[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on April 12th of this year, was our #1 most popular IT story of the year for 2017. Happy Holidays!]
One of the greatest lessons my 30 years of experience in education has taught me is that teacher buy-in is, sometimes, overrated.
There, I said it.
Now, before you stop reading, note my use of the word “sometimes.” As a former school administrator, I realize there is a time and place for buy-in. However, as one of my mentors, a seasoned middle school principal once explained to me, while consensus and collaborative decision-making is important, it can also be paralyzing to innovation. Understanding the balance between growing buy-in and launching innovation has never been more important than in today’s era.
As new ideas about teaching and learning go in and out of style, teachers have a right to feel some initiative fatigue. From organizational concepts like Open Classrooms to pedagogical trends like Madeline Hunter’s Essential Elements of Instruction [I have to admit that I still love this one], great new ideas that will transform education seem to come and go with stunning regularity.
In my role working with school districts across the country as Vice President of Learning and Development at Discovery Education, I sometimes meet teachers who are not ready to make the transition from using textbooks as a core instructional resource to using digital content to create dynamic learning environments. They feel the digital transition is a fad, or that they, their students, or their school district is not ready for such a change. Here is a sample of the pushback I hear:
“My colleagues and I aren’t ready for a digital textbook.”
“Our students don’t have access at home, so we can’t go all digital.”
“We don’t have the budget to go 1:1, therefore, we can’t go with digital textbooks.”
“Our students are losing their ability to communicate effectively because they have too much technology already in their lives.”
3 Reasons Why Teacher Buy-In is (Sometimes) Overrated
1. The Real World Isn’t Dependent on Teacher Buy-In
I recognize these are all legitimate challenges that need to be addressed. However, the fact remains that today’s world is a digital world, and in order for our students to be successful beyond graduation, they need an education that prepares them to operate productively in our society as it is.
This reality makes the digital transition not a fad or something we might be able to get to, but rather, an immediate necessity that cannot always wait for optimum levels of teacher buy-in.