This post originally appeared here as a guest post on A.J. Juliani’s blog.
In all likelihood, you know a few yabbits. They’re the people who can counter any great idea with “yeah, but…” before you’ve even finished presenting it. They don’t often like to change, or grow, or learn, and it’s hard to know how to respond to them at times. If you’re not careful, interactions with them can really rob you of your excitement for creativity and change in education.
Now I don’t think they’re in every school, but I’m comfortable claiming that they are in far more schools than they should be. As widespread as the yabbit seems to be, we need a plan.
I’d like to offer up 5 familiar “yeah, but…” phrases and explore a few hopeful suggestions for interacting with those colleagues who sometimes offer more negativity than you might like.
But here’s the thing about the plan: if we’re going to look at ways to turn folks around, we have to believe the best about them. We have to believe that people can change. It’s worth mentioning that that doesn’t mean we move forward naively. We certainly don’t need to assume that in 900 words I can turn around all the negativity on your campus or mine, but we do have to believe that with growth, we can do better (yes, we, even that teacher).
With that in mind, here are 5 common “yeah, but” phrases and a few hopeful ways to positively interact with those who choose negativity.
1) “Yeah, but we’ve always done it this way.”
You would be hard pressed to find a phrase that more clearly demonstrates fixed mindset in an educator that this. Although a lot of work has been done to clarify the ways that students benefit from growth mindset, when this rationale creeps up, it’s time for us to investigate how to develop a growth mindset in our staff. Here’s a great resource for ideas for doing just that. In addition, as an individual, think about ways you can help celebrate successes on your campus, especially when they result from trying something new that served students really well.
2) “Yeah, but I will have to work more.”
Unfortunately, the path of least resistance is well worn for some. This statement less likely to be communicated verbally and more likely to be seen in action. For that teacher who you notice continually puts in the bare minimum, think about asking him or her to collaborate on something that could benefit both of your students. Make sure you ask for help on something that you know that teacher feels capable at. Go out of your way to genuinely thank that person after the fact.
3) “Yeah, but it won’t work because of a problem with part X.”
Critical feedback, as long as it’s not negativity for negativity’s sake, can be a great filter for new ideas. This person is at least thinking critically about the ideas that have been presented at some point. Ask that person to help troubleshoot a new idea. If the person is any good at it, make that his or her job. If he or she is not, then coach that person up into a person who could make meaningful contributions to a team on campus. Making that person part of the team instead of a person who likely exists on the fringes could have a profound impact.
4) “Yeah, but I don’t benefit from that.”
The person who says this is at least thinking carefully enough to make this sort of assessment. Drive conversations back to the WHY that your school adopts. Maybe it’s a mission or vision statement. Maybe it’s a personal reason why you (or why the colleague) started teaching. Find an idea worth chasing and use it to re-center yourself and ask the colleague to join you.
5) “Yeah, but I don’t want to get better.”
Ok. They’re probably not actually going to say this out loud, but without using these words, they’re going to be saying this over and over. Try to start a conversation about what you’re learning. It might not even be something related to education at first. See if you can find common ground that relates to personal interests. Most people have something they enjoy that they like getting better at. That could be a place to start.
Here’s a quick check: Did you think “yeah, but…” as I asked you to think about adopting a new mindset for interacting with these comments from negative colleagues? If so, remember that. Even with the best intentions, it’s tough to change old habits. Doing so will take time and a combination of effort faith from you and the other person. While I hope that these ideas jumpstart conversations of hope for you, I know they’re not magic suggestions that make this effortless and immediately fruitful. For me, though, the growth over the long haul is worth it.
If you’re willing to take an active role in this process, you have the chance to redefine yourself at school and to help others redefine themselves as well. You have the power to be someone who positively and proactively interacts with others.
Before you move on to the rest of your day, think of one person who you can consider differently. Write down a name, and commit to growing yourself as you grow others.