Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dealing With School Change

Dealing with Change

In 1842 William A. Alcott, a now forgotten member of that legendary American family of letters, wrote a series of articles for the Connecticut Common School Journal, asking teachers across America to make use of the newest educational technology : He wrote: [and I quote] "A black board, in every school house, is as indispensably necessary as a stove or fireplace; and in large schools several of them might be useful."
He continues:
"Slates are as necessary as black boards, and even more so. But they are liable to be broken, it will be said, as to render it expensive to parents to keep their children supplied with them."
"[Why] are books necessary at all, when the pupils are furnished with slates? “

"Change" is a bitter pill to swallow.

As we all continue our work of leading dynamic 21st Century schools, how often does the preceding comment come back to haunt us? Anyone committed to innovating their schools will feel this twinge of regret when the first comments of resistance start coming in from teachers who are scared of doing things differently.

In Jennifer Miller's February 23, 2011 blog Leading Change, Change Management and the Law of Diminishing Returns, the following lines open the post:
"People HATE change.
They loathe and despise it. They see it, abhor it and team up to fight it.
Mind you, not all people, all the time. But certainly most people, much of the time."

This past school year, I decided it was time to move our school district towards a 1:1 learning initiative using personal technology devices and replacing the rarely used textbooks that our students haul around. The access to the Internet and exploiting the interest our students have for technology and researching their interests would have opened a new world of educational opportunities.

The plan was researched and developed by our administrators and teachers working collaboratively in planning every step of the transition. When it was announced, the naysayers came forward and began standing in the way. When we engaged these few teachers that were resistant and critical of the change effort in a collaborative forum, designed to discuss their concerns, the key themes coming from their comments were:

Teachers lack of classroom control.
Teachers inability to be the center of learning.
Teachers scared they will be unable to direct the learning.
Teachers scared they will not be able to be as tech smart as the students..

The greatest impediment to leading change in schools are teachers that lack the motivation to think out of the box. Teachers who will not let go of absolute control. They restrain children with emotional strings of fear keeping their students from pursuing learning on their own terms.

Have you ever observed a high school math teacher lecture a blackboard while explaining a problem?

The challenge of 21st Century schools will be to inspire and motivate teachers to truly be mentors of learning and not controller of absolute learning. As Heidi Hayes Jacobs reminds us, we need to risk doing new things if we wish to motivate children to become all they are capable of becoming.

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