Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Building Relationships

I have only been an educator for six years. In that amount of time I have had various interactions with different groups of teachers to achieve a range of goals. Building professional relationships is important to do with any colleague as well as any student. In the realm of teaching technology, many users who feel they already are competent develop an attitude that conveys a message that they are not that interested in it, because they think they can already use do, whatever it is you are about to teach. I have to admit, I have had that type of attitude before. But, with some reflection and realization, often times you will understand that any interaction is an opportunity to learn tips and tricks you didn't' know before, even if you think there is not much left to learn. So how do you develop that trusting relationship with colleagues to be able to share ideas and methodologies in such a way where your voice is heard and respected?

One strategy I have used to gain the trust and respect of a group member who is already competent has been to ask them to share their expertise on the topic. If it is using a technology tool, I've asked them to share their experiences and describe any benefits or challenges using the tool. If the group member is willing to participate this gives them some ownership and allows them to realize that their knowledge is valued and respected.  Another strategy that could be useful would be to identify those individuals before hand, and ask them to play more of a leadership role in planning, organizing and teaching the content for the group collaboration.

 It is always a challenge trying to convince anyone to change their routine to incorporate new ideas. Developing that professional relationship through asking a lot of questions, actively listening to their responses,  getting to know more about their own work ethics, philosophy, and priorities can help build trust and respect. If you already have this relationship established, introducing a new idea is better received and colleagues may be more willing to try out the suggestion. Respect, listening, and understanding go a long way, especially when implementing change. An effective leader has the ability to grasp the attention of the group, establish that trusting relationship, and finally lead them through change. Establishing this relationship requires time and effort. It is not something that just happens, it has to be established over time. Whenever the leader is going to suggest change, they also need to model that change prior to the suggestion. In order for the group  to keep that trust, and be willing to change, they have to see that their leader has already embraced the change and is practicing what they preach.

Implementing change is always a challenge, and a convincing stick can only drive that nail in so far. If you are the leader implementing change, find your team members who are already experts and convert them to leaders. Model that change, and develop respect and understanding. If you do encounter a bad apple in a group, develop some good "fogging" techniques to avoid those interactions. All these techniques do, is mask the complaint and flip it into something good. For example, your are the leader in a classroom and a student starts to complain "we've done this a million times, I think we get it already." Instead of defending yourself, you could calmly and compassionately say, "I understand your frustration, but not all of us have mastered this yet. If you're confident with your knowledge, maybe you can help me help the others?" In so many words you're saying..."here's a box of tissues for your issue." ( ~_~,) When all you did was to flip the complaint to a  compliment  to get them to become a leader. These fogging techniques work well to engage those who think they already know what your teaching.


  1. Anytime you can turn someone into a leader, helper, or role model it is awesome. It always works well when I let my students "drive" and demo something that they are familiar with on the projector.

  2. "Whenever the leader is going to suggest change, they also need to model that change prior to the suggestion." Great point! We have a lot of leaders who will tell us, you need to do this, but they do not include themselves as being included in the mandate. Being a good role model is essential to getting people to follow your lead.
    Fogging techniques, that's a term I have not heard!

  3. I like the reverse psychology method as well. When students are put to the test of being leaders and role models their whole demeanor changes. They go from sarcastic, resistant students to well organized and ready to help contributors. I think when working with colleagues it is also important to "stroke the ego" a bit. Sometimes there is so much resentment for the ones that can utilize just about any tool you give them that the resistance becomes even stronger. When this happens the "family" ideal has started to diminish and sharp words are used. The fogging technique works so well with adults sometimes it is scary - even the ones who say they use it one their own students.

  4. I like the idea of other teachers sharing their success (and frustrations.) This opens the discussion and gives everyone an opportunity to share their ideas and concerns.