Compassion and Respect

I find the most difficult challenges in my work to revolve around the deep-rooted beliefs of the educators that serve our children.

Here is a sampling of a few of the limiting beliefs which are challenging me this Fall.
After sitting in on a data-team meeting the math department chairman pulled me aside to relate his take on the team’s goal of creating a culture of continuous improvement in his school.

“We are good teachers. The fact that a lot of kids fail is not our fault. Most pass. They need to take responsibility for not passing. We don’t need to change, they do. This is the way the world is and they might as well learn that lesson, here in our school.”

After working with the technology committee to create a vision of teaching and learning with technology, I received the following comments:

“It’s a nice dream; but it will never happen here, so why waste our time on it?”

“Why do a new plan if the technology we have today isn’t live up to our expectations?”

While doing a presentation to a different technology planning committee one teacher interrupted angrily:

“I keep hearing about students. Student engagement, student access to technology, student access from home, student leadership. What’s in this for me? What will I get out of this?

Offering to help a struggling team leader who, after months of trying, is still unable to get team members to commit to a meeting date, I heard the following:

“I don’t need help with my leadership skills, I’m doing fine.”

I am not complaining about these challenges. I recognize them as legitimately held beliefs. They represent just a small sample of the many, many limiting beliefs that stand in the way of transformative change. They exist, in various forms, in your schools too.

I used to be frustrated by the lack of accountability, the cynicism, lack of vision, and mistrust that they represent. I see now that these are just human beings doing what human beings do.

Truth be told, there are areas in my life where I am out of integrity (as is the Math Department Chairman) with my beliefs about being accountable…

…and where my vision (like the teachers participating in the tech plan) shies away from the huge possibilities to stay on the safe and familiar road of smaller, sometimes less important, opportunities.

I have blind spots (as does the struggling team leader) and can sometimes get defensive when offered help by someone from whom I have not solicited it.

It is hugely important for me to begin working with each of these educators, and each of these teams, from a place of understanding and compassion rather than anger and frustration.

When I understand their beliefs,

When I work with them from a place of compassion and respect

I am much more effective in leading change.

And so the journey begins…



5 thoughts on “Compassion and Respect

  1. It reminds me of the two critical questions from Influencer: Is it worth it and can I do it? Our colleagues are bright, caring people who do what they believe is best for kids. Until we can find strategies to answer these questions about any change effort we will not change their thinking, the gateway to changing their behavior.

  2. Mike,
    I think you’re right AND I believe that giving people logical answers shifts their beliefs. We need to help people find the answers for themselves. It’s the only way I know to shift deeply held beliefs.

  3. I like your attitude! I have seen administrators take the same negative approach by trying to find ways to get rid of teachers who don’t share the vision. I read somewhere that the capicity to change already exists in our buildnings, it is our job to find a way to tap into that capicity. Just like it is their job to find a way to tap into a child’s capicity to learn. Sometimes the nut with the toughest shell is the best in the bunch!

  4. Kudos! Acceptance is the first step. In the corporate world, the next would be to understand motivation. In this case, it seems that motivation is more like status quo ’cause I have tenure.

    Pete – I wonder if further to Mike’s comment you also need to find/create/identify an impetus that will move the mountain some. Is there the motivation that Mike suggests? I didn’t get that sense from your quotes.

    I wrote recently about something akin to this, but proposed wholesale change to make this work (

    I wonder if pain-reduction might work in your case? Are these educators motivated by the use of technology to reduce their administrative and class-preparation workload? Is this the answer?

    Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Shafeen,
    For me personally, my first challenge is always dropping my negative judgments about people who have different beliefs than me. (“I can’t believe they don’t ‘get it’. There must be something wrong with them.)

    After that it is about meeting them where they are and staying open, present, and connected as we move together. I don’t think logic always applies when attempting to shift people’s beliefs.


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