The Strength of Weak Ties

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Caution: Falling Rocks

As a 22 year veteran of education, I think I have seen every type of teacher. Some have utilized technology seamlessly and have done great things. Others have not even tried-these teachers are

Those rocks are the subject of my post. Typically, rocks are teachers who either don’t or won’t use technology as part of what they do with kids. They’re labeled as such, recognized as such, and typically discarded and classified as someone who is not worth the effort, should retire, and won’t it be great when they do? Then we can really move forward…

They’re called rocks because they won’t budge, and you just can’t get them into new things, things like technology. You know who they are and it’s my guess you are visualizing that rock you know as you read this. Change is unfamiliar to rocks, it’s something to be avoided at all costs, and others recognize this, and know this about them. So, the most appropriate thing for people to do is to move on to those who are more open, more willing, more capable…

Well, that’s wrong, and here’s why.

These teachers teach kids. And to give up on them is to give up on the kids. Is that acceptable? Is it acceptable to let them off the hook? Does that thinking represent the thinking of a high-quality organization that should be serving the best interests of kids and learning? Of course not.

Focusing on the early adopters, or the geeks, or people with growth potential is easy. Anybody can do that. Rocks are not easy, and to take these individuals to a new place takes leadership, effort, diligence, and commitment. But that is exactly what quality school districts do, because they fundamentally believe that organizations get better when their members get better.

All of their members.

So how can you get these teachers on board?

1. Discard the label. Don’t believe it. Don’t assume they don’t care because they just don’t do things like you. They’ve been labeled and they know it. See the person in the rock-if you do this, you might be the first in a long time to do so.

2. They have an instructional or productivity need that technology can address. All teachers do. Find it and find the solution for them. Start there. Build standing and credibility with them first.

3. Support them. Tirelessly. And remember when it gets difficult, and it will, remember that they’ll benefit, but so will the kids.

4. Build the relationship. Growing technology capacity in schools requires leadership, and leadership begins with developing, sustaining and growing relationships.

5. Don’t expect too much, but expect more that that first encounter. Most have given up on them. Don’t do that too. Have expectations and communicate them. Make suggestions. Find a way technology can make them a better teacher-in my experience, all teachers want to be better at their craft. So do these people. Believe in that.

However, you may say we only have limited time, limited budgets, so we need to focus on only those who we can make a difference with, and I’ll say that’s just not enough. Not now. Move past the excuses…

From Friedrich Nietzsche: “Teachers who inspire realize that there will always be rocks in the road ahead of us. They will be stumbling blocks or stepping stones; it all depends on how we use them.”

So what’s it going to be? Will you continue to see them as stumbling blocks, or will you help them to become stepping stones?

Flickr image from tukanuk


  • At 12:50 AM , Blogger Darren Draper said...

    Wow, David. You've made me think. Again.

    I hate rocks. They're heavy, not a lot of fun to carry around, and they smash the kids.

    I love kids.

    I've got some repenting to do. You've made me realize that I need to do a better job in bringing along a rock or two.

    Thanks. If I succeed, I'm sure the kids will thank you.

  • At 8:43 AM , Anonymous Roger Pryor said...

    Great post David! And a great challenge. You provide great strategies however and I'm sure these will work within a number of different relationships.


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