One of my biggest learning moments this year has come recently when my mentor and I began having regular structured PRT meetings. Prior to this term we have had a flexible and fluid arrangement that meant we could go for over a month without meeting about PRT specific topics. However, each one of those meetings would conclude with my mentor saying, “Remember you can come and ask me if you need any help.”
The recent change to our meeting arrangement has brought one very clear fact to the fore: I have never learned to ask for help. The ingrained habit of waiting until I need help before asking has meant that I have missed dozens of opportunities to ask for help simply because I want to be better at something and feel able to ask for support in achieving that goal.
The small but significant difference in what motivates people (ME!) to ask for help, I think, can be identified thus:
Asking for help when you need it usually stems from a fear of failure and is associated with a sense of self-doubt and, for me, a sense of being a pain in the ass for the person whom I am asking (and my method of asking for help is usually prefaced with a lot of apologising for needing help in the first place).
Example: “I just don’t understand why this isn’t working, so, I know you’re busy and I’m sorry to be a pain but I just don’t think I’m doing the right things and I’m not sure what to do to make a difference…” etc. Add some more self-depreciating apologies and excuses for not independently having the situation under control… This vague and confusing method of asking for help can result in frustration for both sides. (I know because I have been on the receiving end of this method myself!)
Asking for help when you want it, before you need it, feels different. It feels like asking how to be greater and more successful tomorrow than you are today, and is combined with a sense of aspiration and purpose. In the last few weeks I have learned that this type of asking is usually met with enthusiasm and can even be a compliment to the person you’re asking to support you – people, including me and teachers in particular, love to help – especially when you are specific about what you want to achieve. If the person you ask can’t help, they will generally direct you to someone who can when you use this approach.
Example: “I haven’t collected any evidence of meeting Registered Teacher Criteria #11. What would this evidence look like and can you help me identify some quality examples?”
That’s it – simple and specific. I want this help, can you support me. There is no reason to feel like a nuisance if you are being responsible and proactively asking for help. This is a lesson (not just for teaching, but for life in general) I wish I had learned years ago. It makes all the difference to whether you have set-up your support network to wait at the bottom of the cliff, or whether you are working together co-constructing the wings you need to fly!
For information on high-quality co-constructed PRT induction click here
How do you ask for support and ensure you are reaching your aspirations, rather than just surviving? How are you teaching your students to ask for help in specific and constructive ways?