked times in your day that are ripe for interactions with children and that do promote exploration, learning, and development!
It's not uncommon for teachers in early education to need to strike a balance between following children's leads and sticking to the classroom schedule. We know that intentional teachers are aware of their responsibility to assess student progress, understand skill mastery, and plan accordingly to provide opportunities for children to grow. However, many times, as teachers begin a specific teacher-directed activity, it is unsettling when students begin to veer from the step-by-step plans the teacher has worked hard to implement.
Teacher and coach, Colleen Schmit, will share how teachers can strike the balance between following the lesson plans and giving children freedom of choice and flexibility in the classroom.
As an educator, you’re busy. Your time is being split by competing priorities, from managing students’ needs, meeting your program’s goals, and communicating with parents. While you’re juggling your work, it can be difficult to keep learning about important ways to improve your daily teaching practice. Teachstone is here to help!