Teaching Opinion

A Litmus Test for Meaningful Change in Schools

By Starr Sackstein — April 18, 2017 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The monthly full staff meeting just ended and it’s clear change is coming.

It’s not the kind of change that you’ve determined the need for, it’s the kind that is being done to you, the kind that is likely to be resisted if for no other reason than it wasn’t your choice.

Even though educational systems in general move very slowly and cyclically, schools within those systems seem to adopt new initiatives and programs readily, often not involving the stakeholders in the decisions to do so.

Unfortunately, however, for real change to take roots and grow, every stakeholder must be involved in a way that buy-in is high and implementation is universal. It’s the only way for real progress to be made and for growth to be necessary.

So how can administrations push out the kinds of change that are needed to improve student learning while garnering the kind of buy-in necessary from staff to make it viable for success?

First, it starts with beginning the conversation earlier than when the change is happening. As a group, the issue must be identified from the bottom up and agreed upon.

Too often there are many issues that need to be corrected at once and we try to do too much at the same time too fast. What ends up happening is that nothing changes except that staff and students get very discouraged and unwilling to do what needs to be done. It all feels too big.

Once the staff and students have discussed these challenges, schools should decide together with some kind of survey what should be addressed first. Prioritize the issues and then start to make a plan together.

Remember that not all people are ready for change at the same time and patience is necessary. Allow people enough room to become ready but gently urge them along the way. If administration are supportive, offering different kinds of professional learning experiences that differentiate the support and give learners adequate opportunities, then there will be more buy in.

Change happens slowly, but deliberate and effective growth will occur over time. Don’t give up on those slow to participate and don’t punish them either. Continually remind teachers that at the forefront of all our decisions is the best interest of our students.

Make sure to always check in with your staff and students to ensure that they understand the goals and that their concerns are heard and addressed. We need to truly listen to those who are making the change happen not only evaluate the efforts we see. Too often there is more happening that appears.

Much the same way student learning takes time and goes at different paces, it is so for adult learners as well. No one wants to do anything poorly, so offer time for teachers to reflect on their own practice and growth and let them share their ideas with each other and administration for the benefit of the whole.

As we continue to make meaningful change for the benefit of student learning, we must be aware of those folks we rely on to make the learning happen.

What can you do in your school to benefit the whole of the community when it comes time to make lasting change? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.