The First Step to Change

I get a lot of emails asking about creating the conditions for change and recently was asked, “As a new principal, what is the first step to create a better learning environment in our school?”

Here is my answer…do nothing.

Too many times people walk into buildings and have some great ideas and they start trying to tweak this, and change that, etc., yet that often alienates the people that you want to get better.

What I would strongly suggest is that you sit back, watch, learn, and figure out what people are great at already and build from there.  You will build relationships and people will trust that when new initiatives begin popping up in your school that you already value their skills and abilities.  Also, this will create a team approach as opposed to the “admin vs. teacher” culture that is prevalent in many schools.

“It takes far less energy to move from  first-rate performance to excellence than it does to move from incompetence to mediocrity.”  Peter Drucker

  • http://www.dailytechbytes.wordpress.com Debra (@teacherdebra)

    Excellent advice! Thanks for posting.

  • http://www.technicallyteamann.com @8amber8

    Simple, but powerful…

  • Shelley

    Great advice! I was just working on a post about change…I will be at a new school in the fall. :)

  • http://ideesekpaidefsis.wordpress.com/ Nicholas Fragkias

    School is a place where the students go and receive the education that are obliged to have in mind according to national curriculum. Education is something that every human can have wherever he is and via the way and the time he is able to afford. You see, in 30′s or 40′s etc, a teacher used to be the unique spring of knowledge in every village, but today, students can have knowledge from mass media, from internet, from iPods, iPads etc. Thus they believe they don’t need school anymore. That’s why, to my oppinion, they love education but they hate school. Perhaps we have to transform the way that school operates. Perhaps we have to change the way we give the knowledge. I don’t know. Things change rapidly. The way that school operates seems that cannot follow the changes. Students want something new. Are we able to follow their dreams and the way that they dream a new school?

  • Frank J. Hagen

    As an Adjunct Professor at Wilmington University teaching in the Educational Leadership Program, I always tell my graduate students to STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN when they have their first administrative position!

  • http://willrichardson.com Will Richardson

    I’d say the first step is developing an informed personal context for leadership that fully understands the complexities of this moment as it relates to learning, education, teaching, etc. Then sit back and observe. Two different leaders coming from two different contexts may have two very different ideas of what “great” practice is. While it’s difficult to argue that there is *one* new context that all ed leaders should frame their practice around, I do think we can make the case that it has to involve a deep commitment to developing self-directed, self-organized learners who flourish with technology and networks to grapple with serious, authentic questions that interest them, and that they create bona fide solutions to those problems that have application in the real world. Through that lens, “great” classroom practice is very different from how we might traditionally think about it.

  • http://kdurham.com Kenneth Durham

    Sound advice. The only thing that I would amend is while you “do nothing” get out if your office and connect with the people in the building. Ask questions, listen to their stories, build relationships. Find where the ground is fertile and where it will need some work to prepare for the future.

  • Ted McCarthy

    I agree – to a point. As someone who is about to start as a new principal in July, my plan WAS to go in and observe, observe, observe. And while I still plan to do that, I will be thinking about this article I read recently in EdWeek about how the new Pope has approched his new leadership role.

    http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/leadership_360/2013/03/leadership_transitions_lessons_from_pope_francis.html

    The author makes the point that you can be “humble” and also make it clear what you stand for and believe.

    “Know yourself and be yourself. If this is not the first work, credibility will not follow. Trust cannot be generated.
    Your actions communicate your values. Be conscious of what you do. Say what you mean and live it.
    Every child needs those in power to care and to act on his/her behalf. The weakest ones need us most. Do not forget or neglect them.
    It is our job to inspire and sustain hope.
    Do not fear tenderness. It is not weakness.
    Be among the people. They will respect you more.
    If power is used in service, it can be humble rather than arrogant.”

    Good perspective I thought.

  • Sherry

    Building trusting relationships, is essential before any change can happen.