3 Ideas To Inspire Change

#51 - Into The Fire

The talk of change in education is actually the one constant.  There is no doubt that education could and should get better, yet the reality is that when we state this about the system we work in, we can either be a part of the problem or solution.  Starting with what we do ourselves is the first step in improving schools.

Yet if we are to help move others, it is tough when work feels like “work”.  If your goal is to simply get a paycheque, and not changing will still get you to that goal and you are in no threat of losing your job, why change?  Many initiatives are thrown at us in education, yet there is no deeper reasoning “why” this is happening and people believe that simply waiting things out will mean that if you don’t change, you will eventually become relevant again.

In my last few years, I have really tried to help people bring an emotional connection to the work that they are doing so that it is moving from a job to “their passion”.  I do my best to help people feel invigorated in their work as leaders have created that same feeling for myself.  I am nowhere near successful as I would like to be, but everyday I continue to grow and learn.  I work quite a bit but it rarely feels like a job; I love what I do.  The work that I do is something that I want to do, not something I feel like I have to do, or even worse, feel like that it is something that is being done to me.

Focusing on helping people move forward as an administrator, I have done a lot to study “change” and what helps to move people.  Here are some of the things that I have tried to focus on in my work.

1. Strengths Based Leadership – It is really to find a person’s deficiencies, but it is imperative that you find their strengths and build upon them.  For example, let’s say I wanted to encourage blogging with staff.  It would be very easy to say something similar to:

“We need to start using technology in similar ways to what the rest of the world is doing.  It is important for our students that we start blogging.”

Or…I could say something like this:

“I was watching you with your students today and was so impressed in the work that you did in the lesson and how engaged the students were.  I wish other people in our school , along with the rest of the world, could see the work that you are doing because it would really help improve their own practice.  Would you be open to sitting down with me and writing a blog post to share what you did today?  I think so many people would benefit from what you have to offer.”

Interestingly enough, the end result is the same, but the focus on getting there is much different.  Showing people they are valued will go a lot further than simply pointing out their weaknesses.

2. Helping to define the “why” – I would honestly say that the Simon Sinek’s talk on how great leaders inspire action has been one of the most influential videos that I have ever watched and I refer to it often.  When any initiatives are implemented in schools, the first question I had as a teacher is “why do we have to do this?”.  If you are unable to articulate why you are doing what you are doing, is it worth doing?

If you want people to be inspired to move forward, creating a connection on why this will be better for students is imperative.

“…our behavior is affected by our assumptions or our perceived truths. We make decisions based on what we think we know.” Simon Sinek

3.  Autonomy and Purpose – Another hugely influential Ted Talk on my career was Dan Pink’s talk on motivation.  He talks a great deal in his books on the notion of autonomy in our work place:

“Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”

Often though his focus on “purpose” is often ignored.  Purpose is hugely important in moving people forward.  In my own work, I want to know that I am doing something bigger than myself and I am contributing to a greater good.  As leader, it is imperative that we help people understand their roles in making our vision come alive, not by them fitting into a space, but that their skills are what will take our organization to the next level.  I have talked before regarding the notion of “school teacher” versus “classroom teacher”, and I believe when we act as if these are all of our kids, schools will be a much better place, and educators will focus a lot more on improving what they do.

“One cannot lead a life that is truly excellent without feeling that one belongs to something greater and more permanent than oneself.”   Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Change for the sake of change is not a good idea, nor will it be sustainable.  We have to be able to help people build upon what they already do great, understand the “why” of change, and help them become a part of something bigger.  We also have to be comfortable with them moving from their point A to their point B, not expecting everyone to be at the same point at the same time.  Continuous learning and growth is what we should expect and embody.



  1. What a wonderful and thoughtful post! I needed to read this today! In these very challenging times in the field of education, it is so beneficial to be able to be inspired and encouraged by others.

  2. A great post today…..I’ve read Simon Senek’s book about finding the “why” and appreciate your additional comments on the subject.

  3. George,

    Fantastic food for thought. Thanks for suggesting to shift our lens and paradigm about our purpose and to focus on that which is bigger than ourselves.

    Steve Guditus

  4. Thanks for the insights and the link to the Simon Senek talk. It will be a great reference point for the middle school conference we are planning in our district!

  5. Thanks for the ideas. I strongly believe that the question “why” is not used frequently enough in education. What I mean by that is not simply to question why to move to dismissal of the idea, but rather to ask why to deepen as you suggest, to understand, reason and provide purpose for doing so. Through the work I am currently involved in with Steven Katz and my professional principal learning community I am developing a new awareness and understanding about the importance of why in my work with staff. We are looking closely at students who are struggling within parts of the area of our school math focus. We are beginning to narrow our focus, slowing down and not rushing to paint brush solutions, rather deepening our understanding by focusing on the “why” is it that some students are not understanding? This focus helps us to reflect on what pieces are they missing but more importantly what is the impact for me as the educator in my teaching? What is my need based on what I know about my student need. In this way, we as administrators need to reflect and look at the student and teacher needs, to help us determine how to assist the learning need of the educator, with the intention of not doing the heavy lifting and problem solving for the teacher, but rather to help them and support them to look at what is working and why and what isn’t and why. Once we are able to determine the problem of practice then we are able to address the strategies needed to make the changes. As administrator the primary role in all of this is intentional interruption of the status quo to help deepen knowledge, understanding and inform practice. We are working on making connections and deepening understanding of the learning for all of us and the key piece for me in all of it is being able to work within a network of administrators to help deepen my understanding and improve my practice as well.

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