The push to totally change the way school looks, is coming from many that believe that education as it looks today is not sufficient for our kids. Although I do believe that we have to change some major elements of school, I also believe that there are lots of positive elements that we can build on as educators. When we say “everything has to change”, we also tell educators that “everything you are doing is wrong”. We have to build upon our strengths, while also paying attention and developing on our weaknesses. This does not happen overnight.
Barry Schwartz talks about the “paradox of choice”, and in his Ted Talk (one of my favourites), he talks about abundance of choice often making people miserable. This would be no different with what is happening to many educators. When we say “change everything”, people are often overwhelmed and change nothing. Personally, I understand that although teachers need to question the system, they also need to work with inside of it to make change.
So if we are really going to make powerful long lasting change, we have to realize that this happens one step at a time. Although we might have a vision of where we want to go long term, successful leaders will help break the BIG VISION into smaller, achievable steps. With every single step, we move closer to our goals, while building confidence in a “new way of learning”.
My suggestion for people wanting to change what they do? Focus on one thing at a time. Look at something you currently do, and ask how you could do that better, and improve learning opportunities for kids. Once you have seen success, move onto another thing. I love this story from Will Smith about something he learned from his dad when he was young:
When Will was a 12-year-old kid, his dad gave him an impossible task: rebuild the brick wall in front of his business. It took Will and his little brother a year-and-a-half, but they built the wall.
How did a couple of little kids build a big brick wall? Will explains, “You don’t try to build a wall. You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say, ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say: ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid.’ And you do that every single day, and soon you’ll have a wall.”
Success breeds success, and if you focus on that one brick at a time, soon you will have something that is so much better than what you started.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao-tzu