Should We Train Our Whole Staff?

Last year Julie [not her real name] piloted the Riggs Institute's Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking curriculum in her 2nd grade classroom as well as in an after-school tutoring program for children who were struggling in grades 3-5.

When the administrators of her Charter School saw her results, they were extremely excited. Deciding to implement the Riggs program schoolwide, they ordered our training materials and had Julie lead a 30-hour professional development seminar for the entire staff. (They didn’t consult us first.)

Forty school days later, the complaints from previously resistant teachers had become intolerable, and I was not surprised to learn that some teachers were still insisting:

  • They already knew how to teach reading
  • The way they had been teaching reading before had worked just fine
  • The Riggs program is too much work for the teacher
  • The Riggs program is too much work for the students

Such complaints were inevitable . . . predictable. In spite of what Julie had  accomplished with her students, and for reasons known only to these teachers, they didn’t share Julie’s vision: they did not believe that this program works for every child, preventing the need for later remediation; therefore, they were neither willing nor ready to do what was necessary to prevent and correct reading disorders in their own classrooms. (They didn’t yet believe that they had the power to do that.)

Change is hard work for humans, and these very human teachers had not been committed to making this change before being pressured into taking Julie’s training, so they weren’t willing to do the work involved in making the changes that the administrators--and Julie--had wanted them to make. It's as simple as that.

It’s even possible that their resentment was preventing them from seeing what was possible. In fact, I think this is highly probably. My experience has been that forcing teachers to use this--or any--teaching method, rarely brings out the best in them; while getting professional training for those who are ready--and mentoring them until they become masters--makes many converts, which ultimately helps more children.

When teachers and administrators consult with us, we strongly recommend they:

  • Use a professional Riggs trainer (most humans prefer expert instruction)
  • Train only those who wish to learn
  • Mentor trained teachers as they implement the program
  • Don’t punish those teachers who are not yet ready
  • Wait

It may be difficult to wait--especially for those of us who understand the stakes for struggling children--but administrators are used to doing difficult things, and sometimes they must.

Should you train all of the teachers in your school? Yes, but only as they become ready for the training. 

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