“To survive the changes along the way it will demand that you be resilient, flexible, open to learning, innovative, confident, optimistic, and all the while devoid of stress to maintain your energy for the long haul.” – Marcus Buckingham -First Get Good–Then Get Better – http://www.buildingfutureleaders.com/
While in the private educational sector, I was fortunate enough to see Marcus Buckingham speak live many times. With all excellent business speakers, I try to apply the best business and leadership practices to educational leadership. Every time the authors reference “managers” I think of “principals.” In Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman 1999 best Seller; First Break All the Rules, the authors conducted in-depth interviews with more than 80,000 managers at all levels and in companies of all sizes. The Gallup Organization’s Buckingham and Coffman reveal what excellent leaders (managers) do slightly different from traditional leaders is coax the highest performance out of their employees.
Great leaders/managers, write Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, regularly break all the rules. They take the traditional wisdom about human nature, and managing people, and think about it differently. They do this in order to facilitate constant change. For a video summary of the book, please see: First Break All the Rules – Video Summary
For us, as school principals, to initiate “transformational educational practices” we need to discard conventional rules. I am not talking about the old saying of “thinking out of the box.” I am saying to start transformational educational practices; one needs to throw out the box!
Let me acknowledge that there are school district and governmental policies, legislation, and collective agreements that we can not overlook. In the book, the authors make it clear that we must adhere to certain company policies and procedures and contracts. For us in educational leadership, this makes transformational change, even more fascinating.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Perhaps there is no sector as ready for disruption and innovation as the education sector. Blended learning is an example of an innovative educational disruptive strategy that is filling the gap between what traditional classrooms provide and what is possible. Students today are supported with massive online resources that have the freedom to include only the best material from the best people. In this high-speed internet world, educational innovators are the new gatekeepers.
Transformative change in education is primarily about communication. When communication shuts down, so does innovation. Lack of communication is not due to a lack of money, talent, or resources. One critical factor missing in many unsuccessful educational change initiatives are interpersonal relationships. Schools that have difficulty changing, traditionally have staffs that either do not have time to talk to each other or do not know what to talk about. If our schools are not innovating, it is likely because no one is facilitating the right conversations.
Transformative educational change is about taking baby steps so you can do something big tomorrow. Bill Gates said, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” The tinier the step, the better. If it is small, it might get done. If it gets done – and then so does the next day’s tiny step, and the next – well, then you have some transformative change momentum starting. You can do amazing things with a little momentum. The leadership challenge is to get the ball rolling in the first place.
What are some baby steps that can start the conversation and start building transformative change momentum? One way to start is by looking at your school’s assessment practices. Do not confuse assessment with grading. At my current and previous high schools, we were able to implement no percentages on report cards allowing for only letter grades for grades 8 and 9s to indicate student’s learning. This occurred early in our change process. This little loophole in the educational legislation allowed us to start the conversation about our assessment practices and was a small step towards transformative educational change.
Have teacher’s start their change process with one lesson, one small teaching unit. We did this, and our teachers began to change their assessment practices. At the same time, we offered our teachers’ professional development, collaborative time, and we took care of all the student and parent concerns about the new assessment practices.
This little step ignited a series of other simultaneous small steps. Some of our other small steps included: teacher professional development (on assessment and the new curriculum), teachers collaborating on new teaching practices, and enabling teachers to team-teach. Teachers felt it necessary that the physical classroom structures matched their teaching style (Inquiry and Makerspace). Therefore, we moved furniture around and bought some new furniture. Teacher’s asked for more technology for their students, and we were able to supply it. Finally, another critical factor to transformative educational change is that teachers started to feel safe to try new teaching strategies without fear of repercussions from the administration, students, or parents.
Another simultaneous first tiny step is starting the process of changing the educator’s mindset to that of an Innovator Mindset. Similar to the growth mindset, which is an imperative and vital to transformative educational change, the innovator mindset may be more foreign to some educators. We will look at the educator’s innovative mindset journey in upcoming blogs. In the meantime, check out George Couros (George Couros ). George is an excellent blogger and speaker on educational innovation. He may not remember me; I drove him around our Surrey School District during one of the many times he has spoken in our School District.
Guiding Principle: “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” Albert Einstein.
Share your thoughts: What has to change in the educational system that will allow you take that first small step toward transformational educational change?