Leadership for any kind of change.

Please, Administrators of Canada (and probably the US and Australia, and South Korea, and New Zealand, and Morocco, and…), please stop jumping headfirst into change initiatives and expect your teachers to jump on with you as if they had been there from the start.

Do you know that some of the least effective PD (wish I could locate the references. I can’t so trust me on this one for now) EVER is when a small group goes out to a conference or training session and then tries to bring their learning back to their schools?

If you know this, then why is it still happening? More importantly, why is this model for PD still being offered? Especially with all of the different models that are available to us now through the technologies that are being advanced every single day?

You see, what happens is the marathon effect.

Chicago Marathon

It’s effect on organizations is described nicely here, in a passage from this document on transitions for sustainable social change:

People leading a change have usually already gone through their transitions and are ready to hit the ground running as soon as the change is announced. Others, however, are either just entering the Neutral Zone, or have not even made it through their Endings. They need time to arrive at their New Beginnings. Change leaders need to give them that time for adjustment and guide them through their transition rather than wonder why it’s taking so long.

Even worse is when this happens on a consistent basis. One year differentiated instruction, the next – learning with laptops, the next – SMART boards, the next – multiple intelligences, the next…
When this happens organizational trust is very low and you get a school of teachers who are doing their own things while the administration is cut off from what is really happening.

So. If I could whisper something in the ears of all of you who are in charge of professional development at your schools it would be…

…slow down. Honour time for transition. Find out what your teachers need and want in order to let their passion for teaching shine. Nurture it, celebrate it. By doing this you’ll create a climate of trust in your organization through which so much can be accomplished.

Remember, when you run a marathon there is only one winner. We can’t afford only one winner in education.

Leadership Day 2009, hosted at Dangerously Irrelevant

Leadership Day 2009, hosted at Dangerously Irrelevant


  • Tracy says:

    Thanks for your comments. I consistently see relationships between student learning, classroom learning, and organizational learning and you have just offered another. Definitely, if we expect teachers to have a ‘teaching voice’ we better darn well be sure that our organizations are honing theirs as well. Thanks for bringing that to light Marcy and Elona.

    A few years ago I read a book called From Good to Great by Jim Collins. He asked the question – why do certain companies become great while others don’t? The response was essentially that the great companies chose one thing they did well and focused on that. They quietly organized their energies around that one thing for years and proved themselves excellent at it. That’s how they all cross the finish line, Kelly.

    Simple. Requires soul-searching, patience, diligence. Again, we need to slow down.

  • Elona says:

    You’ve made an excellent point here. Schools can’t be everything to everyone. Schools do need to find their “mission voice”. My question is: if a school chooses to meet the needs of kids who are at-risk academically, how can they avoid the negative label?
    .-= Elona´s last blog ..Not being perfect is no excuse for not making videocasts =-.

    • Tracy says:

      By negative label do you mean that others will view them as a school for ‘special’ or ‘bad’ kids? I guess the key is to not care what others think. Or actually, to recongnize that others do think that and to be conscious of your actions.

      Let me explain. The students I teach were the ‘bad’ kids in the main school. They skipped classes, maybe did drugs, maybe were not very respectful to teachers and admin. If a student gets accepted into our program we keep them away from the main school as much as possible, basically taking them out of the environment where they started their negative habits. Of course, there are times when they need to go into the main school (to see the nurse, guidance, go to the library…) and we remind them that even though they are making changes everyone at the main school remembers them for what they used to do. We ask them to keep that in mind and not to give anyone any excuse to think that they are still involved in the same types of negative behaviours.

      So we control what we can – our own behaviours and attitudes – but beyond that there is nothing we can do. We can’t change other behaviours and attitudes than our own. We can only change how we react to them.

      I think the secret may be letting go, doing what we do best, and not allowing the attitudes to affect us because that will eventually affect our teaching and the work we do.

  • Marcy Webb says:

    Several years ago, when I transitioned to a different school after six years at my then-place of employ, I was struggling – both personally and professionally. I reached out to a colleague, who has become a friend in the process. One of the most valuable things she told me is that each teacher has to discover his/her “teaching voice.” I believe the same is true for schools. Too many schools attempt to solve every social ill, and to provide for every need, and, anyone who is in education knows that neither are possible. Therefore, each school needs to find its “mission voice.” What is its purpose? What, realistically is it able to do?
    .-= Marcy Webb´s last blog ..Using Social Media to Learn a Foreign Language =-.

  • Kelly Hines says:

    I’m so glad that you shared this post on Leadership Day 09 and I appreciate your marathon analogy. Instead of seeing the marathon as needing a winner, maybe we can focus on the accomplishment of having everyone finish it! I know that would be huge to see everyone just get across the finish line :)
    .-= Kelly Hines´s last blog ..Leadership Day 2009 =-.

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