Zero Tolerance

Zero Tolerance: 21st Century Teachers Only

Only network-literacy teacher-learners accepted here…

The last few week has had me working most often with administrators and leader teachers. It’s a gratifying group to work with because they are there because they want to affect change and they are ready for new ideas.

The events have been formal presentations, but also facilitated conversations — and I think that people get a little miffed when I divert questions by saying, “Does anyone else have an answer to that question?”

So on several occasions, I’ve been asked for tips on motivating resistant teachers to accept change and adapt. Of course the questions take many forms and usually involve, “..getting teachers to integrate technology.” when I open up the discussion, “Anyone else have a suggestion?” — the answers range across.

  • Support the teachers.
  • Provide professional development.
  • Take small steps.
  • Give them time to play.

I open the discussion up because I suspect that these things need to be said.  But I can’t say them any more. When it comes around to me, my response is,

“No more excuses.”

We’ve waited long enough. It’s been 15, 20, 30 years depending on when you want to start the count. Teachers have had enough time to accept and adapt. They’ve had enough time to decide if they want to teach today or yesterday — enough time to decide if they want to prepare their learners for the future, or for the 1950s.

I’m hearing again and again how education conferences, geared toward 21st century issues, are growing and exceeding attendance projections — and sense that a tipping point might have been reached. We have been patient enough and our students have probably let us get away with foot dragging teachers way too long.

The question is simple, “Are you going to adapt your philosophies and practices to a new generation of learners, a new information environment, and a new future?”.

If not…

Then get out and go run a Laundromat.

Photo Credit: Derived from “Because Elsewhere we tolerate it?!?” posted to Flickr by Angela (Smileygeekgirl)

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

31 thoughts on “Zero Tolerance”

  1. Wow. Well said. I never thought I’d be agreeing with any kind of call for zero tolerance. Although you’re preaching to the choir (me), I am making copies of this for the faculty room.

  2. You have change leaders and resisters. The change leaders are the ones who are open and willing to try new things and adapt. The resisters are the ones who have found a comfort zone by doing things in the classroom the same way year after year. Sometimes it can be tough to teach an old dog new tricks especially when they don’t understand how important it is to adapt.

  3. You have your change leaders and resisters. The change leaders are willing to try new things and adapt, but the resisters have found a comfort zone by doing things the same way year after year. I think most teachers fall somewhere between these two ends of the spectrum. To add to your list of motivating teachers to integrate technology, I would add: give concrete examples of successful technology integration. Sometimes all teachers need is to see a great idea that makes them think, “I can do that in my classroom!” This gets them thinking about it. Hopefully thinking leads to further exploration, and eventually integration. It is an uphill battle though. You almost have to target those teachers in the middle before they fall into the resister-routine of education.

  4. David:

    Cheers! I am definitely in this mode. As a Tech Coordinator at a high school, I was stuck between a somewhat apathetic teaching staff and a district IT department, who’s mantra was “Block it!” I figured out that if I wanted to make any real change, I needed to move into administration after 20 years in the classroom. I have made this transition and have been pushing the envelope open, although not fast enough for me.

    There is a blog post I did in December that discussed one of the last vestiges of the reasons why teachers will not begin to integrate technology, which was disenfranchisement of some students due to the lack of a connection to the Internet outside of the school day.

    So, I wholeheartedly agree with you…. “No More Excuses!”

  5. David,
    I come from a school that does not have a tenure system and I feel pressure every year to be a better teacher. I feel strongly that I would do this anyway, even if I had tenure because I am passionate about being an educator. I think that tenure allows teachers to “slack off” and they feel no pressure to integrate technology into the classroom. I think that this falls on the administrators. I think that maybe they need to give strong critiques and push the philosophy of integrating technology (if they are on board with that). I understand that some teachers feel comfortable doing things the way they have always done things, but we as members of the education community, need to constantly stay up to date with new methods. The education that I earned during my undergraduate is probably not the same that is being taught now and that was two years ago and I am currently in graduate school because of this. I think that you make good points on this issue!

    1. Adam,

      I too work for a school that doesn’t have tenure and I really think that it works well for us. In order to continue working for our school, we all feel the need to “step-up” our game. If a teacher at our school chooses to not get on board, they are welcomed to leave. Sometimes we encourage them to move along. If we had tenture we would in some cases be stuck with a teacher that refuses to do what is needed to help our students. Gone are the days of worksheets and teachers who sit at their desks and do nothing.

  6. A little story: My husband is an architect. When AutoCad came out, the drawing table was removed from his office and replaced by a computer. He figured he had to learn the program, on his own time, or lose his job. Can you imagine if we did that in the schools? There would be an uproar for in-house professional development, grievances, union intervention, re-negotiations, etc. The attitude among some teachers is getting to be really old.

  7. Amen! I couldn’t have said it better myself. I teach with a staff with a wide range of ages. While this is more or less stereotypical, the younger members of the faculty are usually pushing the envelope and using the technology more thoroughly across the curriculum. A willingness to experiment and try new things must be expected. If the status quo continues, we rob a generation of children from the knowledge of how current and future technology is integral to their learning and life.

  8. Ha! How about we fire the administrators who get in the way of automation?

    Like, who was the idiot who bought the textbooks but figured the teachers wouldn’t need the CD that comes with the sample tests, the automated test-maker and graphics? Who is the bright boy who bought the overheads instead of the disk with the PowerPoints? Who is the idiot who makes the sites I would use in class, off-limits? Who is the fool who designed my room so that the only light levels are on or off, so that when I show a video the slackers will try every time to get as much zzz time as possible, and half the class can’t see to take notes?

    It’d be great to get a laptop. It would be fantastic to have a DVD player dedicated to the room. You know, the speakers on those projectors are really crappy, and annoying for any video of any length of time. When will the front office put the forms on the common drive, so I don’t have to go into Excel to create a “look-alike” every time they want a list of something? I can write well in long-hand, but it’s time-consuming, and the front office people have difficulty with cursive.

    I get tagged “reluctant changer,” when the fact is that I wasn’t the idiot who wrote the grade program that won’t work well in FireFox. I wasn’t the guy who made most of the systems incompatible with Macs. I also wasn’t the guy who got all the administrators Office 2007, which meant we had to train them all to save Excel and Word documents in the old style — we got yelled at for several weeks before half the administrators learned that one.

    We’d all like some progress on this front. Everyone wants progress, as Robert Kennedy said, “but progress means change, and change has its enemies.”

    Three years in, my rater finally visited the class website. And they want to know why others in my department haven’t jumped on board?

    1. Hi Ed,

      You raise some very important issues.

      I am not a teacher, but I have certainly seen in the business world the problems that arise when technology isn’t properly introduced, taught, or integrated with existing systems. Complaints are then shouted down as conservative or reactionary by people who haven’t even tried to accomplish the tasks themselves with the tools provided.

      Thank you for explaining this perspective.



  9. What a timing to read Zero Tolerance! I have been grappling with a technology class requirement. The choice was between a lesson plan (I have had enough for the year) with technology integration and my own blog. No more excuses. I am choosing the road less traveled and hoping creating this thing called blog will make a difference. May I ask your permission to use Zero Tolerance (including the image) as a spring board to my first ever blog entry? This novice blogger is obviously nervous.

  10. This is a really interesting post. I also agree that most veteran teachers need to be brought into the future, however I am not sure how to do it. A lot of them won’t listen to the research or professionals just dig in their heals. *ponders*

  11. Anytime there is change there is also resistance to change. People must go through all the steps of anxiety, fear, and resistance; followed by willingness to try; and finally acceptance of the new way. I love change and trying new things, but anytime my school wants to try out a new computerized grade book program I still go through this process. As long as I am afforded time and people to come alongside me and help me learn, I proceed to acceptance pretty quickly. However, sometimes administration does not allow time and consideration for the learning curve of each new program, which creates an environment of panic. I think that most people would be willing to try new programs and technology if they are assured that they will be supported and given time to learn the new technology.

  12. Hey yall,
    This is a great conversation and one that I know we all have often. Depending on the situation, everyone’s views will be different. I’ve worked in a few different collegiate settings since first becoming an instructional designer: proprietary to Jesuit. I know that I can’t ever change the culture wherever I’m at, but I can start the bus wheels turning and invite others to jump on board.

    So, here’s my strategy. In my case, I have a lot of views to contend with- many Chairpersons, Deans and VPs. Their views on forcing training range, but their outstanding support is always consistent. Every training I come out with, whether it’s academic continuity or online course development, I market the heck out of it. I talk about the efforts constantly, advertise them on the site, and talk up the people who have benefited from it. I encourage everyone I talk with to speak to others about my efforts. Everyone that benefits automatically becomes an advocate.

    It’s kind of like coming out with a new product, because people aren’t going to even look at it unless they’ve heard everyone else talking about it. Let’s not look at these skeptical individuals negatively, because they don’t necessarily know what they are missing. Instead, focus efforts on encouraging, supporting, and most importantly advertising awesome efforts. Once they keep hearing everyone else talk about the bus ride, they’ll want to try it out themselves. 🙂

  13. I agree with you. I was born in 1980, my household had a wordprocessing typewrier in 1990, by 1998 we had a computer and internet in the house. Now 30 years later, we should have a whole new generation of teachers who are willing to accept the change. Actually, this is no longer change, this is the way it is. We are note moving backward, we are not going to stand still, this would be a huge disservice to our children. I am all for no tolerance, it is unacceptable to walk into a classroom in 2010 and not seeing students not involved in some form educational technology on a daily basis.

  14. This is a thought-provoking post. I wonder how long technology leaders have been asking questions and debating how to get teachers to integrate technology into instruction. Probably since the minute computers entered the schools…I have to wonder after so many years, have we essentially ‘waited out’ a lot of teachers? As I consider other changes in education, how many of them boil down to ‘waiting out’ the resistance? In our district, they have added technology use to the evaluation instrument, yet for tenured teachers it doesn’t really have that much of an impact. The worst that might happen is a satisfactory rating rather than excellent. Something that has been happening recently that may be slightly more effective is that the superintendent is tying certain intiatives to the principal’s evaluations. The only way the principals can be rated well in some areas is if they encourage/improve the staff’s effectiveness in those targeted areas. As educators we don’t often hesitate to take the “no more excuses” stance with students, so maybe we shouldn’t be so appalled when higher standards are set for us. Most of the teachers who are passionate and self-motivated are already going to be meeting them anyway.

  15. This is a very interesting post. The biggest problem that I see in my area is that many teachers are not willing to put in the extra time needed to correctly learn the technology. Many of them will stay after school just until it is their contracted time to leave. In order to learn something new, you just might have to work at on your own time and not worry about whether you are getting paid.

  16. I have been a teacher for 14 years and since my very first day of teaching in a classroom, I have used some type of technology. Yes there have been many upgrades and changes, but it is just part of the job. I look at it as tools to help inspire students and create a more excititing learning environment. It prevents us from becoming stale and boring. I appreciate the excitement that comes from my students when they are involved in the learning process by the use of new and improved technology. The future is now. 🙂

  17. I see where your frustrtion is coming from. I am one of those teachers who is reluctant to change his practices. I have been doing it “my way” for a while now and am comfortable doing so. I have been slowly educating myself on technology and how it can help me in the classroom, but am not yet comfortable fully integrating it. I am slowly working tech into my lessons, but I am certainly not jumping in with both feet. A grad class I recently finished had me read a piece where the author indicated that the question in this day and age should not be how technology should change to fit current classroom practice, but rather how classroom practice should change to integrate current technology. I probably know more than I give myself credit for, and for the benefit of my students, I need to get with the times.

  18. I can see where your frustration stems from. I am one of those teachers who is reluctant to fully incorporate technology into my classroom practice because I am not completely comfortable with it. I have been trying to educate myself and slowly working it in to my lessons. I recently finished a grad class where in a reading the thought was proposed that we are in the day and age where we should be asking how technology should shape classroom practice as opposed to how we can work technoloy into our current classroom practice. This is where we are at, and I need to get myself up to speed.

    1. Kevin, I can clearly remember the time when I promoted the approproate tool. If you can do it with a set of encyclopedias, then that’s what you should use. If you need Google, then you need to use Google. But the future that we are preparing our children for with be technology-rich and information driven, and a time of rapid change. That dramatically changes not only what our children learn, but also how they learn it.

      I would take exception to one part of the statement “..we are in the day and age where we should be asking how technology should shape classroom practice as opposed to how we can work technoloy into our current classroom practice.” It seems to me that it is truer, and perhaps even more useful for teaching, that we realize that it isn’t so much how the technology has changed, that impacts on us, but how much the information has changed. We are increasingly and exclusively using networked, digital, and abundant (overwhelming) information to do our jobs and accomplish our goals. It seems that this should be the aim, that our students are learning with networked, digital, and abundant information, and developing the basic literacy skills that are required.

      1. You are correct in that literacy skills are paramount to a students success, regardless of the tools they are using to garner information.

  19. I had the craziest professor who taught the same thing for over 30 years and unfortunately 10 years before she resigned students all thought that she was a joke. She was the sweetest thing but the information that she shared was really outdated. Teachers should learn to adapt, to get more information and be the change agent. I know it is hard but it is greatly needed.

  20. Zero tolerance- great title for this specific topic. As an instructor at the collegiate level, I too deal with instructors who have the “old school” mentality and are resistant to change. I agree with this post in that as educators we expect our students to problem solve, collaborate, and develop critical thinking skills. However, if instructors are reluctant to change, how can we prepare our students to meet the demands of the new millennium that prefaces emerging technologies and globalized learning?

  21. Currently our school is going through a transformational process. With many new changes coming down the line it goes without saying that many teachers are resistant.

    I sit on many committees for the transformation process and we have decided that we simply cannot wait for complete ‘buy-in’ before moving forward. Teachers need to be able to adapt and be flexible, and at the end of the day these changes are happening to benefit our students. Resistant teachers can be frustrating and I feel that they are mostly resistant because they are afraid of the changes. Once they are forced to change and exposed to the results of this change any reasonable teacher will agree that the change was necessary for improved student achievement.

  22. HAHA I love this! Being a new teacher I’m willing to adapt and change everything about teaching to better benefit my students, but I see a lot of “experienced” teachers who aren’t willing to change anything in their classrooms. They could careless if they are reaching their students. Good Luck getting these people to retire or change there ways!!!!

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