“I already know this activity”

January 23, 2023


If I would ask you to name one colleague who has a negative impact on team meetings or discussions, would you be able to do that? I think you can. This is a challenge for many colleagues and organisations alike. After all: what can you do with colleagues who claim to 'know it all'?

Estimated time to read this article: 9 minutes

During a training session some time ago, a colleague entered 10 minutes late. Without apologising.

Soon after, she was looking at her phone instead of doing the task I asked the teachers to do, which in this case was thinking of an application of a specific CLIL activity for their lesson.

Her response to my question about why she was not participating was: “I already know this activity and it doesn’t work for me”.

And with that, she ended the discussion and did not seem to want to participate, no matter what I said.

Later on during the training, she recognised a topic she wanted to say something about and started ranting and preaching as if she was the only one who knew how it worked. 

Instead of using her vast knowledge and experience to help out fellow teachers, she would focus on the fact she already ‘knew it all’ and it was ‘not new’.

Afterwards, I discussed this attitude with her superior. The response I got was: “that is the way she is”.

This raised a couple of personal questions:

  1. 1
    What would you say to students if they behaved unprofessionally and their response was: that is the way I am?
  2. 2
    What does the way she acted say about the way she teaches? In my opinion, a teacher is always a role model. Students copy everything they see, so if this is the attitude she shows, students will think this is normal behaviour.
  3. 3
    What kind of influence does this one colleague have on the feeling of ‘team’?

1. Student expectations

I think we want to show students what it is like to be professional, respectful and constructive. Call me naive, but this is something I expect of students. And I will call them out if they act differently. 

The same applies to fellow colleagues. If they act unprofessionally, that is something I would like to talk with them about. 

These conversations are sometimes hard but essential to good cooperation within an organisation.

Students might sometimes have trouble separating their actions and their own persona and as a result, feel offended when you correct their behaviour, but adults should be able to distinguish between the two.

This does not need to be negative. In fact, I once coached a teacher-in-training and he eventually became a friend, despite the fact I would provide quite a bit of feedback on his professional way of working. Personally, we got along very well, and he developed into a great teacher who students really appreciate.

Because it was done respectfully.

Key Take Away

If done respectfully, one can have professional discussions about expected behaviour.

2. Students as mirrors

When I was still going through teacher training myself, someone compared students to bloodhounds, referring to the fact that if you show them a little doubt, they will smell blood and eat you alive.

Not the most positive image of students in general, but the point is valid in a way. Students will often test you to see if you are up to the task. And that is perfectly fine.

But once you’ve gotten past this initial stage, you get to the point where students start copying you. In a sense, they are mirrors.

When I teach, I speak at the same tempo as I would normally talk. And I make jokes, walk around a lot and tend to deviate from the topic.

In other words: I am not the most zen teacher around.

Which reflects on my lessons. Students tend to be active, feel like they can contribute to discussions and are having fun. At least, I hope so.

Obviously, this can easily change into a bit too much fun and energy. For me it works like a charm to simply change my tone of voice (speak slower and lower) and stand still. 

The class will respond almost instantly.

They will copy my energy and slow down. Or at least, most of them will. There is always one that doesn’t.

Now it might be a bit much to state that I am personally a role model. But in general, I think one can argue teachers are role models of sorts.

And the way we act, the way we communicate, the way we say things, they matter.

They show students what can be expected of them.

And if a colleague is showing the previously described disrespectful behaviour, I hope she is very different when she is in front of a class.

Because what she does also matters. It has an impact. Both on the students, on the fellow teachers in the training sessions and on me as a trainer.

Key Take Away

Students mirror your actions. If you are constantly moving, you cannot expect students to be completely silent and sit still all the time.

3. Team processes

I think you probably recognise this: if one person in the group is very negative about the training, it has a negative effect on the entire group.

It could trigger others to join in this negative behaviour, or make people who might actually be positive feel reluctant to respond.

“I hope he does not join my group”

Years ago I followed a professional development training and I knew I wanted one colleague to not be part of my group. If he would join my group during the training, I knew he would only start complaining and be very counterproductive.

While I thought the training was useful and interesting. 

Just the thought of him joining my group already made me feel uncomfortable.

And that is a shame.

This is the impact one person can have.

This is the impact you as a person can have.

Key Take Away

Having a person within the team with a negative attitude can harm the learning of others.

So, what can you do to prevent this?

My go-to tactic would be: to discuss this in the open. Or private, whatever you feel works best.

Simply mention what you see and hear and what the effect of this has on you as a person or trainer.

I didn’t do that last time, because the teacher ran off immediately after the training so I could not ask her to stay for a chat.

Next time I visit this school I will pay more attention to her attitude and respond if I think her behaviour has an impact on the group.

Experienced CLIL teachers in a CLIL training

You might wonder what this all has to do with CLIL, so I’ll circle back to the beginning of this post to clarify that.

I often encounter teachers who are quite experienced already in training sessions that are about CLIL, maybe even beginners' sessions.

I completely understand teachers might be a bit reluctant at first, as they might have already heard about CLIL before. They might even have had training on CLIL before (and yes, this has happened).

Yet, in my experience, those teachers walked away with a lot of inspiration.

Despite the fact that the activities I shared were something they had heard about before.

Maybe even tried before.

Because you don’t learn to do CLIL by just listening to it. Or reading about it.

Just like you don’t learn a language by just listening to it.

You learn how to use CLIL by doing it.

And that is what I do during my training sessions. I practice what I preach and make sure teachers experience the activities themselves.

If the teachers are willing to join in, this can create really inspiring sessions.

Even if teachers already ‘know the activity’ or ‘know what CLIL is’.

Because every day is different, every class is different, every student is different.

Sure, I have my own set of favourite CLIL activities. And I use those on a regular basis. In the same class.

Students don’t mind and I notice it has quite an impact.

What do you think? Do you recognise this? Let me know in the comments below!

And if you want to talk about working together to improve the quality of the CLIL lessons of your team, please fill out the contact form and we'll be in touch!

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