Lately I’ve been hearing from so many teachers and administrators who have caught the reading science fever. Woo hoo! Something you read or heard acted like a spark, lighting a fire in those old nagging feelings about the balanced literacy approach not working well enough for your students. Suddenly you see the light and you want to get everyone around you just as excited as you are.
When we find something new that works, we want to shout it from the roof tops! We can’t understand why everyone wouldn’t save themselves the time and heartache and just get onboard with us! This is what works, now just go do it! This approach rarely works. (I’m remembering one particularly painful holiday visit when I tried to convince my sister to start budgeting.)
Many of you have experienced resistance when trying to get your coworkers onboard with the science of reading. There are some people who just aren’t easily convinced. There might even be some who will work against you. If you are in a leadership role (official or unofficial), these folks can be tough to work with. There doesn’t seem to be anything you can say to convince them. No matter what great rationale you provide, they have a comeback that throws water on your fire. And if you are trying to win them over with piles of research articles? Forget it!
When you find yourself in this situation, I think it is important to take a giant step back. First of all, you will exhaust yourself if you make it your mission to convert your coworkers. You may even lose some friends who get sick of you harping on them. People get defensive when they think you are telling them they are doing something wrong. Potentially, you could become “that teacher” who everyone avoids in the staff work room.
Rather than trying to find that perfect podcast, blog, book, or webinar that will cause the light bulb to go off over the heads of your coworkers and administrators, take a deep breath and lead by example. I have found that the best way to attract interest in change is with great results. When you start getting better reading outcomes, your coworkers will notice. They may even come to you with questions. That opens the door to share what you are learning in a non-threatening way.
Tell your own story. Talk about what you believed previously, what you have learned that challenged you to think deeply, and how teaching differently improved results for your students. Don’t get all haughty and start wagging your finger. Just share the journey you are traveling. There is nothing more contagious than better reading outcomes. So, just stay focused on your teaching and your students. And when the day comes when that last reluctant teacher comes to you and asks how you did it, just smile and say…let me show you.