School leaders and their staffs face change constantly, from small, incremental changes such as the rise of technology in the classroom to monumental changes like the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Within classrooms, teachers may want to introduce new activities, such as exit slips or turn-and-talks, that students are not familiar with. All of these changes require people to think and act differently. A phenomenal book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath, can help administrators and teachers introduce change in their schools and classrooms. Imagine peoples’ routines and attitudes as a large elephant with a small rider on top, lumbering down a jungle path. The Heath brothers describe managing change as a three part process: direct the rider, motivate the elephant, and shape the path. Successful change has to address all three of these elements.
If you are in the field of education, you are probably more than familiar with the acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). You may also have a strong opinion of the STEM movement, as it is one more initiative you may have to accommodate among several other current major overhauls of the public education system, such as the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the new teacher and principal evaluation requirements, and the new Smarter Balanced Assessment that is aligned to the new standards, just to name a few.
Over the last six decades, the American school system has been under fire and perceived as not preparing students well enough. It began with Sputnik and the race to the moon in the late 1950s and continues today as the Race to the Top, the Obama administration’s answer to school reform through financial incentives. Throughout the history of the American public school system, the need for change or reform is prefaced with a crisis.
Washington State ASCD recently published the article below, written by Duane, on their Critical Question Blog.
Why does it seem like everything in education is changing? And, is there a way to think about the work that could make the work more manageable?
During my teacher preparation program, I first heard the statistic from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future that half of all new teachers leave the profession within their first five years. My professor followed up that sobering piece of data with, “Teaching is a profession that eats its young.” Five years later, I’m officially part of that statistic. After four years as a high school English teacher, I left to join The BERC Group. It was a good move for me to come here. Of all the professional development I had during my teaching career (and in my district, we had a lot of PD!), my STAR training stands out as the piece that impacted my instruction the most. As a teacher, nothing helped me more than going into a colleague’s classroom for half an hour. I never failed to glean something from these observations that would later enhance my own practice. I admired the work The BERC Group was doing around Powerful Teaching and Learning, and I wanted to be a part of it.
But I was not prepared for the twin sensations of guilt and relief that overwhelmed me when I left teaching. Guilt because I’d given in. I’d become part of the 50% my professors warned me about. And relief because, during those four years of teaching, my life had turned into a juggling act. I had dozens of balls that needed to stay in the air. Lessons to plan. Students to tutor. Papers to grade. Phone calls to make. Paperwork to finish. Grades to enter. All of these tasks were absolutely necessary – and all of them took place outside of the school day. I was much better at keeping these balls in the air after four years of practice, but they still crashed around my feet more often than I would like to admit. When I left behind my classroom, I also left the constant dread of waiting for that crash to happen. A year later, and I am still processing both of these emotions.
Sign up to get our posts in your inbox.