To change, or become different, is uncomfortable for some. Others thrive in it. Change can seem scary. It signifies newness. When there is change, what was once comfortable doesn’t look or feel the same. But without change, growth does not occur. This is why I think change is worth the risk.
So WHY change or do things differently when “this is the way we’ve always done it” (TTWWADI) seems to work? I wrestle with this question almost every day. It is often the toughest question to find the answer for. For me, change comes somewhat easy. I once shared with a friend that rearranging my living room furniture every few months feels good. Somewhere in the rearrangement of the furniture comes a different view, a different perspective, a different way to look at things. Although this is a small risk, it helps me keep the bigger things in life in perspective. So for me, change is not a huge undertaking, but for some, it is a giant roadblock. When working with others, I approach change with an open mind and try to be empathetic.
For me, the burning questions are,
Without change, HOW do you know “it” is really working? HOW do you know there isn’t a better way unless you make a change?
Dr. Brad Gustafson (@GustafsonBrad) and I recently had a conversation centered around change in the classroom. What change comes first, pedagogy or the learning environment? I thought to myself, no brainer, of course pedagogy. The pedagogy of a teacher who uses a compliance approach to teaching must change before bean bag chairs and tables instead of desks can be effective in their classroom. Right?
“Consider this…” Brad says,
If a teacher who leans more towards a compliance based approach opts for flexible learning spaces, they might be in a position to embrace student empowerment.
BAM!!! Just like that my mind was blown. Yes, I thought. He’s right. Just like my furniture rearrangement in my house…when it changes I see things in a different way. He continues to say,
…if in a position to embrace student empowerment a teacher’s pedagogy might be challenged then THIS is GOOD!
For me, change in the classroom is:
- for education to always be evolving.
- for students to own their learning and be an active partner in their education.
- for students and teachers to #becomebetter together.
- for teachers to model change and take risks.
We have to start somewhere. It doesn’t matter if it is as simple as adding flexible learning spaces or as revolutionary as redefining pedagogy. As Brad says,
If it leads to a small student win it’s better than not starting at all.
Great post, Melanie. Rearranging my living room furniture is very hard for me. But—Just like having you as a friend in my PLN—Change is best when it’s what’s best for students. In a world changing so quickly (and increasing speed every day), we must be flexible to connect with our students, whatever it takes. Can’t wait to read more…
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OK, Pal. So here’s some push-back: Do you think that change — particularly when it comes to your professional work in schools — is easier to embrace because of the way that you are “held accountable” for your work?
Here’s what I mean: As a teacher, I’m genuinely held accountable for only one thing: Test scores. As an ITF, test scores are about the last thing on your mind! Not judging — that’s a great thing. But it’s not my reality.
The truth is that as much as our district likes to say that test scores are only one measure of success, they are the ONLY measure that we ever talk about in staff development sessions or that we ever publish in the paper. Heck, our superintendent likes to talk about how important it is to embrace the 4Cs, but at the end of every video, he finishes with something like “but we can’t ignore test scores.”
That emphasis on the wrong kinds of accountability makes it difficult for me to embrace change. Even though I know that the 4Cs matter more to my kids than doing well on our state’s end of grade exams, the truth is that no one holds me accountable for 4Cs work. But if my test scores stink, all hell breaks loose in my life! And given that there is no connection between mastering 4Cs work and doing well on knowledge driven end of grade exams, walking towards more progressive practices is extra risky.
Here’s another thing that rubs me the wrong way: When we talk about changing schools, we always look to teachers first. When will we hold the people responsible for #edpolicy decisions accountable for implementing changes that matter? After all, with a few simple changes, #edpolicy makers could create the kinds of conditions that facilitate and incentivize the kinds of changes that we need — but they don’t. And we are all somehow OK with that.
Change really can be easy — you’re right about that. But not when the stakes are super high and when the people who “supervise” you do nothing to support those changes. Teachers aren’t adverse to change. We are adverse to risky changes. It’s the job of school leaders to reduce those risks — and I don’t see enough of that happening at any level in education.
(And no pressure: But when you get your first school, these are the kinds of things you are going to have the power to address first hand!)
Does any of this make sense?
I appreciate your thoughts and taking time to share them with me and many others. Perspective is important to keep in my mind when sharing our stories. Here are my thoughts:
I do agree that “change” for me may be easier to embrace than for a classroom teacher. I also agree that “when we talk about changing schools, we always look to teachers first” can be the focus. I also know that when I was a classroom teacher my students test scores were not a “make or break” way of holding me accountable. I was encouraged to take risks if it benefited my students. So I did take many risks.
I hear everything you are saying. I can’t possibly know or presume to know, how being evaluated based on test scores feels. But… I do know a few things. I have an administrator who does support change. Not just for the sake of changing but one who truly believes change is necessary to provide the best education possible. He models this by supporting teachers in many different ways. Our PD is not what he thinks teachers need. It is PD put together with teacher input. It is time to explore. It focuses on Teachers as students and Learner Agency exploration. He also models by supporting flexible learning spaces. He has worked closely with our PTA to help guide money towards classrooms designed around collaborative spaces and instruction supporting the 4Cs. This administrator also models risk taking. He is a cautious risk taker who puts himself out their to support his teachers and do what’s best for the students.
I do think it would be more difficult to encourage teachers to take risks if I was in a school that did not support or model change.
I have a few questions for you: Is it possible to “embrace the 4Cs” AND still achieve high test scores? Is it possible to evolutionize education before revolutionizing education? and lastly, If you don’t have a leader willing to model/support change and risk taking, could it be time for a change in your life?
Let’s continue to tackle this subject. It’s one that I think is important for educators to continue to talk about.