1. Sometimes it means that people don't like to think. Cognitive dissonance is uncomfortable. It's far easier for them not to think too much about the way they are already doing things.

      • Totally. Constantly working on that! Same applies in the classroom. If teachers and students know 'why' then the change or the learning is meaningful…

      • Layla Sacker

        Sometimes, what people think is a change is really building on some ideas that were not clearly understood or articulated in what we were already doing. I think if we just spent time really thinking about (and talking talking talking) what the big understandings were BEHIND what we are doing then we would (most times) see the change as the next step. Each time we revisit something we had done before, of course it changes as our capacity to connect the bits grows.

  2. Sometimes I think it's hard to see the big picture. People hear of the changes, but don't know why they need to change. Change can be a lot of work too. Sometimes people also get frustrated when it seems that we constantly have to change, and then just as things are working, we need to change again. I have no problem putting the extra time & effort into changing, as long as the reason that we're looking to change is to do what's better for kids. With this end goal in mind, change is worth it!


      • Been thinking about your post … maybe it is a question of "more work." When I talk to other educators about using different Web 2.0 tools in the classroom and the changes that I've made over the past couple of years, the first question that many of them ask me is, "Will this be more work?" It's not, "Do you think that this is better for the students?" or "What changes have you noticed in the students' academic performance?," but, "How much more time will this take me to prepare and/or mark?" Just an interesting thing to think about …


  3. People don't like leaving their comfort zones. This can have a curious side-effect: if I think that I will feel more comfortable by changing what I am doing, then I change in exactly that manner.

  4. George – thanks for bringing up this topic of hot debate. Change is the unknown, and as we all know people do not like the "unknown." I feel safe when I say most people realize there is a better way…the tricky part is getting people interested in trying to find the better way. As educators we find ourselves in a difficult position. At times we are encouraged to try new things and take a chance…at other times we are encouraged to do what we have always done (regardless of how well it worked). As discouraging as it is, there are people who will continue doing what has always been done because it is easier. I have personally found change to be inspirational. Change fuels me to bigger and better things, but what fuels me might not be what fuels somebody else. It has been discussed a lot lately, but I will refer to Dan Pink here. When we have the autonomy to learn for ourselves and grow through our own desires, we can and will ultimately embrace change for what it needs to be…finding a better way of doing something. I can change something in my classroom – it might work well, it might not. What I do with that information is key, and how I respond to my failure or success will ultimately determine the real level of change.

  5. I think part of the issue is the 'unknown' factor of how much change is needed. For example: When someone struggles with email and adding an attachment, the move to a wiki seems daunting. Phrases like "It's just like using a word document," seem comforting to some, but not to others. To me the change is minor in the amount of effort, to others it can be a huge undertaking!

    I also think the education profession is it's own worst enemy simply because it always leaves you feeling you can do more. You can have an amazing lesson that excites all but one kid and you walk out of the room thinking, "What could I have done to engage him?" So, how much do you do? You can ALWAYS be better, you can ALWAYS do more. I love the phrase "Good enough is not good enough!" but I think too often it is perceived as 'good enough' when the prospect of big changes are presented.

    The missing ingredient that I see: Collaboration time. Put teachers together in an organized way, with clear objectives, and they'll move mountains. Alone, the mountains are just too big!

  6. I think that the change needed in the case of our schools is so overwhelming to many educators that they do not know how to handle it. In high schools, we have teachers who have been in school to see a change from typewriters, to computers with floppy disks, to computers linked to a "cloud network." They are still trying to figure out their e-mail while the world outside of schools has run circles around them.

    Our schools have been one of the most insulated institutions known to man. In short, I will have to defer with David Jakes above ad agree that we need to have action by the folks who understand what has happened in the real world while others choose to get either get on board or get out of the way.

  7. It would be great if schools could have a Change Department similar to Disney's Imagineer Department. That way change could be built into the system.

  8. 1. Why not have change…sometimes….and old ways at other times? We don't have to be dialectic – this OR that – the more ways the better – my vote is for Both!

    2. Some people don't like change, but some do. But those who do…it isn't that they do not like the process so much as they can't figure out what the process actually is, so that stalls them….and, if, as I just mentioned, "the more ways the better," for someone stumped when it comes to process, well, in a way this just makes it harder for them.

  9. It's the process as much as anything. Also many doubts. What if it doesn't work? Fear of failure.

    When I wrote in my last blog post: So who is with me, asks the Not So Little Red Hen, I am truly concerned that what if I build something, in this case a website on the way to building an entire movement, and wondering, and what if no one comes? That haunts me. What if I talk tough as it were, and I don't have the energy to follow through?

    I like the Norman Vaughan quote, "Dream big and dare to fail," but I don't dare to dream. I know failure too often. Too familiar. How can I convince others to join me? I really don't know.

    Even so I put that out there. My desire is for education equality. That is my educational Field of Dreams. Should I do the wave?

    I think if we can all overcome doubts and fear of failure then we can all effect change in small and large ways. We need time for self-reflection. But then we need to set that aside and act.

    Years ago, when I was going through a crisis, a friend of mine sent me to a card with Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet on the cover. Gist was that one very small animal may be afraid, but if we remember that we have people in the background, we can do just about anything.

    We all talk about change. Mostly it's for other people to do. How then do we change as a community? Or as a school? How do we get people to buy in, or do we go it alone and hope people will suddenly notice? So many imponderables that hold us back. So, yes, we think change is good, but it's the process that prevents us from going forward.

  10. I feel like people use the word "change" as a way to avoid. If you talk about programs rather than herald them as changes, then people may be more accepting. Besides every teacher (as an example) was at some point in time doing the most current form of teaching, it is just a question of when that was. So why would they want to change?

  11. RacheL Young

    To bring about change one must be open to the creative thought behind the new ideas. All too often I feel discussions of possibilities for change are closed by a narrow mind and the view of "maybe for someone else, but not for me". Too often it's simply a perceived lack of time or resources blamed for an unwillingness to move forward.

    In answer to your question, I feel it's that people simply do not want to go through the process. How can we help others to see a new perspective?

  12. In my former life in the corporate world, change for change sake was usually the norm. It was also almost always initiated from a 'higher pay grade" than the front line employees who implemented the change. If you stood up and raised concerns that the 'proposed' change didn't make anything better, you were labeled resistant to change, or not a change agent. There are a lot of parallels to teaching, my chosen profession now.

    The 'agents' of change are usually outside of the classroom and if a teacher raises concerns they are slapped with a tag such as rigid or resistant. Questioning change might come from a place where more work for the same result.

  13. Jennifer

    You ask:

    Is it that people really don’t like change or is it truly that people do not like the process that change incurs?

    Right now, I am not really sure it is either……….

    I think it is more of a "is this really going to be worth the change to make the change."

    Within the last 30 years of my life in the educational field, I have watched many things come and go — Multi-sensory learning, differentiated instruction, individualized instruction, behavioral objectives, thematic instruction, drop everything and read, learning centers, small groups, large groups, whole language, open classroom, traditional classroom — I could go on, but you get my point.

    And within those 30 years, i could also create another huge list of the "this will change your classroom" textbooks, curriculum, and conferences where the newest gadgets are presented with enthusiasm and seemingly credible statistics to back up their viewpoints.

    I, luckily, seem to have fallen quite easily into the newest change of "tech opportunities" in the classroom. I did not have to be convinced — and it appears I am the one who is trying to do the convincing. Not always successfully, I have to admit.

    The most frequent question, that i don't have a good answer to yet is "WHY?" "What is this any different" and "What is coming next?"

    Because, and I cannot fault them for this — many others have seen "the newest and greatest" ideas come and go…….and to invest their time, (because it does take time) and their energy and also possible total rethinking of everything which was their foundation — has to have a reason.

    I see hesitancy more than resistance……and a true explanation that this is not just another "fad".

    Hope this makes sense. I, too, look forward to reading others thoughts.


  14. Teachers do not resist making changes; they resist people who try to make them change. The best change comes as a result of individuals realizing they need to change. If we believe that teachers are the right people in the role, we need to help them realize this on their own and not because they feel forced. True change is internal.

    • Speaking as a parent, I do not want to change teachers. What I want to change is how teachers are supported or, as I see it, not supported. I want to change the system. Not the people within the system. My impression is that many people recognize that change needs to happen throughout. So how do we effect change of institutions within a society?

      Real change on an individual basis is internal, but change of an entire system is external.

      The way things are now, I feel that neither parents nor teachers get the support or resources they need, and that is something I want to see change.

      I cannot change how an individual is, so is it realistic to presume that communities can change? That is what I am trying to figure out. Do we have to wait until everyone is functional, for instance? I don't think so. Otherwise we would all be still living in caves.

    • George

      Great comment Dean (I am going to make one of those "Shareski" slides out of it). I guess my follow up question, as a school administrator, how do we help them internalize? The reality is that we want people to embrace initiatives but do we also sometimes need to move at least in the same direction? For me, I appreciate that people are going down the path, not necessarily how far they are on it.

    • Dean, couldn't agree with you more. Teachers spend their days (at least in my experience) being told what to do and how to do it. These directions sometimes change from year to year depending on the latest 'fad.' As such, they resist change itself because a) they have no say in these changes and b) there is no 'why,' as discussed above.

      The reality is one person can only change so much. It's great to get out there 'do it' and be a change agent, but if you keep going it alone you will burn out. Teachers need to feel empowered and they need to work together to affect real change. We need the change agents to sow seeds in their colleagues to grow a community of change agents. As you state perfectly: true change is internal.

    • So true, and something I have experienced more than once in my role as a district administrator. A complication here, though, is that often we have a broad collection of thoughts about what should change and how. I think much of the resistance to being forced to change happens because the change that is being mandated is in the opposite direction to what the individual teacher believes is best.

      We are also living in a world where we are expected to demonstrate constant improvement (at least in a few specific measures) and there is zero tolerance for anything less. If an individual teacher is faced with a choice between something known, comfortable and adequate and something which risks a period of decline before gains are shown, is it any surprise that most teachers resist that change? School leaders are then left with a similar choice: take the more-effective, long-term approach of managing change through collaboration and team-building (which likewise risks the possibility that it will take years to see any gains) or mandate change, which at least appears more like taking action.

  15. I believe that change can often be based in urgency. In line with what Dean said, I don't believe that people really enjoy being told what to do. I would like to think that I approach change by trying to paint a facts-based portrait that appeals to as many different points of view that is feasible. If I have done a good enough job in painting that portrait, I will have hopefully created a sense of urgency in people that provides the necessary spark for change.

    At some point, I believe that as an administrator, I have a different job than my teachers. Not a better or worse one, not a more challenging or easier one, just a bit different. Within my job, I think it is my duty to find promising practices that teachers may not have time in their busy days to look for and then provide that spark of interest that might have them think a little differently about what they do. I never think of this as top-down, but rather as a lateral support for them in meeting the needs of our students.

  16. Terry Ainge

    I, too, have been thinking about the importance of drawing connections to "why." An earlier post of yours, "What Shapes Your Learning" linked to a Simon Sinek video, on "How Great Leaders Inspire Action." This was a powerful post and a powerful TED Talk. The Law of Diffusion of Innovation points to a critical tipping point at 15-18% of the population as key to influencing the behavior of the majority. While it's true that a lot depends on the people in your school and where they are at in their careers, we believe that we can't afford to wait. So we've been talking about making change happen one conversation at a time. Sometimes it seems awfully slow, but it's progress!

    What feeds optimism is greater exposure to the types of thinking and innovation that you and your readers are sharing. That these conversations are engaging a growing number of education leaders moves us closer to the tipping point. So thanks, and please keep it up!

  17. I think classroom teachers who have been around a while have seen more "change" that hasn't worked, than *change* that has. We often hear the phrase, "this too shall pass" and then the shutting of a door, and a teacher working in isolation. The change that is sustainable must be something that has a reason (answering the "why') and something that everyone has a stake in. I can get one person to change, but can I make it systemic?

    Some really great thought-provoking comments. Thanks George.

  18. I think the true barrier is the notion that there is a finish. An end. A completion. Learning is an inherently dynamic process, and there will never be a finish line for teachers or students. It's about embracing the new curriculum and learning from it, even though you were already done with the other one. You did the trainings for it, fleshed it out in your own way, and settled in for the long haul. You were done, give or take some minor tweaking. That way be dragons! It's dangerous to think we are ever finished or have attained mastery….. which is contrary to everything we teach students by giving unit tests, by graduating them after 'x' number of hours, etc.

  19. George, I would love to comment more, but I'm trying to finish my dissertation which, in part is about…….CHANGE! For now, I leave you with this: Are you familiar with CBAM (Concerns Based Adoption Model) and Stages of Concern? Information here: http://www.sedl.org/cbam/ I also find the work of Mezirow and tranformative learning just fascinating. Very interesting reading. If you email me, I can send you some references if you are interested in reading more.

  20. George, I think your question about examining the why is really important. We need to continually confront our fundamental principles about kids and learning to see if the change is in alignment. Then, we need to give teachers the proper time and resources to truly have a positive impact on the learning. They also need to know what it's going to look, sound, and feel like. They need someone who has been in the trenches, slogged it out, and can share the good, the bad, the ugly about where they're going. Too often they get someone who's just done the research or the book learnin'. There's no credibility there. They need to hear the war stories.

  21. Carrie Daniels

    We are sometimes forced to change while we try to be the force of change.

    As educators and administrators, we strive to facilitate optimal learning experiences, aim for social democracy/equality for all and overall, we hope we are making this world a better place for us and the next generation. While we collaborate on missions and goals, analyze and reanalzye data, build lessons, assess and provide timely feedback, we often learn it is still not enough. This may be from our own learnings or it may be pointed out to us. Either way, we look for change.

    When solutions are presented as options to us based on needs that we truly see in our classes and schools, we often embrace change and it is usually a good thing. Especially when we continue the dialogue with colleagues and PLNs who support us through "the change".

    When over-arching changes are mandated from above, we will often comply,whether we agree with the pedagogy or not. We change for many reasons – the research may have touted the change as best practise, board and Ministry mandates may support certain messages or changes. However, compliance does not equal effective change and when the message from above constantly evolves, sidesteps or takes on a different feeling, we get angry. At first, I think -Get it right! Don't waste my time and the time and effort of my students. Then I remember, my role is to be the force of change vs. having change forced on me. Now, I jump in on committees, reseach projects, grants, political opportunities to be a force as change comes and goes. When change is directed from above, I argue it, test it, dialogue about it…if after trying the latest and greatest, and it doesn't fit the needs of those with whom I work with, I respond to those above with my reasons.

    No, I'm not a rebel…just confident in my professional judgement and I'm not afraid to embrace or deny change.

    • George

      I recently read a quote that went something like this: "When change is optional, it will never happen." What do you think?

      Thanks for the great comment by the way 🙂

      • George, When change is optional: it may take longer to happen, it is usually internal, it is often more positive, it comes with less conflict, and it usally comes with more discussion. I think optional change is my preference. It may or may not happen.

        Whoa, love this HOT topic!

        I think Julie C. is right on with nothing is ever finished. What is the next step? Enjoy the journey.

        Maybe George (and everyone that has commented) is helping us change our thinking about change.

  22. Real change comes from the individual's need to improve on their goals. We change many things in our lives because we see the need to make changes. I believe it is the same in education. Teachers do not fear changes that they believe in…it is those changes that are forced upon us that make us skeptical. If you do not believe that the change is important or necessary, are you really going to embraces everything it takes to make that change? Teachers make the changes they are asked to make because it it our job. If we do not see the need to make these changes we will tweak it until it is something we see as valuable. We say we need to embrace the passion of our students and I believe the administrators need to take the same approach when dealing with teachers. We are very passionate people and we want the best for our students. If change is what will be the best for my STUDENTS I am the first in line. Unfortunately the change in schools many times is focused on test scores or using the newest trend and often that is not what is best for our students…in fact, I think it hurts them. Focusing on why we need to change is critical to get teachers to believe in the changes you want to make. Having an open relationship with your staff that allows you to have dialog about the changes you are making is also very important.

    • You are right on the money with this, Kelly. In addition, in order to assess whether the change is beneficial to our students, or to move forward, we must be educated in the new method/philosophy and learn HOW to confidently implement the change.

  23. @Jessica_Dubois

    All of this talk about the need for change and educational reform can be daunting for new educators (I am in my 3rd year of teaching). Even though I would argue that most of us realise there are better ways of doing what we are trying to do, early on, we are just trying to keep our heads above water. I think a good teacher continually reflects on their practice and asks themselves was I a better teacher today than yesterday? So as a new educator, I think I am on a learning journey where I don't necessarily "change" my practice, but my practice is shaped and informed by the learning I continue to do over time.

    Having this sort of conversation with other new educators in my District has been interesting. Many don't want to know about new Web 2.0 tools or ideas to implement in their classroom because it is too overwhelming. Like David Truss said above, 'alone, the mountains are just too big!' The time and effort that change requires can be too overwhelming for many people to tackle on their own. Even getting people to realise what can come of developing a PLN to support your learning journey is a challenge! In this case, I would say that time and effort becomes the barrier.

  24. I think I needed perspective to find that change was important. I spent many years wondering why change, then I discovered the blogs and twitter feeds of a whole raft of new people last year and voila, change is a comin'! I think by finding people outside of my 'local environment' who are not necessarily experiencing some of the same craziness that we may be experiencing locally, it means that you can actually focus on the real issues. For me, I've also found it much easier to engage positively with all sorts of wonderful people, and avoid the tendency to drift into a 'bitch session' that can happen more easily in a local setting (a commonality of problems I guess). Just to be clear I found this attempt at changing extremely difficult, but also rewarding.

    I guess to answer your question as simply as possible, I found the best way to encourage change for me was to build something resembling a PLN that is filled with people trying to effect change.

  25. Some wise soul above replied "is it worth it?" in terms of change. I certainly cannot argue with that….not all change is good.

    However, I think even change we could agree on as being "good" or "for the better" is a big challenge for most teachers.

    The teachers I work with work extremely hard trying to meet the learning needs of each student. For these dedicated teachers change represents more work…more time.

    Teachers (once again I generalize) are looking to streamline….to perfect their practice. Once they have a lesson or unit they feel is strong or excellent or finished the last thing they want to do is change it.

    Like many schools our school tends to try out many new things that are ushered in each year…yes, we have ridden many bandwagons. Constant "newness" makes teachers gunshy….and "is it worth it" comes back into play. They ask themselves "will this work have permanence?" If not, I will not do it. If yes, I still probably won't do it…because I already have something in my files for that.

    Hate to say it, but sometimes it is survival instinct for a teacher to resist change.

  26. Ian Cullion

    We had a similar conversation in our prep room and it ended up with a new quote on my classroom, "It is not change that people fear, it is the transition between where they are and where they want to be."

    Here are some of the ideas we came up paraphrased:

    – People who enjoy change are fearless, confident and inquisitive.

    – People don't like implementing new things and not having the time or resources to do it.

    – Change requires hard work, ask anyone on the Biggest Loser.

    – Change cannot be forced, it must be inspired.

    – Change must be made by someone who leads by example.

    – Everyone realizes change is important, but has to see its relevance. Not all change is appropriate for everyone.

    – For teachers change must happen in teachers college or the first couple of years of teaching. It must be the culture of the profession, “we do it because it is best for the students“

  27. In many comments there is the idea that everyone in education agrees that change is needed. I do not think this is the case.

    Many teachers do not want change for the simple reason that they believe that are already doing a good job. For some, acceptance of change means acknowledging one's faults. If change is needed, it must be because I am not good enough. Some egos are too delicate for that. In other places, test scores are high or the parents don't complain so why should I change.

    So, when we attempt to help teachers internalize the need for change, we must also help them work through some complex emotions. There is much literature about the change process following a pattern similar to that of grieving. Convincing facts and large amounts of data are not enough.

  28. Some great comments posted here. I really have two simple responses to the hesitation with change that I often see. The first is that there is work involved and some people just don't want to put in the effort even if they know it will improve a situation. They are content and therefore do not want to push themselves forward. The other reason is that a need for change implies the possibility that something is wrong or broken. As a teacher if you are asked to change something, the implication is that there is a better way to do something and therefore your way is wrong… While I don't agree with either of these two rationales, I know them to be true just in my own experiences.

    Thanks George!

  29. I love change. I love the conflict and the resolution. One thing I have learned about myself is that I embrace change more readily when it comes with some controls. If I feel like I have some choice, whether it be when the change is implemented or perhaps how the change is implemented, if I feel like I had a say in the change, I am in my element.

    Perhaps that is part of the issue some have with the changes that we are seeing right now. Teachers are all control freaks at some level and being told that they must change their ways can feel like a sort of attack. I am echoing many people's comments I think.

    As a leader (any type of leader….not just administrator!) it is our job to help people find their way in this time of change. I for one, am excited and ready to go! It will be difficult, but anything worth doing takes hard work.

    Thanks for this thought provoking topic!

      • Layla Sacker

        This has been an amazing conversation! I think that the challenge is always to connect the change to the teacher. Sort of like Vygotsky … if it's too distant from our current understandings we cant even begin to make any moves. So.. I see change requiring differentiation as we would with our students. Little steps are fine for some, just thinking and talking great for others and some will implement bits or all. How do we support and encourage and grow the change?? That is another challenge too. I agree with those who say change needs to happen at grass roots. So its a matter of skilling and transferring ownership to those who are ready and can support their colleagues. I used to think I had to do it all.. but now I have developed greater patience and apply those same beliefs that I would to all learning whether it be students or our teachers.

  30. It's hard to change because it's nice to be comfortable. It's easy. It's scary to think of doing things differently. Because it is a lot of hard work. And it is probably going to hurt. And it's hard to consider the alternatives when what's currently "working" for you is all you know. Unfortunately as educators we don't have the luxury to just consider the ideas of change… we need to act. For kids. So as leaders, I agree we need to see the big picture, inspire our teachers to take risks, do things not just differently, but better than we did before, and provide opportunities for autonomous, self-directed learning.We have to share and learn with each other. We'll all change for the better in the process.

  31. It seems to me that the biggest obstacle to change is the fear of the unknown. The fear of what could be. Often we tend to think the worst. That we will fail, that the change won't work, that we will be failing our students. In not changing, we know the results. Sometimes knowing what to expect is a whole lot easier than taking a step into the unknown.

  32. It is simple human nature that alot of people dont change. Change involves leaping into the unknown and although the resistance to wanting to do the work for change is also another human element that many of us deal with, (Like mustering inspiration to tackle a project or objective we dont really want to do for example) It believe that it is less of a cause for change to not be done. I would say that the fear of what isnt comfortable to someone can be overwhelming. Most people wouldnt step out of the box of what they are accustomed to and as a comment said previously, most people also wont change unless its not comfortable anymore in the routine they keep themselves in. The only exception is when the inspiration and motivation, to change for whatever reason or outcome, collide and that person literally chooses to "become" that change or to make it happen in other words. Its instinctual to grow accustomed to a routine that we set in our lives but what makes the human mind amazing is the fact we have the power to MAKE the change happen based on our determination and drive to become whatever we can imagine…

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