I am a fan of both supporting the status quo and working for change too. It's the combination of the tried-and-true traditional ways and new, researched ways. You can't just give up on the past, but you can't ignore the need for change too.
Yesterday I came across a great article from the Harvard Business School, "Changing Company Culture Requires a Movement, Not a Mandate" by Bryan Walker and Sarah A. Soule, that speaks about making good change. I want to apply parts of this article to my work to advocate for positive change in schools.
Frame change in ways that gives meaning to work, conjures individual emotion, and incites collective action
The change I want to support is change that creates greater distributed leadership in schools so that the voice, choice, and leadership of all stakeholders is elevated. I often feel that the fact that educators' voices, choices, and leadership are not regarded with strength and respect, hinders the good teaching and learning possible. With greater ability to share ideas, problem solve together, and lead their work, I believe educators' ability to serve students will deepen and grow. This, in turn, will help more children get the thoughtful, targeted teaching they deserve. I can't capsulate this in a sound bite yet, and will listen carefully to what others have to say with regard to this change.
As I think on this topic more, and now that I'm back at school, I want to foster some good team discussion with my students about the change to a more committed and caring team.
Demonstrate quick wins
This is an important point for me as I often dismiss the quick wins and stay focused on the big picture. There have been many quick wins close to home when it comes to the change to more distributed models of leadership, a change supported by many educators and leaders throughout the country. Our grade-level team was able to change to a more collaborative model of teaching and learning, and this has helped us to serve students better. We've received financial and time support to forward better orientation and cultural proficiency efforts to better welcome and support our diverse student group. Further, our union has started teacher-administrator groups to study new initiatives together as well as to streamline and better our evaluation process. I want to listen carefully to my colleagues and think about my own needs to when it comes to this shift--where is the shift halted and where is the shift to a more distributed leadership culture supported. What quick wins are within our grasp, and what areas of positive change elude us.
As I think of the students, I want to focus on the "wins" more. In our newsletter, I believe we can add a short section which lists the week's accomplishments with words, images, and links that demonstrate the successful gains and endeavors related to student effort, interest, creativity, and perseverance.
The concept of positive, proactive networking was a main theme at this summer's NB Academy where we looked at countless ways that networks of committed NBPTS educators could work together to encourage and support more NBCTs. At the MTA Summer Conference, support for more networking was evident in the many organizational, academic, and leadership trainings available and open to teams of teachers. There are many ways to grow positive networks at school as one way to move towards greater distributed leadership. Deepening the work we do as a broad grade-level team that includes specialists, teaching assistants, administrators, students, and family members is the first network priority. Also work on systemwide, union, NBPTS, MTA, and other committees helps to build greater networking. I will listen carefully to the systemwide vision and goals at the start of the school year and think about how that matches colleagues', parents', and students' desire and enthusiasm for change. I wonder if a theme will emerge, a theme like the "good health can't wait" theme exemplified in the article.
Our school is currently in the midst of making goals, both individual, team, and school-wide, for the year ahead. I want to listen carefully and connect well with this process as I believe that good, inclusive, and collaborative goal setting has the potential to move our teams forward in ways that matter.
Create safe havens
Safe havens for positive change exist in our classrooms, at union meetings, during parent conferences, and at state-level union and department of education committee events. Our grade-level collaborative approach in many ways is essentially a microcosm for change since our collaborative approach is an example of how distributed leadership can work to support student learning and family support well. As the article suggests, this collaborative team is a "space where it's easier for people to embrace new beliefs and perform new behaviors." Also the new structures afforded by our new teachers' contract is creating spaces for greater distributed leadership and this is positive.
I am focused on the safe haven of classroom and PLC right now. In the classroom, I really want to work with students on teamwork, and with the PLC, I want to work on the ways we can target our teaching, leading, coaching, and support to help every child achieve in positive ways.
We created a symbol that quickly identifies the big ideas of our grade-level team approach. The symbol is a way to remind the educators and students of what matters with our efforts and how we integrate our work and time. Our symbol, as the article suggests, sends a message of "solidarity and unity." I wonder if there will be symbols shared to support our greater systemwide unity as a dynamic learning/teaching team. I will be thinking more about symbols as I move forward in this way of thinking and acting.
I will think about ways that students can create a symbol to represent our homeroom and our collective efforts to teach and support one another.
Challenge to leadership
The article states that "It's easy to overuse one's authority in the hopes of accelerating transformation." As I think of my desire for change and investment in vision-making and dreaming, I can see how I can be accused of this, yet also as the article states, "a moderate amount of friction is positive." So as I think about descriptors such as "overwhelming" and "causing tension" which can be found in my evaluations, I recognize that I do contribute to that positive friction, but I have been too singular in this, and not as conscientious of focusing on letting the actions speak more than the words.
The Art of Hosting describes as the chaortic path where innovation arises from that space between order and chaos or as the article describes as the place where the movement faces "resistance and experiences friction."
When I look at the work ahead, I can identify these places of potential innovation which are places of heightened stress and potential too, and as I identify these places, I will look for opportunity to work with others for positive change. Those areas include the following:
- processes for curriculum development, decision making, and change - how can we grow our programs with greater distributed leadership including substantial voice and choice from all stakeholders. It's possible that we may want to focus on one area of change and invite Dan Callahan in to lead us in The Art of Hosting Conversations to forward this kind of change in modern ways.
- processes for building more dynamic, inclusive, and transparent teams - how can we establish processes and efforts that maximize individual and collective voice, choice, and leadership that builds a more inclusive, transparent, positive, and successful learning/teaching team. Too often the voice, choice, and leadership of educators, parents, students, and other staff members is diminished due to outdated processes, ineffective structure, less transparency, little inclusion in decision making, minimal communication, and irrelevant, insufficient, exclusive and/or insignificant goals and vision. I have the chance to develop my own work in this regard as well as to support greater team building in the many teaching/learning groups I belong to.
This was an excellent article. It basically summed up a lot of the learning I've done in the past years with regard to teacher leadership, advocacy, organization, and good teaching and learning. I suggest that anyone who is interested in educational change and development read and apply this article to your work in positive ways.