Responding to Resistance

In the last two postings, Resistance in Coaching Conferences and Using Questions in Coaching Conferences, I’ve explored the need to uncover agendas and sometimes resistance before moving to problem solving in coaching conferences. In this post we will explore responding to resistance that has been identified. Paraphrasing, active listening, is a good step to confirm the resistance you believe you are hearing. In this scenario,

A fifth grade teacher tells you that she believes reading aloud is an important component of reading workshop time, but she doesn’t use it often because the students don’t listen during the reading. They fidget and are seldom able to respond to questions she asks.

You might paraphrase…

The teachers thinking:
You feel that it’s wasting time to read aloud with them.
You’d like to motivate them to listen.

The teachers emotions:

You’re upset with the students behavior.
You are worried their behavior could get worst if you keep
doing the read aloud.

I find it helpful to identify resistance as coming from three sources: ego (pride), intellect(brain) and emotions (feelings). Then, select a matching response.

Pride resistance- respond with approval statements
Emotion resistance- respond with empathy statements
Intellect resistance- respond with supporting statements

Approval– In most cases, I look to provide some approval as soon as possible within the conference.

It is so great to hear your understanding of the value of the read aloud. Many intermediate and middle level teachers assume it is just for use with younger students.

Your desire to find a way to make this work shows a real commitment to your students.

Empathy– It is annoying to work hard and not see students respond. When we find the right mix of motivation and listening skill development your students’ responses will become your reward.

When you feel that you don’t have control, it is scary. Sometimes perseverance is the key.

Support–You are right that there is no time to waste, especially this time of year. What benefits of the read aloud are most important to your students?

Changing student behavior is hard work; motivating listen, reading, and thinking behaviors can have very long term payoffs for your students.

Notice in the diagram on resistance, that sometimes all three areas are present at once. The more resistance present the slower the coach needs to go, fighting the temptation to offer suggestions to end the conference sooner.

For greater study of verbal skills for working with agenda and resistance, see PLS course Building Communication and Team Building.

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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