A Reluctant Staff.

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A few days ago I received an email requesting a blog about moving a reluctant staff forward.

From this point forward, the PrincipalsPage.com Blog is all requests; all the time.  I’m morphing into Ryan Seacrest (or Casey Kasem for you old-timers).

I like the idea of not having to come up with ideas (at least good ones… I’ve always got some mediocre ones in my back pocket, just in case).

I Learned to Type on a Machine Just Like This.

So here we go.

Changing the attitude of a reluctant group of teachers (who may have tenure… just a guess) is simple.

It may be the easiest part of being an administrator.

And by easy, I mean a monumental nearly impossible task that would take 16 men, 7 women, 4 brain surgeons, duct tape, and a miracle to accomplish (less women than men because they are smarter… and duct tape always comes in handy).

This is my way of saying you’ve got no shot.



It’s not going to happen.

If the staff doesn’t want to change, they win.

Thanks for playing.  Game over.

Any administrators in this situation should just punt (football reference for coaches in the audience).

Give up.

Get on with your life (as sad and tragic as it may be).

Possibly consider joining the circus.  Or taking up residence in a convent.

You can’t change the attitude of an entire staff.

They were there when you arrived, and they believe they will be there when you leave.

Pick a battle you can win.

Like the Middle East.  Or world hunger.  Or getting Guns N’ Roses back together (this would make me and by brethren from the 80’s very happy).

Just stay away from changing staff attitudes.  At least as a group.

Now individually, that’s another story.

If you feel like addressing this issue one by one, you have a chance.

It’s tricky, but possible.

All it takes is time and patience (and in this economy, thankfully both are free).

If you have a staff of 50, only half can be miserable and resistant to change (it’s in the Constitution… if you don’t believe me ask Ben Franklin).

This means you have to focus on the other half.  You will recognize them because they are usually the quiet half.

Encourage them.  Focus on them.  Give them technology, praise, and recognition (many careers have been made by compliments).

Make them the shining stars.

Over time this 50% will become 60%, then 70%.  And if you’re great, maybe 100%.

While an individual administrator doesn’t have the power to change an entire staff’s attitude, the other teachers do.

So get out there and promote your best and brightest.

Just remember if it was an easy job, everyone would become a school administrator (and we don’t want that).

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19 Responses to “A Reluctant Staff.”

  1. Joseph Levno
    on Oct 27th, 2010
    @ 7:06 pm

    Love it! Good advice, short and sweet, with a smile. Ain’t Admin fun!?

  2. Barbara McCormick
    on Oct 27th, 2010
    @ 7:34 pm

    You said it all! Start small with those ready and willing within the circle of influence. They will become the leaders that promote change enlarging the circle; because social-cultural influence plays a big role in shifting attitudes and beliefs. Embrace change as a process and address not only attitudes but the educational beliefs upon which a teacher acts, plans, and instructs. Administrators attempting to change teachers must be willing to challenge the core values that make up a person’s beliefs, which in turn directly influence teaching practices and/or attitudes. I am still learning and researching more about these aspects as a new leader so please feel free to share your ideas and suggestions.
    Thanks for the tips,

  3. Tom
    on Oct 27th, 2010
    @ 7:53 pm

    As a teacher,
    I wonder how you go about moving a reluctant administration forward?
    So much “District Punch” has been consumed that common sense thinking seems to have drowned.

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Tom, Fire them?

  4. Dave Meister
    on Oct 27th, 2010
    @ 7:58 pm

    I want a blog about dogs, ice cream, the common core standards, and retirement. TOGETHER. Now, get with it.

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Dave Meister, I’ve been working on that exact blog.


  5. eduguy101
    on Oct 28th, 2010
    @ 4:39 am

    So timely! I continue to struggle with resistance, and each person has their own thing to reisist. Some hold out on the idea of RtI, some on a curriculum map, some on technology…the list goes on. But I continue to try, massaging, pushing gently and yes rewarding.

    The sad part is that the “shining stars” get frustrated because they see the value the others don’t.

    As for requests…how about a long distance dedication?

  6. Ryan
    on Oct 28th, 2010
    @ 5:10 am

    Reminds me of a previous post: always add one more. Actually, one of my mentors understood classroom management in this way. In her words, find your team and then add to it.

    In defense of some of these teachers that resist change.

    Some administrators strike me as very susceptible to edu-fads. I like trying out new ideas — a lot, actually — but I can definitely understand why teachers who have spent ten years creating a program they believe works are reluctant to change it. Especially since I think there are administrators whose concern is to put “initiated X trendy change” on their resume. Possibly in order to make a move at superintendent? More likely in order to give politicians talking points that lead to funding.

    Regardless, I consider this a more complex issue than “tenured dinosaurs” allows.

    With respect,

  7. Tracey
    on Oct 28th, 2010
    @ 5:12 am

    I agree you’ve got to get a few on board and it will then multiiple…but the same goes for destroying a school…alienate a few, don’t get the natural leaders involved, don’t ask for help and the bitterness will multiply…that is why I am looking to change schools after 21 years…the last 5 with a new admin. that likes to micromanage and tossed everything that was good we had done in the first 16 years….ugghhh.

  8. Karen
    on Oct 28th, 2010
    @ 6:54 am

    I think focusing on “change” per se is not very effective. People don’t like change for change’s sake as several of the responses have indicated. Don’t focus on the teachers, focus on the kids. Look at their achievement, look at their results on assessments, on projects, on all that they produce and see how many meet the standards that you have set for your students (or the ones set for you by someone else) and why you think the results came back as they did. And no fair blaming parents, and everything else we, as school people, can blame, when kids don’t do well. Then look at the instruction, for the group and for the individual students. Then there is a need for change, not just an edict from on high declaring “Let’s change!” Looking at results was the most effective way I found to get teachers to consider their instruction and its effect on their particular kids. It was also what influenced me the most when I taught. And I taught a heck of a lot longer than I was an administrator.

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Karen, I love this comment. Thanks.

    It made my day.

  9. Brandon
    on Oct 28th, 2010
    @ 6:59 am

    great advice… let the all-stars in the building do the work… one person at a time

  10. Daisy
    on Oct 28th, 2010
    @ 7:11 am

    Will you talk to my new principal, please? I was one of the quiet ones – until kids started hitting, kicking, and shoving me — and she didn’t care. I’ve actually contacted my union reps for the association position on safety in the classroom.

    A little encouragement instead of brushing off my concerns – well, it would have been priceless. Now I fear it’s too late. Next time I’m attacked, I’m calling the police. I know my administration doesn’t care.

  11. Pam Lowe
    on Oct 28th, 2010
    @ 7:16 am

    I agree this post and request is timely. You gave good sound advice, minus, the “pull your hair out” scenario, which doesn’t help move your staff and frankly, leaves you looking like Larry of the Three Stooges. It’s a long, slow process that at times leaves you feeling like you’re not making any progress. Then some small thing happens where a teacher jumps on board and then someone else wants to do what that teacher is doing and so… Let me share one such activity using technology that happened this week at my school: http://herrenshornets.pbworks.com/ . It’s one small step for our teachers, one giant step for our studentkind.

    Casey, could you please play “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor for all my Admin friends?

  12. Alicia Kessler
    on Oct 28th, 2010
    @ 7:23 am

    Ok. I will go back and actually finish reading the post….but first: “Keep your feet planted on the ground and keep reaching for the stars”.

  13. Milena
    on Oct 28th, 2010
    @ 1:50 pm

    I totally agree with your comments here. As a middle school assistant principal, I spent many years trying to figure out how to get a building to shift when I am not “the one in charge” and when some were reluctant. What I found was, if I was passionate about something, I could get a small following and then word of mouth would do most of the work for me. So within a year, our building got a data team formed, trained and working with groups of teachers using the DataWise protocol and then we moved into Instructional Rounds work and had more teachers intersted . . . it has been slow but great work and I realized that the staff was looking for leadership — it didn’t have to be from THE principal just from someone who was passionate and wanted to lead.

  14. Rene Gaudreau
    on Oct 29th, 2010
    @ 6:19 am

    If you want some advice, check out the youtube video title “Leadership lessons from the Dancing Guy”. It will make you think that as a leader, you are not the lone nut!


  15. Warren Purdy
    on Nov 5th, 2010
    @ 1:18 pm

    Hey – been there! You’re right! Congratulations on spelling GN’R right too with the imbecilic use of the apostrophe.

    Off to Al Ain next week to be your Middle Eastern correspondent (invoices to the usual address?).

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Warren Purdy, Travel safely.

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While this site operates with the knowledge and awareness of the Tuscola CUSD #301 School Board, Tuscola, Illinois, the content and opinions posted here may or may not represent their views personally or collectively, nor does it attempt to represent the official viewpoint of Tuscola CUSD #301 administrators or employees.