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.

logo for GOA course

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 in 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?

3 ‘New’ Challenges as school starts

What is it about ‘new’ that is challenging? Why do some of us find ‘new’ easy, and others stress out? Here are three ‘new’ challenges (or changes) that I’ve been thinking about as the school year approaches:

1. New Technology

New versions and updates always get rolled out at the start of the school year (which does make sense.) Our Blackboard course has been updated and I’m glad we have the new version. However, right now I just want to update and add new material to my courses, and the new version has presented an extra barrier to getting ready for class. When we are coming to terms with new tech I’m sure our tech department must think we look like this….

How does timing impact the way ‘new’ learning challenges are perceived?

2. New Students, New Teachers, New Admin

colored ink painting

There’s usually some anticipation associated with introductions and getting to know new classes, new colleagues we’ll work with and new leaders. Will we connect? (Will they understand my accent?)

School is like a glass of water. Add a new person and their distinctive color does add a new dimension to the whole color scheme. Established systems have a familiarity and security that can be very comfortable but new people bring new ideas and fresh insight.

How can we embrace the new and honor the past?

3. New Educational Horizon

From individual challenges to school challenges to the biggest challenge for our whole profession; the relevance of the school system as I am part of it is most definitely something I know I need to keep thinking about. From The Partnership of 21st Century Skills.

The 21st Century isn’t coming; it’s already here. And our students have the opportunity and challenge of living and working in a diverse and rapidly changing world…schools must prepare our young people to understand and address global issues, and educators must re-examine their teaching strategies and curriculum so that all students can thrive in this global and interdependent society.
Global Competence is a 21st Century ImperativeDennis Van Roekel, NAE President.

As I re-examine what and how I teach, how much will I need to change to be relevant in this approaching new horizon?