No more “Tell;” it’s time to “DO!”


I know I have posted about this topic before, but I truly feel this mindset shift can change education as we know it. Professional development is a lot of talking AT teachers. Even when a teacher gets support from a coach or mentor it is often by more telling. Rarely do teachers have time to practice or do what is being asked of them. Or should I say, they rarely have time to practice and get feedback on their technique before doing it live in their classroom with students.

Since I have chatted about that before, I want to focus this post on how a teacher can get stuck in the same place of telling themselves and others areas for self-improvement followed up without any action. What I am referring to is the “Get it/Do It” gap. Teachers might conceptually understand what is being asked of them and recognize it when they see it in action by others, but translating the skill to perform it themselves is where the gap resides. This is why its so important that teachers have accountability partners, and not just evaluators. They need mentors and coaches to help them put best practices into action consistently. A conversation or evaluative feedback is the start of helping a teacher, but be there to help them close the gap. They are the ones who know why they are struggling to implement feedback or specific techniques and oftentimes, they need someone to have that simple conversation with them. Don’t allow the excuses. Require honest reflection and then planning of next steps. Do Not Do It For Them. Part of the problem for the gap is teachers are handed scripted curriculum from the district or school-level and rarely do much creative planning themselves. Don’t feed this lazy monster. They are used to being told step by step what to do, but getting unstuck is actually a personal problem. The reason behind the “get it/do it” gap is different for each person. Therefore, there is no single recipe for coaches and supporters to give teachers. They must be there, host the conversation, require open dialogue, and hold a teacher accountable to begin stepping into action daily. Consistent accountability will help TELL become DO.

Do you know a teacher that often talks about great ideas but rarely puts them into action? Be their accountability partner. Help them figure out why they can’t put their ideas into action and then stay by their side throughout a consistent implementation. This isn’t a 30 minute conversation. This is a journey that lasts days, weeks, months, and/or years. If you care that students receive a quality education, care enough to help the teacher become their best self for their students. Its an investment from every stakeholder; one that benefits the community immeasurably more.

Here are some helpful questions to help a teacher become a Do’er:

  • What feedback have you gotten lately about your performance as a teacher?
  • What pieces of feedback have you begun to implement?
  • What pieces of feedback have you yet to implement?
  • Let’s start with the first piece of feedback you haven’t yet implemented. What barrier stands in your way to put this into practice now? (repeat with each piece of unimplemented feedback)
    • How did this barrier get there?
    • What can you do to overcome it?
    • What can I do to help you overcome it?
  • What techniques/strategies/ideas have you dreamed about implementing into your own classroom, but have yet to try?
  • Let’s start with the first technique/strategy/ideas you dreamed about. What barrier stand sin your way to put this into practice now? (repeat with each technique/strategy/idea)
    • How did this barrier get there?
    • What can you do to overcome it?
    • What can I do to help you overcome it?
  • Now that we have figured out what you need to implement and why you have struggled to do it, let’s talk next steps.  After listing out each piece of feedback as well as technique/strategy/idea you have dreamed about implementing it is time to prioritize these tasks. What is the most important task on this list that will benefit the students the most?
    • What is your first step to implementing this step? (continue jotting steps until the task is fully implemented on a daily basis)
    • (complete this process with each task on the list and develop “check-in” points for you as the mentor and support to ensure the items are getting checked off the list)

Remember, changing a teacher from a teller to a doer is hard work and time consuming. But you’re not just helping one person. By helping the teacher you are affecting 20+ students in the classroom. They will have a more effective teacher that opens the door to more opportunities for their own success. Bravo for stepping up to the plate to give back to your profession. Before you completely rid yourself of the support to this particular teacher, give one last directive. Require that they pass it forward and provide the same accountability to a fellow teacher who needs the support. Now you can rest assured that a domino effect is in motion and more students will begin to receive the positive influence of having a strong teacher leader in their lives.

What other questions should we add to this list to help a teacher get unstuck and move to action?

About the author, Gretchen

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.