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!
When I first learned about CLASS Group Coaching—a training for early childhood professionals about building relationships with children—I was more than a little interested. This, I thought. This is what teaching is all about. It seems to be an obvious concept, but once we dig deeper, we are able to identify the whys and hows of our interactions. CLASS Group Coaching allows us to identify the benefits of our classroom relationships with our students and helps us be intentional in our daily practices. It allows us to utilize each moment we have with our students to deepen our understanding of their perspectives and genuinely connect with them as people. It helps us see the world from their view and guide their learning in a way that is relevant to them.
Since the coronavirus has disrupted many of our in-person plans, you might be trying to figure out how you can transition in-person coaching to online coaching. Online coaching can open a number of doors for coaches and teachers that might not be an option in face-to-face work.
Even top athletes rely on the support of a coach to improve their game. Players need coaches to help identify their unique strengths and grow their talents while increasing their skills in areas of challenge. To do all this, coaches spend lots of time observing athletes while they practice—giving real-time feedback based on current efforts, breaking skills down as needed to cultivate mastery, and encouraging players to keep trying in pursuit of their goals.
As coaches, we've all encountered resistant teachers. Resistance to coaching can take many forms. You might encounter a teacher who is direct, making it clear they don't want your help. Or a teacher who is passive, putting off your meetings and recommendations, or acting like they're open to coaching but never actually changing their behavior. While this can be frustrating, you shouldn’t assume the teacher is to blame.