The “teachers are resistant to change” belief – a few thoughts

I can’t remember when I heard “teachers are resistant to change” for the first time, but having been in this profession for over 25 years, I can assure you it was a long time ago. Moreover, It’s very likely that when I heard it for the first time, I either didn’t pay much attention to it or I might have thought it was true. I took parts in meetings and training sessions and whenever a teacher, or a group of teachers, presented arguments against a certain decision, procedure or idea, the ‘teachers are resistant to change’ came up, particularly when these teachers were ‘oldies’ in the group.


The repeated use of this sentence over the years intrigued me and then finally began to annoy me. Is it true that teachers are resistant to change? If so, why is that? Are changes always for the best? Does being resistant come together with being a teacher? Are teachers the only professionals who resist change? Out of curiosity, I ‘googled’ the statement and found several occurrences of this concept for teachers, but not as many for other professionals.


But among all these questions I kept asking myself, one bothered me the most: is resistance always bad? I can think of a couple of examples in which resistance is considered a positive thing, for instance ‘to resist temptation’, the ‘French Resistance’ in World War II, ‘The Resistance’ in Star Wars, but when it comes to work, resistance is always considered negative. When it comes to teaching, it is usually considered a sign that one is not open to new ideas or that one is inflexible, or incapable of accepting what is new, or even that one is too old and, consequently, unlike to welcome changes. Apparently, at least in my perception, there is an element of ageism related to this belief.


First of all, my point is that resistance is not exclusive of, or even more common, among teachers. It goes without saying that it is not only about our professional lives, either. It might be just a natural reaction as changes can very often cause some uneasiness and insecurity, but there might be more to it. Maybe it is more related to the fact that change is very often imposed, in a very top-down process. Sometimes, as far as education is concerned, teachers’ and students’ opinions and are not taken into consideration and communication of ideas is not always clear. Also, in a society that becomes more and more avid for novelties at a very quick pace, changes are sometimes proposed without clear goals, or without enough reflection or consideration for its pros and cons.


I am not saying that resistance is necessarily good, but that it is worth rethinking how we use this statement and how we react to it. When a teacher resists a certain idea or procedure, is it based on arguments? Or is it just because? If you are the one proposing to change anything, do you have solid arguments and can you communicate them clearly? Resistance, I dare say, can help proponents of a specific change see things in a different light and be positive in that sense.


I am a person who only believes in evolution, but I also believe in intuition and trust experiences. So, before criticising people who do not always welcome change, I propose listening to resistors with an open heart and mind. There must be a lot we can learn from them.


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Elaine Hodgson is a freelance teacher trainer and materials writer, as well as a supervisor on the Distance MA in TEFL at Birmingham University (UK). She holds an MA from UECE and a PhD from UFC in Applied Linguistics. You can read more about her work at Email:

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