What are you doing with your “rocks?”

A few weeks ago my school district was visited by a team of educators from the Hallsville R-IV School District. Since my district is in year two of implementing Professional Learning Communities, we are interested in hearing from other districts on how they got started and their advice as we move forward.

Though there was a lot of great information and advice shared, there was one particular conversation that really stuck out in my mind. As we talked about moving forward with PLCs, the topic of resistant and unresponsive staff came up. As with any new initiative or process, success or failure ultimately lies with those who are actually implementing and seeing the initiative through.

I think if you have ever worked in a school system, you know that there are those staff members who never seem to be “on board,” and wish to view everything in a negative and pessimistic way. These so called “rocks” can derail any initiative well before it even gets started regardless of how good it may be. These “rocks” can become permanent roadblocks to growth in any system, and if not addressed both delicately and appropriately, will slowly eat away at the heart of any organization.

@shannoninottawa wrote a great blog post titled, “If we don’t water the rocks…” and she makes a point to focus on trust and finding out why those rocks are resisting. Shannon insists that if we don’t “water the rocks,” then we are choosing “the easy way out and nobody learns and nobody moves forward.”

As part of the #edfocus book club chat that takes place every other Wednesday, we read Anthony Muhammad’s “Transforming School Culture: How to Overcome Staff Division.” The book categorizes members of an organization into 4 different categories: the believers, the fundamentalists, the tweeners, and the survivors. Muhammad really emphasizes the importance of knowing who you are, as well as who your colleagues are in terms of these 4 categories. Here is a great blog post written by @cmcgee200 that relates to this book and a situation that happenend to him; “Don’t forget your place.

What are you doing with those “rocks” at your school? Do you take Shannon’s approach and work with them to understand them and their reasons for resisting, or do you move on and use your limited amount of time and resources on those who are more willing? What do you do with those “rock” students…do you only help those who are easily taught, or do you commit the extra time to really find out what’s causing the resistance?
Time, energy, and resources are limited… use them wisely.

This post is cross-posted at Life of an Educator by @justintarte




  1. Aaron Akune said:

    Justin, you raise some good questions here. I don’t think there’s a simple answer to it however. I think it depends on the nature of the initiative, who the initiative involves and whether any of the ‘rocks’ are required to be participants or at the very least supporters. As much as I think it’s always useful to approach the ‘naysayers’ and try to understand why they are so opposed to an initiative, I also believe that when we are able to move the critical mass the ‘opposers’ become quiet. When the opposers are quiet, it allows those who are cautiously open to new ideas to engage and experiment. Once the critical mass is on board, often times those who are initially most negative, silently come on board as well. It may happen with some degree of reluctance on their part but when you see this happen you ca be pretty confident that the initiative has gathered some serious momentum.

    The only way to know whether you should take the time to understand the rocks or to simply move forward with the willing participants is to know your personnel and know the best way to get the critical mass on board. It’s safe to say, it’s much easier said than done!


    December 26, 2011

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