Creating room for change

I’ve been thinking a lot about what helps create positive conditions for change. Having just had the opportunity to facilitate an online course on Coaching Innovation provided rewarding opportunities to reflect with others about change and how to support teachers in their complex job.

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I keep coming back to why change is so hard, and how do we create environments that nurture, encourage–and maybe even challenge people to keep improving how they approach teaching and learning.

Change is hard on any level. As I shared with course participants–in my limited experience of running, changing my foot strike felt awkward and clumsy. To adjust it took a significant amount of intentional practice, and quite a bit of feedback from others. I eventually did integrate the changes into my style but it took some uncertainty and frustration before I was satisfied, before it felt natural and became second nature to me.

How much more complicated is it with teaching and learning! Anytime I have made changes to something that has been part of my regular routine there’s been a clumsiness and awkwardness for a while–a noticeable dip in performance. This absolutely goes for teaching and instructional coaching which are so much more complex than any physical sport I can perform.
Dylan Williams inĀ Sustaining Formative Assessment with Teacher Communities
puts it like this:

“The collection of routines that teachers establish to get through the day are their greatest asset, but at the same time, a liability because getting better involves getting a little bit worse, at least for a while.”

In addition to pointing out that we need to expect the process of making changes to result in a short term drop in performance, Williams also advocates that we need to make room for those efforts by creating space for change–yes, we need to stop doing something and intentionally make room. I think that is one of the hardest things to ask school leaders and teachers to do because the things we currently do–particularly relating to students–are certainly important and we may also love doing them.

Maybe that’s why change IS so hard.

So, as you think about this coming school year, what will you stop doing so you can make room for improvement in another area? What will indicate success along the way even before you get over the performance dip?

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