A few years ago, I was, what I would like to call an "avid" hiker. By avid, I mean I would hike on Saturdays. When I would hike, it would just be me and my dog...out on the open trails. He was typically a pretty good sport, did well on his leash. Didn't complain the numerous times I got us lost. He trusted me.
But there were three very specific times when I was hiking on my merry way...and we stopped, dead in our tracks. I was leading but when I turned around, he wasn't following me. He wouldn't budge!!
The first time this happened, it really caught me off guard. We were cruising along when all of a sudden...he stopped. No coaxing, no tugging, no pulling would work. This was such odd behavior. I am leading, why is he not following? Well, what Buddy saw, and I didn't, were the two coyotes staring at us. Luckily, they were far enough away, but Buddy wasn't having it and now, neither was I. We took off running, together, faster than I knew we could.
The second time this happened was one of those many times when we were completely lost. I don't know how I managed it, but the only ways out were to either to climb through a hill of cactus or hike backwards for a good hour and a half. I was hesitant, but went for it, we were taking the hard way...Buddy wasn't having it. No coaxing, no tugging. He thought he was smarter than I was, he thought he knew better. But I was determined. So, I picked up that 30lb. dog and climbed through the cactus to the other side of the mountain. In about 15 minutes, we both emerged, covered in cactus spines. We weren't pretty, we were a bit hurt, but we were fine. That dog still trusted me, I had his back (although that back was covered in spines).
The third time this happened was when we came to a small river crossing. It was an extremely shallow river, with a fallen tree to walk on. Nope, Buddy sat down and wouldn't budge. This was ridiculous...it's just water! So you get a little wet, you will be fine. I began to walk across...I got resistance. I coaxed, I encouraged, I let the leash slack a bit, but never let go. "Come on, I'm with you, you will be ok!" It was a long stand off, but guess what? I did not have to carry that 30 lb. dog across the river. He did it, we did it...together.
Why am I sharing these stories? They came to mind as I was talking to a colleague today. She was looking for a way to get her new partner to try some new things, get on board with some changes. To me, the partner sounded like Buddy. Digging her heels in, sitting down and not budging.
Here is what I have learned about talking to someone about teaching practice. It is extremely personal! Teaching is extremely personal. When someone asks you what you do for a living you say "I AM a teacher" not "My job is teaching". We own this profession, as we should.
When a change is suggested, regardless of the intent, walls almost immediately go up. Thoughts of: "Well if someone is suggesting a change, then I must be doing something wrong" or, "This has always worked for me, I don't need to change." Whatever the words are that go through that person's head, I can almost guarantee it all boils down to what Buddy was feeling: FEAR. Fear of not being good enough, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of not being in control, fear of unsteady ground or any multitude of fears.
When we think a change is needed, how do we handle it? It is all in how you frame it. I learned from Buddy, that someone can not be forced to change. They must decide to make the change, themselves. Just like my first situation with Buddy...are you leading, if you turn around and no one is following? That is a team of one.
So my advice, when faced with such a situation; think of Buddy.
1) You could choose to run...either with that person or away from that person. Now may not be the right time.
2) You can pick them up and climb through that cactus with them. Get stuck, get dirty, get messy together.
3) You can be the early adopter, start on that walk across that river and take that person with you. Encourage, support and lead the way.
If you want to make a change or have been energized by a change you have made...you want to share it. It is best to share it with someone who trusts you. This is important. Use your passion, your excitement to spark something in them. There will always be that first follower, you need to be that leader.
Mother, teacher, TOSA, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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