Isn’t it funny how timely a lesson topic can be sometimes? This week I read chapters 16 and 17 in Brookfield’s “The Skillful Teacher”, Understanding and Responding to Students’ Resistance to Learning, respectively. He urges readers to consider times in our lives that we have been resistance to learning and the change that it brings, to reflect on the reasons for that resistance and how justified they were for our lives at that time. And holy guacamole, you wouldn’t believe how resistant I am feeling about something in my professional life right now.
A new initiative was being brought forward to my team for implementation. This was done at the tail end of a time period that was full of turmoil and change for us. As a team, we looked at the initiative, and came back to our management with concerns and questions around the implementation. We didn’t feel very confident in our ability to successfully launch the initiative while maintaining our (admittedly high) performance in other areas, so we wanted to start a dialogue around what implementation was really going to look like. This seems to have been interpreted as hard resistance to the idea, and a meeting was held. After the meeting our team felt as though, if we didn’t go whole hog on this initiative, our jobs were in jeopardy. We felt threatened. It was one of the most demotivating and demoralizing experiences of my professional life.
And now I feel… resistant. I had a conversation with a person in management where I shared my perception of the experience. I was told that the meeting that was held was never intended to feel like a threat, but the damage is done. My team needs to feel like our concerns are heard, considered, and directly addressed.
I’ve learned so much from this experience, and the way that it coincided with reading these two particular chapters in The Skillful Teacher; Brookfield argues that we need to listen and understand where resistance is coming from. We might assume it is from laziness or lack of caring, but often it is a result of a student’s experience of our teaching and our classroom. We need to hear concerns and take them to heart, and demonstrate to students that their voices matter in the building of a positive and productive learning environment.