Let’s face it. We all hit a rut sometime.   Instead of seeing possibility, we see only challenges, especially if we feel like we’ve tried everything. As the school’s instructional coach for the day, I was walking into a room of willing teachers, but whose mindset was one of “I can’t” anymore.   I had to use a thinking tool to shift the energy in the room from “I can’t” to “I can; and I will.” .

Together with a small group of teachers, we had successfully piloted a framework for teaching students how to write strong body paragraphs using the acronym M.E.A.L (Main Idea, Evidence, Analysis, Linking Sentence). Now it was time to introduce the framework to the “other teachers”, aka the resistant teachers. The teachers involved in this writing project were fearful that all their hard work would easily be dismissed by the other teachers as another “thing to do.” After 10 minutes of hearing them kvetch, I suggested, “Hey, let’s do a SWOT analysis of the issue.” “Maria, what the heck is SWOT?”

SWOT is an acronym that stands for




Threats). It’s a simple way to get a group of people to see possibility amidst challenging situations. I affirmed to the group: “I’m sure we can find a way to get these teachers on board.” They assured me: “Maria, you don’t understand, we’ve tried introducing other ideas to them.   We always get shot down and we’re back to square one.” I kindly acknowledged their cynicism and sense of defeat, but retorted with one of my all-time favorite phrases I learned from an esteemed colleague: “Let’s just suspend disbelief for now and see how this works. We’ll spend the next five minutes identifying the strengths of M.E.A.L. Another 5 minutes on weaknesses. I gave them the following prompts:

  1. What are the Strengths of M.E.A.L?
  2. What are the Weaknesses? What could go wrong?
  3. What opportunities exist?

Agiri Variation

  1. What is the biggest threat to this plan? What is the threat that our resistant teachers feel?


The results were outstanding. We determined that the biggest threat to making M.E.A.L a school wide practice amongst resistant teachers was not enough time to practice a new strategy before being evaluated. We decided teachers would have a full month to practice the strategy with targeted supported. The team also thought decided to pair up with one resistant teacher they were friendly with and offer support.

The benefits of SWOT also enabled us to identify weaknesses within the M.E.A.L model allowing us to anticipate where other teachers would struggle with implementation. For example, M.E.A.L hadn’t been adapted for English Language Learners. We consequently developed helpful sentence starters with scaffolding writing tasks to address this concern.

Don’t let challenges stop you from thinking about possibility. SWOT is a powerful and quick way to get your team on board. Think of an ongoing challenge at your school. Download our free SWOT template and pre-plan your questions.   Trust that your team can determine innovate and viable solutions to your challenge. Let us know how it goes!

Interested in other ways to motivate your team to get results? Set up a time to chat with us. This kind of work is what we were meant to do and love.

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