Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Say Less ... Stay In The Zone

I just got a complimentary email that, after the warm glow of appreciation had faded, got me thinking as to why the teacher had sent it.
What did I do to deserve it? What am I unintentionally doing differently? How does my approach make a difference?
On the surface, this meeting did not occur under ideal circumstances: the teacher was suffering from a cold and trying to fit in her meeting with me during her planning due to work to rule. I was a bit burned out from driving all over East and West Parry Sound districts, and supporting a wide variety of needs.
Her main point was, “It is amazing to meet with a coordinator and leave with so much practical 'stuff' that can be instantly be applied to the classroom setting.”
Say Less
To answer my own question above, I think I never arrive with an agenda. I certainly have goals relating – in broad terms – to big ideas like those found in Growing Success or within the SAMR or TPACK models, but in general I try to “say less.” If the teacher’s request in and of itself demonstrates that she is trying not only to move forward with these concepts, but has formulated a request for tools and ideas, then we don’t really have to have those discussions. None of them. She should be running our meeting.
The Zone
As when we are teaching children, with adults we also need to try to meet them in their zone of proximal development. I try to simply present the information that was requested, not what I might do, or what I think they should be doing. Yes, I might try to demonstrate additional tools or discuss further refinements, or get excited about something that I find easy to do. But if it just makes the other person’s head spin, we are both wasting our time. Better to say, call me again when you are ready, because you and your students will really enjoy it.
They have to want it

I once heard Stephen Katz speak about mentoring others in our organizations. I was so struck with his point – no one will really learn anything new or adjust their practice unless “they really want to.” It has to be an intrinsic need for them to go out of their way, and take that first step.
I believe that the breakthrough for many is the concept of saving time, because teachers never have enough of it. Even more than student engagement! Seriously! Introduce them to a high quality tool with high yield benefits for students, one that will also save a bit of planning time, and you will have a happy tech customer. And in that situation, the discussion will actually not be about the tool. It will be about the learning. Guaranteed.

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