Slowing Down Change


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by kewl

Sometimes I wish that I had more great ideas. I wonder when an awesome idea will pop into my head or I will be inspired and I can share it with our staff and get them really excited about some new learning that can happen in their classrooms. Lately though, it just doesn’t seem the wheel are turning and I am starting to wonder why. I know that I have helped to push some great learning initiatives within our school division, but it doesn’t seem that there have been any new ones coming from my office lately.

So I started to wonder, “why is this happening?”

I started to look at the way I attend conferences and the articles that I read. My interest in information that goes outside of what we are doing already seems to be waning and I just do not have the time to read everything that comes my way. I also do not go to sessions that I don’t believe will make an impact on my work right now and I haven’t done anything “new” in awhile.

In my title, “innovation” is an important part of the description and to me, it means “new” and “better”. So I guess I am starting to understand why I have felt a bit stagnant. I am not really focused on “new” at this point until I see the work that I am doing is making learning “better”. In a role of leadership, I often hear teachers say things such as, “we can just wait for this to pass”, and to be honest, I do not want to bring initiatives to our division that people can just “wait out”. I want to bring initiatives to the division that are long lasting and transform the way that our students and staff are teaching and learning, not just bring in something flashy. I am watching teachers in my school division do some amazingly innovative things and I am extremely supportive of this. We need to allow our “innovators” to be innovative and I am always supportive of that.

It is important to be visionary and forward thinking but it is also important to be supportive and patient. The best leaders will find the balance between the two.

Change is good when it is needed and as leaders we should always be aware of trends in our world and education, but we also have to recognize when it is time to stay the course.

10 thoughts on “Slowing Down Change

  1. Tony

    Thank you for this post George! It is such a great point that those of us in leadership roles must remember – slowing down is a critical step in the change and growth processes. I really needed to hear this today – slowing down and continuing to push the initiatives that we have already put in place so they could be happening at a deeper level and they can be long lasting and far reaching is an important reminder. We don’t necessarily have to be doing “new” things but we do have to do the things we are doing WELL and slowing down helps that happen!

  2. grizman83

    Great post George! I am feeling the same way as an administrator for the past 13 years down here in Ohio in middle school education. The initiaives that are being implemented/mandated are good (in my opinion), but the timeline for their implementation of all of them at once is creating a lot of stress for teachers and administrators alike…we know what that is likely going to do to the students we work with if left unchecked. Finding balance, trying to ease stress, trying to assure that things will shake out and will be better if given an opportunity to do things well.

  3. Diana Williams

    Once again, you are spot on, George. “New and better’ does not necessarily mean “faster”-an important idea to remember, especially at this time of the school year.

    New ideas are generated from need. It is important to give teachers time and support to develop the ideas and innovative ways of teaching that have been put forward or are even already implemented. The support piece is so crucial and so often left out, which results in “innovation apathy” because teachers are inundated with “the next big thing” but have little support to try or implement these new ideas.

    Once the time has been spent working with the innovation (whether it is an idea or tool) the need for further innovation and change will emerge from that process. Time to reflect and to try and idea more than once is important in the process of getting better and will allow those next innovations to emerge. Jumping from one idea to the next simply for the sake of being innovative is no better than being stagnant and doing things in the same was that has always been.

    The phrase an inch deep and a mile wide so often represents what we do as educators when we bounce from one idea to the next, never really giving the great ideas enough time to develop into something truly transformative.

    Sometimes the feeling of stagnation is not because we aren’t moving forward, its because we are not moving deeper and really examining our practice. We can continue to wade through the murky edgewater, trying idea after idea, or dive into the deep where the water is clear and really discover the depths of our thinking.

  4. Antonio Vendramin

    Hi George, thanks for this great post. I’m glad I am not the only one who feels this way. This is a great reminder to leaders in schools that people need time to not only adopt innovation but to make sure that innovation becomes a regular part of their practice. Seeking out and piling on more “new” can get people very overwhelmed.

  5. stan mcmichael

    I’m an assistant principal near Atlanta in an high poverty school. I try to write a blog called balance but I’m changing it to Life-fit from a blog I read this morning. Our teachers are not only battling with teaching but being our students mothers and fathers. We have to take care of so many social emotional issues everyday it’s hard to fit education into the time frame. On friday, I had 2nd graders learning how to blog one minute and had to restrain a student a few minutes later. The social work drains you soul because we can only do so much for our students.
    I follow you on twitter and many days I say how do you write, speak at conferences, attend conferences, and keep your schools going so for you to write slow down means a lot. My wife is a librarian and we both struggle with having time for our students and attempting to keep up a blog, twitter, and keep innovating. Sometimes it’s a thankless, profitless job that makes it very hard to find a balance. I personal think I was put on this earth to do what I do, but it’s really hard to convince some of my teachers to push on, innovate, and try something out of your comfort zone. They just don’t see the benefit in it. How do you motivate your teachers to forge on in a time of massive change with common core, 21st century learning, and at my school Cafe Reading too? Any Wisdom?

    1. Diana Williams

      Hi Stan,
      I just had to reply-I’m not sure of the etiquette of replying to comments on other people’s blogs, but I can completely relate to what you have said. I have worked as a teacher in an inner-city school with highly under-resourced families for many years and it truly does drain your soul at times. What we have done at our school is to find ways to make connections as a staff outside of school time. We make time to go out together and do fun staff events (like bowling, comedy club nights etc.) We have wellness activities come to the school-like Zumba and yoga. We get to know each other, have some fun and bond over jokes and a shared history. We find ways to fill up that soul that has been drained. As a result, we are a very close knit staff that rely on each other to support and help each other through those really tough days.

      The other thing that we keep forefront in all we do is that these are first and foremost, children that we teach. Meet them where they are. Feed them, clothe them and help them with their emotional needs as best we can. If it’s not an “innovative teaching and learning day” then so be it.

      I have found that taking on one project at a time and doing it well is so much easier to do than changing everything all at once. Start small and support your staff to feel successful with one goal. The change in mindset is way more important than the product. I started with Daily5/Cafe and once that was going well, added blogging etc. Now we are moving on to some really interesting and innovative projects. Give time for the mindset to change and then with support and encouragement, the innovation will emerge organically.

      I wish you all the very best, it sounds like your staff is very lucky to have your leadership!

  6. Kelsey

    Your post resonated with me in two ways: filtering information and applying meaningful initiatives to the classroom. Lately I’ve been expanding my online PLN and while its great, it can be exhausting to keep up with the flow of information. There is just so much out there and it takes time and a critical eye to focus on what impacts our day to day work. However it’s great to see that your focus is on initiatives that would impact student learning in a positive way. This year, I’ve tried some new technology based tools with my students but I’m not sure if they’ll stick (for them and me) as they may not have hit the mark. Often something I think is great the kids will use once and never think of again. For instance: I’ve been trying to get my grade 9s to buy in to Diigo for research and its just not flying. The whole concept of connected learning is just so foreign to them – even though I work in a 1:1 environment.

    I’m curious if you have some criteria (informal) you use (in your information sorting) to determine which ideas could be turned into classroom initiatives? What do you look for to make student learning better? How do you take into account student perception of new tools / strategies?

    I suppose we do have different target markets: from your post and position you have to also manage staff buy in, let alone student buy in. A challenge for sure!

  7. Nelda LeCroy

    I think you do have to slow down sometimes. Sometimes you have to let changes, innovations simmer…like soup or chili. Then it’s better. I know that when too much is thrown my way, I tend to stagnate before discouragement sets in. Don’t let it go there. Just roll with the resting, reflecting. That is a big part of the learning process.
    I really respect your work and your ideas. :)

  8. TJ Catalanotto

    What is your message here? Slow down to take in all that is around or frustration about a lack of new ideas? Having only followed your blog for a short time (thank you for sharing your thoughts, ideas, learnings and resources) do you look outside schools for ideas? Outside education I mean? Business gets so caught in the business world, education falls into the same trap, sport too could we all learn something from each other? You never know when a business principle or problem helps us look at education in a new light. Just a passing thought.

Comments are closed.