How to Best Support Yes Buts

This post is part of a series for school leaders working on implementing large-scale, learning-focused school change. Your success depends not just on your technical knowledge about the initiative, but also how well you understand the three kinds of staff in your school (Yahoos, Yes Buts, and NFWs) and how their support needs differ.

The Yes Buts seem hesitant and skeptical of the initiatives with their questions of “but what about this and what about that?”

This post focuses on how to best support the Yes Buts.

As described in the previous post, Yes Buts will work with you when they feel supported.

And that support is critical. We cannot assume that they know how to do the work of the initiative nor that they are willing to put a lot of their own time and energy into inventing new strategies. They need good examples.  They need good “how-to” instruction. And they need support trying it out in their classroom and getting to a practical and reasonable level of implementation.

Where Yahoos have little legitimacy with Yes Buts, other Yes Buts have a lot of legitimacy with their peers.  As much as possible, we must share Yes But strategies and Yes But examples of success. You can share Yahoo examples, but you better just share them as good examples/strategies, but mask the fact that it came from a Yahoo, or the idea will loose legitimacy.

When Yes Buts have their anxieties authentically addressed, and they feel supported, they sometimes get to the level of implementation in an initiative where they see positive results of the effort (e.g., better student results, better student attitude, the new way is easier than the old way, the new way gets better outcomes than the old way), and they become a Convert!

A Convert is a powerful tool for moving your school initiative forward. They have the enthusiasm that a Yahoo brings, but with all the legitimacy of being a Yes But. Treat your Converts well and use them liberally to help move the other Yes Buts deeper into the initiative.

You should be putting about 70-80% of your energy into supporting the Yes Buts.  This is the group where you will get real results and have a chance of actually seeing the needle move. But, conversely, not putting enough support, or the right kind of support, into your Yes Buts will stall your initiative.

Next in the series: How we misunderstand NFWs.

Posted in Professional Development | Tagged | 1 Comment

What We Misunderstand about Yes Buts

This post is part of a series for school leaders working on implementing large-scale, learning-focused school change. Your success depends not just on your technical knowledge about the initiative, but also how well you understand the three kinds of staff in your school (Yahoos, Yes Buts, and NFWs) and how their support needs differ.

The Yes Buts seem hesitant and skeptical of the initiatives with their questions of “but what about this and what about that?”

This post focuses on how we misunderstand Yes Buts.

The biggest thing we misunderstand about the Yes Buts on our staff is that we think they are trying to block the initiative with their “Yes, but…” questions. In truth, the Yes Buts’ objective is to get their concerns addressed.

Pay attention to what they are asking. They may be hesitant or skeptical, but their questions represent their real concerns and worries about aspects of the initiative.

When you offer a response they view as authentic and credible, Yes Buts will view it as a satisfactory response. And if you satisfactorily address their concerns, they will often say, “Oh. Ok,” and work with you.

There will often be additional yes-but questions, but you need to assume Yes Buts are legitimately anxious or troubled by the issue and will similarly move forward when they receive a credible response.

In fact, Yes Buts are used to either having their questions and concerns blown off or getting lame answers. Your providing responses that they view as legitimate, authentic, practical, and doable will gain you enormous credibility with them and their willingness to try. Having those kinds of answers to Yes But questions is a critical component to moving your initiative forward, and not paying enough attention to them or not taking the questions seriously can be a major reason an initiative doesn’t move forward.

Further, most of their questions are practical in nature, focused on how to make the initiative not just be a good idea, but something that actually works.  Be prepared to go find answers to Yes But questions from others who are having success implementing the same kind of initiative.

The other thing we misunderstand about Yes Buts is their attitude. Just because we respond to their concerns does not mean that they will become enthusiastic or even happy about the work. We cannot assume that their lack of enthusiasm means that they will be difficult to work with  or block the work. Remember – they are skeptical. They are probably worried about failing or the initiative not working as promised. And they are probably tired of the Educational Flavor of the Month, requiring them to put time and energy into learning new things only to have the Flavor replaced by another. No wonder they don’t seem happy about it!

Remember, the Yes Buts are the heart and soul of the school.  They may not be the innovators nor demonstrate the enthusiasm and open curiosity of the Yahoos, but the Yes Buts are largely solid, capable, competent educators who establish the culture of the school. The Yes Buts will make or break your initiative, and should be treated accordingly.

If we have addressed their concerns, and if they feel supported, Yes Buts will work with us. They will put in the time and effort, even if they aren’t convinced yet that it will work. And we should be happy with their willingness and not get hung up on how convinced, happy, or enthusiastic they are or are not.

 

Next in the series: How to best support Yes Buts.

Posted in Professional Development | Tagged | 2 Comments

How to Best Support Yahoos

This post is part of a series for school leaders working on implementing large-scale, learning-focused school change. Your success depends not just on your technical knowledge about the initiative, but also how well you understand the three kinds of staff in your school (Yahoos, Yes Buts, and NFWs) and how their support needs differ.

The Yahoos are those folks who are always excited about new and interesting practices, programs and resources and are anxious to try them out in their own classroom.

This post focuses on how to best support  Yahoos.

Yahoos are easy to support.  They are largely self-sufficient, having lots of good ideas of their own and facility with identifying and tracking down resources.

When they do come to school leaders, it is generally for permission, for resources they can’t find on their own, or to authorize funding for resources.

The best way to support Yahoos is to find ways to say yes to their requests, or to help problem solve their needs.  Once they have those, they are quick to return to working on their own.

You should be spending about 10-20% of your time supporting your Yahoos.

 

Next in the series: How we misunderstand Yes Buts

Posted in Professional Development | Tagged | 1 Comment

What We Misunderstand about Yahoos

This post is part of a series for school leaders working on implementing large-scale, learning-focused school change. Your success depends not just on your technical knowledge about the initiative, but also how well you understand the three kinds of staff in your school (Yahoos, Yes Buts, and NFWs) and how their support needs differ.

The Yahoos are those folks who are always excited about new and interesting practices, programs and resources and are anxious to try them out in their own classroom.

This post focuses on how we misunderstand Yahoos.

 

Yahoos seem a dream to work with.  We all wish we had more of them on our staff. Not only are they quick to implement any quality learning-focused school change initiative that school leadership brings forward, they are often already working on many of their own.  They are quick to learn new strategies and approaches, invent and design a few of their own, and implement at a high level.

Therefore, we often hold them and their work up to their colleagues as examples of where we’d like to go with the initiative and the kind of work we’d like from each staff member.

The problem is that the Yahoos don’t really have the right kind of “cred” with their colleagues for moving the initiative forward. Their colleagues certainly recognize that Yahoos work hard and do good work and generally respect that work. The problem is that the rest of the staff don’t consider Yahoos to be like them. They think, “Thats just what Yahoos do.” When school leaders hold up the work of the Yahoos, the rest of the staff don’t say, “Oh, I can do that!” They say, “Well, I’d do that, too, if I were a Yahoo.  …but I’m not.”

Frankly, just as we should not judge the “success” of a school by the successes of their high performing students (we really must look at the successes of their hard-to-teach kids!), we should not judge the success or progress of an initiative by the success of our Yahoos. We only have truly moved the needle when there is wide scale, proficient implementation of the initiative by the Yes Buts.

 

Next in the series: How to best support Yahoos.

Posted in Professional Development | Tagged | 3 Comments

Working With A Diverse Staff: The 3 Types of Colleagues in a Change Initiative

Creating educational programs and systems that work for all kids has been my work for a long time. I have grown to understand that asking educators to change how they work produces a range of very human responses:

  • Let’s go!
  • Sounds good, but how?
  • Maybe… Can you show me that it works?
  • Yes, but what about this?
  • No Way!

Student Aspirations guru Dr. Russ Quaglia (Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations) was one of my graduate professors and served on my dissertation committee. He used to talk about three kinds of educators, when it comes to school change:

  • Yahoos
  • Yes Buts
  • NFWs

The Yahoos are those folks who are always excited about new and interesting practices, programs and resources and were anxious to try them out in their own classroom.

The Yes Buts seem hesitant and skeptical of the initiatives with their questions of “but what about this and what about that?”

The NFWs are the folks who look a little like Yes Buts with their questions of “but what about this and what about that?” but who are really saying to themselves and their fellow NFWs, “No freaking way am I doing this!”

Each present their own challenge to the school change and each needs a different kind of attention and support.

This is the beginning of a series of posts exploring what we misunderstand about Yahoos, Yes Buts and NFWs, and how to best support each. Frankly, the advice is counterintuitive in places, but is based on practical experience successfully implementing large-scale, learning-focused school change.

 

Next in the series: How we misunderstand Yahoos.

Posted in Professional Development, Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

Let’s Make Tech All About Learning

I have found myself lately in several conversations about the price of technology. The conversations have focused on laptops and tablets and folks wondering if we could find devices that were less expensive.

And I realized that, in their thinking, all laptops and devices were created equal, in such a way that the only variable is cost (and, if this were true, I would have to agree).

But it made me realize that we were having the wrong conversation completely. The conversation shouldn’t be about price; it should be about value.

Further, I realized that we miss the boat on the value conversation when we spend too much time talking about the technology and the tools, or about providing technology and procurement. We need to spend most of our time talking about what kinds of learning we would like to make happen with the technology. You can only get to the value conversation when you can discuss what you want to do with the devices and compare different devices around how well suited they are to those purposes.

I used to teach with a really wonderful professor of elementary educational technology, named Ralph Granger. He used to say, when you go to the hardware store to buy a new drill bit, you don’t really want a new drill bit. You want a hole. When it comes to educational technology, we need to talk less about our “drill bits” and more about the “holes” we want.

Or as Marc Prensky says, we need more verbs and fewer nouns.

And, as TPACK reminds us, when we align our educational arrows, we are talking about content, pedagogy, and technology (What instructional strategies might we use to teach this learning target, and what role could our devices play?).

I believe that part of that conversation needs to be around student engagement and motivation.

So I was very happy to see that the National Association of School Boards of Education is pointing out that student engagement needs to be a critical criteria for judging the value of our educational investments (including technology). One article on their recent report starts, “Education is a $600 billion a year industry, but that investment means little unless students are physically and mentally present and engaged to benefit from it.”

How are you prepared to help make our educational technology conversations focus more on learning?

 

Posted in Learning as Desired Outcome, Technology as Tool For Learning, Technology for Learning | Tagged ,

Classroom Management is the Opposite of Motivation and Engagement

Recently, I attended a conference where table talks were a part of the lunch program. There were 12 or 13 topics, and we chose which table/topic we wanted to sit in on. Who ever was at the table collaboratively guided the personalized conversation on that topic. Twenty minutes later, a timekeeper let us know it was time to go to the next table of our choice.

During one of the rounds, I floated over to the Motivating Students table. This is clearly one of my favorite topics.

But very quickly, the teachers and school leaders at the table started talking about which classroom management strategies they use when students are not motivated. The talk focused on punishments and rewards.

And I started to panic, because I really wanted to get the conversation back onto motivation and engagement (and I know how counterproductive punishments and rewards actually are to learning!). How could I do that without offending these educators who were clearly struggling with what to do to motivate disengaged learners…

And finally I found a diplomatic way to redirect the conversation: “I find that when I'm doing a class activity that the students are really into and engaged, I really don't have any classroom management issues.” Everyone nodded that they had the same experiences. “So what do those activities look like? What is it about those activities that seems to engage the students?” And “boom” the conversation was focused on what motivates students.

But it was also in that moment that I realized for the first time that classroom management wasn't a sister skill set to motivation and engagement. It was the direct opposite of motivation and engagement.

Classroom management is what we do when our kids aren't motivated and engaged.

And, for the most part, we don't need to worry about classroom management when they are engaged.

Yes, orderliness helps students learn. And let's see if we can encourage and support our teachers in focusing more on proactive motivation and engagement, so they can focus less on reactive classroom management.

 

Posted in Motivation | Tagged , , , ,