Whenever I teach our Feedback Framework, I always get this question:
“That’s great for most teachers but does this work with really resistant teachers?”
I get it. There are some teachers who are so resistant it seems that they won’t act on your feedback no matter what you do.
Well, there are no magic words you can say to solve the problem, but there are ways that you can keep the conversation on track and overcome resistance in the process.
Today, I’m going to go into detail about how you can overcome the 2 most common forms of resistance to feedback – Excuse-making and blame. And at the end of this article, I've got a really great FREE resource for you to download on the specific ways you can keep a feedback conversation on track.
Have you ever asked a teacher to make some improvement in his practice and he gives you 1,000 reasons why he can’t?
I don’t have enough time
I have too many other things to do
My dog ate my lesson plans (believe it or not, this is a thing)
It can be really frustrating to encounter excuse, after excuse, after excuse.
Well the first thing you have to understand is that what sounds like an excuse to you may feel like a legitimate reason to them. So what you don’t want to do is minimize the excuse.
Instead, you have to help them understand that an excuse (no matter how legitimate) is not reason enough to NOT do what you’ve asked.
How do you do that?
First, you need to express disappointment that the teacher has not fulfilled his obligation. You don’t need to go into a tirade about it. A simple, “that’s disappointing,” will do.
Next, you need to address the excuse:
You could say something like this: “Wow, that does sound like an obstacle. However, this is really important. So, how can we overcome that obstacle in order to help you get this done on time?”
Here’s why this works:
- It recognizes that there may be legitimate reasons why a person feels he or she can’t reach the goal. That way you are not minimizing their struggles.
- It conveys the idea that the excuse is not a reason not to act – without getting argumentative.
- It gets the teacher focused on problem-solving.
That sounds great but what do you do if the teacher still insists on making an excuse? You say something like this…
“I realize that this is going to be difficult to get done, but this is a priority so we need to get it done in spite of the obstacles. Let’s look at what we can control and what I can do to support you so that we can figure out a way to get this to me by Friday.”
In that way you set clear boundaries, eliminate future excuses, and hold the teacher accountable.
Blame happens when a teacher puts the responsibility for their failures on others. It could be the students, their parents, even you.
Most of the time, people resort to blame in order to avoid being criticized themselves. So, when dealing with blame, you have the tricky task of shifting responsibility back to the teacher without making the teacher feel like you are blaming them.
That’s a real danger with blame – blame can be contagious. If you’re not careful, you very well could end up blaming the teacher.
To avoid this, you need to first acknowledge how they feel. You might say, “I know it’s frustrating when your students don’t turn in their homework.”
Next, you have to get the teacher focused on what they can do. So, you ask questions. My two favorite type of questions to ask to help teachers take ownership are:
- 5 Why questions. The 5 Why’s is a way to get to the root cause of the issue. You basically ask why a minimum of 5 times to help the teacher dig past the blame and explore what’s really going on. If you can get to the root cause, you often can discover solutions that were not readily apparent. Plus, these type of questions help teachers develop more compassion for students. (Note: See an example of the 5 Why method here)
- Bright Spot Questions. Bright Spot questions shift the focus from what students (or parents or you) are not doing to what it looks like when they actually do what they should be doing. After all, no one is ALL bad. So you might ask, “Is there a time when students do turn in homework? What do you think is the difference between that time and this?” Again, these questions get teachers focused on problem-solving instead of blame.
Finally, you agree on a course of action. In order to do so, you will need to shift the conversation away from what others are doing to what the teacher can do.
Start by refocusing on the goal. You might say, “What is the point of doing homework? Why is it so critical that students complete it every day?”
Next, ask “If that is the goal of homework, can you accomplish that goal any other way?”
Now at this point, you may meet with some resistance. People who are caught up in blame will say things like, “But they SHOULD do their homework,” or “Why are holding me responsible and not the students?”
In order to address these concerns you’ll need to keep the focus on the goal. You might say, “I agree, students should do their homework. But right now they are not doing their homework. You said the goal of homework was to help them practice what they learned but right now it’s not working and that is keeping you from doing what you need to do. Homework isn’t the only way to do that. So, let’s find a way to help them practice what they learned and hold them accountable for doing so that will actually work.”
By tying your solution to their goals, you can help them consider an alternative and focus on a solution instead of blaming.
If you use these approaches, you can overcome a LOT of resistance from teachers. Get a list of practical things you can say to keep any feedback conversation on track here.
Now, that I’ve discussed the 2 most common forms of resistance, I want to hear from you. What are other forms of resistance that you’ve encountered? And what are some strategies you’ve used to successfully overcome them?
Let me know in the comments.
P. S. FREE DOWNLOAD: Get a list of practical things you can say to keep any feedback conversation on track. Get your download here.