How Do You View Change?
Change is constant.
Change is inevitable.
Change can be positive or it can be negative.
Change can be hard to describe and its effects can be even harder to put into words.
A Summer of Change
This summer has brought about a number of changes for many people I know – some are moving to new jobs, some are moving to new schools, some are moving to new communities, some are entering new stages of their lives and a few are doing all of the above!
Having gone through the process of moving (9 times), a new job (8 times), a new school (10 times) and community (6 times) and the change brought on by having children (8 of them) or having children leave (3 of them), I’ve come to view change as the way life is lived. I’ve recently had to begin to care for my parents as they age, something with which I have little experience which means that, like many things, I’m learning as I go.
As I read various articles that are geared at examining changes that might be experienced by teachers, either by new technology or new strategies or new assessment or different expectations or the recent online phenomenon or …. it goes on, I notice that there is a natural tendency to generalize things across a population, something that tends to happen quite often in education. People speak of “teachers” needing to “…..” because of their particular worldview and point of view. Not that’s it’s bad but that really is theirs and, sometimes, if it’s the dominant societal one, it goes without question.
However, in my experience, this tendency masks the individual responses that people experience as they go through change. Generalizing that this change or that change will have this effect or that effect misses the point – the change will be individual and will have a different affect depending on the person. What I view as a positive change, others will deem negative and, surprisingly, many won’t even register nor care about.
How do You envision Change?
However, if Change is happening regularly, maybe taking a different approach might help.
The diagram at the beginning of the post is from the Design Thinking approach to problem solving and innovation. Having read Tim Brown’s book Change by Design a number of years ago and reread parts since then and taking the Stanford Course on Design Thinking, I began applying the principles to how I view change and the changes taking place around me. Eventually, applying these principles, I determined that change was not only okay, but desirable – part of the reason that I headed off to the University of Regina to begin a PhD with Dr. Alec Couros.
As this image from the Change by Design site shows, looking at change from different perspectives not only can help one to determine the What and How of change but give you different options for addressing change.
Change By Design at IDEO | IDEO http://buff.ly/2a1Xkk7
In combination with the work of Todd Henry – Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder than Words – and Cal Newport – So Good they Can’t Ignore You, Deep Work – and others, I have shifted my thinking about my work, the impact of change and the process of development from one that “happens” to one I am able to be part of the solution process and make decisions that help me to continue to follow my unique path.
Instead of always looking to innovate, adopt a new mindset or flip something, I can be open to new ideas and new processes but not always looking for the “next big thing” because my focus isn’t being distracted by my peripheral vision – something I borrowed from Todd Henry. So, yes there are many things going on – change is all around us but, for many people, it’s a distraction from doing their great work, a distraction from the path they are creating and building. Learning from/with others is important, such as doing a book study with others to expand ideas and push oneself, reading different authors and listening to TEDtalks and other forms of learning but it’s just as important to be creative, to question what people are saying, and to build your own – isn’t that what everyone seems to be saying needs to happen?
Often many of us are pulled this way or that, always looking for the next “new thing, great book, interesting method and innovation” instead of focusing on the path we are building. Yes, something might be interesting and worth exploring – but make no mistake, many who are commenting on it and writing about it are interweaving it with their path – seeing how it can add to their message – which is what you need to do.
You are on your own journey – one unique to you.
Jana Scott Lindsay, in her last post Consumed explores the impact of being connected and how she is seeing a need for change …
I think that it is time to work at finding balance. Leave your devices out of sight, to encourage out of mind for a time & space each and every day.
Change – yes, it’s always happening.
Change – what about you?
Week 2 of the #saskedchat Summer Blogging Challenge
Our topic this week is Supporting. Tribe, a post by Jana Scott Lindsay, has me pondering how do we support ourselves and, just as importantly, be part of a support system for others. Jana starts her post off with a great quote from Seth Godin – go check it out. I’ll wait.
Pretty great quote isn’t it? Great post too!
Seth Godin constantly reminds me that I don’t have to write a short story to get a point across. In fact, sometimes less is more. In his post today, The Top of The Pile he asks
We need an empathy of attention. Attention is something that can’t be refunded or recalled. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
So, what have you done to earn it?
In his latest book What to do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn) Godin reminds us that
Now, more than ever, more of us have freedom to care,
the freedom to connect,
the freedom to choose
the freedom to initiate
the freedom to do what matters,
If we choose.
It’s that choice part that I need to pay attention to and remind myself about. As Jana discusses in her post – you read it right? – being conscious of others is a choice, being part of a tribe is a choice, being involved is a choice
for most of us.
There are others, however, that don’t get to have those choices.
How do we support them? How do we make others aware of this fact? How do we get to the top of their pile?
And not just because it’s part of being an educator but because we have the freedom to care, connect, choose, initiate –
we have privilege.
Support – what does it mean to you?
It’s tempting to sit in the corner and then, voila, to amaze us all with your perfect answer.
But of course, that’s not what ever works. Seth Godin
The other day I gave a presentation in an undergraduate class about using social media in teaching. During the discussion, I was asked if students should continue to blog when they are done classes.
Yes. Continue to blog and share your learning. Make it a part of your professional practice. Don’t see it as an add-on but as part of your daily learning practice. Everyday is a Professional Development day. See your blog as part of your PD practice.
Blogging helps me to put my ideas down and work through them. Part of my online Portfolio shows the work that I am doing. It is also a place where I can share what I am thinking about, pondering, exploring,….. Blogging is a part of my Professional Development. Sometimes I blog openly about it but other days I write just to work through ideas and thoughts. Not everything needs to be published.
Ship before you’re ready, because you will never be ready. Ready implies you know it’s going to work, and you can’t know that.
The purpose isn’t to please the critics. The purpose is to make your work better.
Polish with your peers, your true fans, the market. Because when we polish together, we make better work. Seth Godin
This is the part with which many, including myself, struggle. When is it “ready”? That’s not easy to decide. Harold Jarche recent post a half-baked idea discusses why blogging is important for everyone:
“I’m thinking of doing some coaching in a few years and helping people make decisions around food and nutrition”, I was told the other day by a young man working in a shop. My advice was to start a blog: now. While he had no intention of freelancing for the near term, he needed to get his thoughts in order. A blog is a good place to do this over time. You can start slow. The process builds over time. My early blog posts were pretty bad but they helped me see what ideas I could revisit and build upon. And it took time.
“And it took time.”
In my post Blogging as a Professional I discuss some of the reasons teachers should blog and some of the things to consider when you start out one of which is “why” you want to blog. This is important for keeping your focus. It’s easy to begin blogging but it takes time to develop your voice and produce your best work. Todd Henry discusses this in his latest book Louder Than Words. He calls this the Aspiration Gap
“When this gap exists, it’s often due to high personal expectations founded in your observation of the work of other people you admire. When you are incapable of producing work that meets those high standards, it’s tempting to give up far too soon. For this reason, many people either quit or move on to something more “reasonable” simply because they were frustrated by their temporary inablility to achieve their vision”
One reason I blog is because it’s part of my professional mission
“To relentlessly pursue supporting educators to develop creativity and innovation in the classroom through connections, relationships and effective professional development.”
There are many people whose work I admire and follow. I don’t see my own work meeting those standards. Many days I hesitate to push “publish”. I know that being consistent is important just as it in any other aspect of life because it helps to improve your skills. To make progress we have to consistently practice. As Seth Godin says,
What works is evolving in public, with the team. Showing your work. Thinking out loud. Failing on the way to succeeding, imperfecting on your way to better than good enough.
The interesting thing about this idea is that my portfolio may have found you, or you may have found it, but in both cases, anyone can see it. There are different ways I can share my learning through different mediums. I love to write, but I also am able to share through visuals, podcasts, video, or things that I couldn’t even imagine.
But, as George points out, not all the learning he does makes it to the portfolio to be published
I also have the option of allowing you to see it or not. I do have spaces where my learning is for my eyes only, or in what I choose to share.
This is a crucial point. Not all we do is ready for shipping. The learning process isn’t about publishing everything. Some works are in the incubation stage, some are in the development stage and some are at the sharing stage.
You should ship when you’re prepared, when it’s time to show your work, but not a minute later. Seth Godin
Sharing our work isn’t easy but it is necessary for growth and development. Feedback from others helps us to reflect on the work being done.
How are you continuing to develop and learn as a professional? Are you sharing that with others and getting feedback? Do you have an online portfolio? Are you shipping?
Your mindset and attitude influence your success. What’s yours?
I’d love to hear your comments and feedback so leave comment. Thanks for taking the time to read
Another Edu-Awesome #saskedchat! Our topic was Student Engagement and our guest moderator Jade Ballek (@jadeballek) a principal in the Sun West School Division at Kenaston Distance Education Learning Centre.
We had over 40 participants take part in the chat. For some, this was their first experience joining a chat which can be a bit of a shock with how fast the chat moves and the number of different conversations that take place.
With this number of participants, missing part of a conversation happens and that is why we archive all the #saskedchats!
What does “Student Engagement” mean to you? Over time, my ideas about student engagement have changed. As a young teacher I was focused on the lesson and my teaching, on creating lessons that were, I thought, “engaging”. Later, as I developed confidence as a teacher and began to explore different teaching strategies, I became less worried about “my teaching” and more focused on “student learning”. In Matt Head’s post Learning or Teaching? he states
As I reflect on my own teaching I have come to realize that what and how I am teaching is usually my first priority.
It is what teachers are doing, focusing on their teaching because that is part of the job. There is the focus on planning, assessment, planning, classroom management, planning, classroom design, planning, student interaction, and planning. During a recent episode of ITTNation, Dave Bircher and I discuss Cross-Curricular planning and how the act of deeply understanding the curricula can open up opportunities for learning that allow for FLOW to take place.
Focus, Learning, Observation and Wonder.
Teachers are able to allow the Focus of the lesson to emerge from interaction with students. The Learning take place through the interactions and is driven by student ideas, interests and passions. Through Observation the teacher is able to guide students in their interests while making connections to Learning Outcomes. This allows students and teachers to Wonder – exploring different topics and concepts from a place of Wonder.
The current focus on the state of education on a global scale is on what teachers do in the classroom. Debates between Reformers of all types draw different ideas about what needs to happen in the classroom in order for students to be prepared for their future. Sometimes, missing from the debate, is what is happening NOW . How many educators are wondering about how the recent two wins by Google’s AlphaGo over the world champion Go player will impact schools? What will this mean for students?
Overall, Google’s DeepMind is calling on a type of AI called deep learning, which involves training artificial neural networks on data — such as photos — and then getting them to make inferences about new data. Venture Beat
Are we preparing students for today? Are we engaging them in a discussion about what is happening in the present? Too often the mantra is “Prepare for the Future”. In some respects, today isn’t even close to what I thought it was going to be 10 years ago. In other way, it is.
“Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” Yoda
This is not a call to toss out all of what is currently happening in schools and classrooms. In the present reform cacophony, it’s hard sometimes to even hear oneself think never mind trying to make sense of what is being proposed especially when there is more and more being added to the discussion. This isn’t just about what tools to use in the classroom or if there should be interactive whiteboards or not, whether teachers should adopt flipped learning or embrace blended learning or Project Based Learning. The discussion includes environment design, learning design, social justice, content bias, differentiated learning systems, game theory, makerspaces, content diffusion, digital citizenship, digital literacy and other pedagogical and theoretical discussions/issues each with their representatives and lobbyists.
Education, it’s a serious business.
There are no simple answers and stopping schooling until things get figured out isn’t going to happen. It is a work in progress. Yes the shuttle is being built as it is being flown – it is the only way learning can continue.
Engaging or Empowering?
Our chat briefly touch on is engaging someone the same as empowering them? What do we want to happen in schools? Why is this important to discuss? As we live in the midst, it is struggling with such questions that help us to make sense of the noise.
If we want people to feel empowered, then releasing control and giving ownership is the only way this can truly happen. George Couros
Are teachers being engaged or empowered? Are administrators? Are parents? Do we allow people to have ownership of their learning? How do we mange such a shift?
Like other such discussions, everyday implementation is, itself, a work in progress. As an administrator, providing input from students and parents was important but so where division and provincial policies. Providing leadership opportunities and helping people develop their strengths was important to developing a school culture of learning and growth. Shifting school culture from a top-down model to a collaborative/shared leadership model isn’t just about “sharing responsibility”. It involves creating a culture of shared growth, trust, learning and collaboration. Such development takes time and, in an environment of efficiency and improvement, can often be overshadowed by “what the data says”.
The #saskedchat provided a great many things to think about, some of them I’ve touched on.
Your mindset and attitude influence your success. What’s yours?
I’d love to hear your comments and feedback.
How many times have you heard this?
It’s sounds so simple –
Just Do It!
Change is happening all over the place. In fact, so many of us jump into change that is rather life altering — marriage, children, new jobs…. pretty life altering! I mean, these changes are BIG!
Really, it’s not that people are totally afraid of changing.
New hair styles, wardrobe redos, new menu choices…. they’re all changes.
I know I’ve read more than a few blog articles about no longer accepting the “excuses” for not changing — there needs to be a change and we need to move on — NOW!
Sometimes We See that Change is Necessary
I’m transitioning myself through a major life change — one that is extremely exciting — and scary and terrifying and exhausting and ……. but necessary.
I could no longer ignore that change needed to happen. I wasn’t happy, my family wasn’t happy. We made the decision — discussing it with my wife — to move on and try a new path.
To what, I not really sure but the rut was starting to get too deep. I wasn’t seeing things with new lenses anymore. I was starting to look for “easy” solutions at times — not the right solutions. In short, I was not being the educational leader I expected myself to be.
Sometimes we wander across just the right thing at the right time.
A while back on twitter I happened upon this tweet
As I read through the article there were so many things that struck me as being important in the educational context.
1. Healing takes time – change requires healing time
Often I’ve heard “Well, they need to get over it. That’s the way it is and it’s time to get with the times. There’s a new train leaving and either they’re on it or …” In fact, the number of articles that are almost hostile to people who aren’t willing to change as quickly as they it is deemed they should is somewhat surprising given we are suppose to be an empathetic and concerned group of individuals.
As an administrator who has been involved in working with a number of staffs in different schools on improvement and change – I didn’t always understand this and often thought “Let’s move on. We’ve been going over this and rehashing this.” I didn’t understand that, as the educational leader, I needed to listen to where they were in the change process – not where I was or where I wanted to be. But that’s only the start – the next step is empathizing and then help them move forward with the understanding that staying put isn’t an option and support will be in place to transition.
2. Telling someone that change is going to happen doesn’t eliminate the need for time for healing.
As a parent, this has been so real for me and my wife. We have lived in many different communities. As parents, we learned that we needed to discuss the move with our children well before it happened BUT that didn’t mean the children wouldn’t need time.
I recall my oldest boy, days before we were moving. He had never really experienced leaving friends. There he was, with his best friend, walking behind our house in the late evening along the back road. The two of them, arms over each others’ shoulders walking – occasionally talking – stopping to look, point, talk.
It nearly broke my heart as I watched these two friends help one another – tears rolling down my cheeks as I witnessed friendship as it best.
Later that night, before bed, we talked about how he was feeling. LIke it was yesterday, his reply was “I’ll be okay. I know it will be okay. I just need time to get use to this.” He was 8. He taught me that change was okay – but it wasn’t easy no matter how much advanced warning.
As an administrator, I constantly remember this as I have worked with teachers, parents and students moving through the change process. As a prime example, after moving to a new school, our staff was in the middle of a planning meeting as the old school was being demolished. Many of the teachers couldn’t concentrate on the meeting we were having – the old school being torn down! We stopped. Watched. Some tears were shed. Memories were shared. They knew for 2 years that this was going to happen. It didn’t make it easier.
We took a break. People wandered outside. Some had spent nearly 30 years teaching in the school. They knew rationally that it needed to be done – but 30 years of drama, sports, graduations, first days….. you don’t just walk away.
Too often, in the name of progress, the rush to change becomes a litany of initiative after initiative in the name of “Doing what’s best for students” with new ideas coming from all over the place. Telling people that change is coming doesn’t mean you don’t have to help them when it actually happens. Again, empathy is a big part of this and giving teachers a list of 10 things isn’t empathetic. Neither is listing all the benefits or, like I’ve seen, ridiculing those who aren’t changing in forums of those who’ve changed. The last one, sorry to say, is somewhat of a staple in some twitter circles and is so embarrassing that people with fairly large followings talk about other people like that yet do it in the name of “What’s best for students”.
Exactly what would children learn from that?
Another group I’ve especially seen this with is new teachers. “10 things to you need to know as you begin teaching” is a great title but if you’re really concerned about new teachers, you’ll talk to them – constantly – not just at the beginning of the year or during the new teacher follow-up meetings or class observations. Even if it means making a note to yourself to stop by after school or in the morning to “talk” (I mean listen) to them, it’s needed. They need to “hear” from you in more than emails, memos and observations. And, no, you don’t have the answers – they aren’t asking questions but working through change. Give them a wonderful gift, your attention!
3. Change goals are too vague and too longterm.
“It’s what’s best for students” isn’t good enough anymore. For everyone who pulls this phrase out when referring to school reform and the advancement of technology, quit saying it because I can give you a whole grocery list of items that would fall in this category and fulfill the criteria.
And the rationale that “It’s what is happening everywhere outside of school” is another one that needs to hit the dumpster for the same reason as above. Again, there’s a grocery list of things that fit here. Yes “everyone is on ______________” but, that’s doesn’t mean it’s for everyone or that we will find the same fulfillment/satisfaction/learning/growth. This is as ridiculous as saying we’ll teach all the students in our room the same way with the same material and expect them all to learn and be excited about it. How about let’s stop this “one size fits all” for everyone in education and, instead, help teachers with some long-term goals for change and then short-term feedback goals for success. “Everyone’s doing it” is something a teenager says to their parents not something that I would expect in a conversation concerning educational change that is impacting the lives of teachers.
Goals need to be specific – we’re moving to use ePortfolios because….. – and have the people doing the change fill in some of the reasons because there are people who will be ready and accepting of the change and be prepared to move things forward. Constant initiatives from out there “in the best interest of students” hasn’t really worked so far – why do we expect them to suddenly work? Be specific about the change. Set a longterm goal – but then set short term goals and allow people to move forward, make mistakes and work through the changes. Give time for feedback and reflection that can then be integrated into the next step.
Give individuals the assistance they need to move forward, hold them accountable and be expected to be amazed.
As an administrator, one thing I’ve encountered numerous times is the “3 year plan – 1 year mindset”. The initiative is given 3 years to be fully implemented but that is 2 years longer than the timelines given for seeing results. There will always be those people who want to impress and will be willing to “succeed” at all costs – but in education, the human cost – especially when it relates to teachers, students and parents – is just too much. Either live by the 3 years or stop the smoke and mirrors and be honest about the change timeline. People may not be happy but they will know what is expected of them – especially the leaders in the school – and adjust accordingly. Support for a 3 year initiative is much different than that of a 1 year initiative.
4. Not everyone moves at the same rate or has the same needs
Individual needs are not usually part of the planning process when discussing change. People talk about them and acknowledge them but don’t plan for the differences. Instead, whether it’s teachers within a school or schools within a division/district, the expectation is that the change will look and proceed along a certain path and, if it doesn’t, there is something wrong with the person/school and nothing at all wrong with the plan.
Educational leaders talk about students with different learning needs yet I’m still somewhat astounded at how similar so many classrooms look. Talk isn’t action and for the latter to occur there needs to be specific planning and supports integrated to help with the transition. There is a large hue and cry for change – assessment, planning, cross-curricular integration, technology integration, flipped classrooms, blended learning, inquiry learning. Yet, it’s astounding how most of these come with a small range of implementation and time-lines.
5. Not all Teachers are the same!
Planning for different needs and different progress is messy and isn’t without problems – which you would think would be understood given the situation. Yet, it is not uncommon to have educational leaders compare teacher A to B&C&D because A is a “rock star”. The reasons for this are numerous but it’s usually doesn’t have the desired impact. Which, really shouldn’t be a surprise. Instead, leaders should be a) continuing to support teacher A with their work but also providing support for B, C & D. Not being a “rock star” shouldn’t be seen as a negative or be used as a comparison of ability. Instead, plan for individual differences, identify who might need assistance, be open to working with them and provide supports with short-term goals and help to move them along. Too often, the expectation is that with adults, the learning will be similar for everyone and, as organizations, the same inputs will provide consistent results across the domain.
Change isn’t an event – it’s a movement.
Individuals need time to move through significant change. Too often, because teachers are adults, the assumption is that they will not need that much time or they will be able to rationally see the need for change and will “Get on with it.” As Chip and Dan Heath explore in their book Switch.
Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives? The primary obstacle, say the Heaths, is a conflict that’s built into our brains. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems—the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort—but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.
Too often, this mistake becomes costly in terms of the human factor which then affects the school culture and, well, my experience in changing these errors is that it leads to a negative and unproductive working and learning environment. Maybe it’s time that people focused more on the individuals in the change process and less time telling them to “just get on with it.” because “there’s no excuse not to move on.” In my experience, there may not be an excuse but there is a reason and, if you take the time, not only will you find out why but you’ll be amazed at the change that will take place.
It was another amazing #saskedchat tonight. Dave Burgess dropped by at the start of the chat to get things going. @MrALongstaff and @brettReis then took over and guided the #saskedchat ship through a great chat focused on Teach Like a Pirate. The participants had some great ideas and suggestions for building relationships with students in order to develop rapport and trust. Take a look through the archive for some great resources and fantastic ideas!
The power of one.
How can one person have influence and bring about change?
I often referred to this Margaret Meade quote when I was an administrator – as a small group of educators there was the opportunity to do great things if we just allowed ourselves the latitude to be more and do more.
A small group, yes!
But one person? Can it really happen?
They Walk Among Us
This past Sunday, #txeduchat was discussing ways that teachers could connect students with the world. One thing that I have learned is there are many students who are already doing amazing things – changing the world some who popularized through video or on the internet. But there are many more who are doing amazing things because they are driven to do so. I have had the privilege of having a number of students show me how they, as youth, can change the world.
It is one example of how we are surrounded by people who are taking risks and making changes because they see a need and try to address it. They don’t wait for someone to tell them to do something or to get permission to make a difference. They are risk-takers and innovators.
These people wander at the edge of possibility, creating wonder with others, not afraid to see what might be, undeterred by failure or mistakes; lifelong learners and co-creators, they are passionate and embrace the complexity of life not seeking reward but wishing only to make the world a better place than they found it.
We don’t all have to be raising money or campaigning although some people find that it fits. But, as I indicated in my last post, continuing to ignore the things taking place around us or hoping someone else will take the risk is not helping students address the issues they face today.
Jade Balleck, an educator who is now taking on the responsibility of being an administrator, takes the step of acknowledging that she needs to do more. Her post Principal’s Short Course Part II is a great example of someone not waiting to take a step forward but bolding stepping forward as she seeks to develop a deeper awareness of the need to be culturally aware as an administrator/educator.
Allowing Ourselves to Be Artists
In Linchpin, Seth Godin describes how it is possible to become a person that is necessary, a linchpin, not by doing what everyone else is doing but by being creative at what you are doing, to seeing a problem and beginning to solve that problem. Become the linchpin that holds things together. In doing this, Godin explains that there are choices we have to make about how we approach work and what we decide to do at work. At one point, in discussing the topic of labour, specifically emotional labour, Godin explains
The essence of any gift, including the gift of emotional labor, is that you don’t do it for a tangible, guaranteed reward. If you do, it’s no longer a gift; it’s a job.
Labour as a gift? Working to make a change in the world without worrying about whether you get rewarded? As children, helping others without expecting a reward is something that we often learn from parents or people around us. Somewhere along the way the intrinsic nature of doing something without expecting a reward is often replaced as we seek to get something for our efforts, recognized for what we are doing.
In Invisibles- The Power of Anonymous Work David Zweig looks at how those people who, although anonymous to most of the world, are indeed necessary and highly respected by the people who know them within their industry. These people are linchpins in their industry
…highly skilled, and people whose roles are critical to whatever enterprise they are a part of. … often highly successful and recognized by, indeed deeply respected among their co-workers for their expertise and performance… [they] have chosen, or fallen into and then decided to stay in, careers that accord them no outward recognition from the end user. This is defiantly in opposition to the accolades, or even just pats on the back, most of us desire. And yet – Invisible are an exceptionally satisfied lot.
What drives them?
A passion for the work they do, a desire to make things better, and a meticulousness that fuels their passion. In the interviews and discussions Zweig has with these people throughout the book, it becomes apparent that these people are drawn to make a difference without a need to be recognized. According to Zweig, these people exhibit three common traits:
1) Ambivalence toward recognition
3) Savoring of responsibility
As an educator and administrator, these traits are similar to those I have seen in educators with whom I have worked. Unfortunately, they rarely are afforded the last – responsibility. In classrooms and schools, there are people who are doing meticulous work trying to do what’s best for the students in their rooms/schools but lack the opportunity to demonstrate their responsibility. They have an incredible passion for what they are doing – without it they wouldn’t be able to continue. Yet, too often, they are frustrated and constrained by those around them.
Many people choose to remain doing what they are doing, even if they are unhappy and don’t like it, because fear of the unknown and what might happen, the possibility of failure and the pain associated with that failure are much greater than their desire to change what is happening. Making a change is difficult, in some cases it requires us to learn new things or to maybe admit we weren’t as good as we thought we were at what we were doing.
Just this week I had a great conversation about change, fear and innovation. During the conversation I mentioned that at one point I had switched to tables in the classroom and removed my teacher desk. A common response from teachers is that they rarely use their desk or sit at it, it’s just a place to keep their stuff. So I challenge them to remove it and see how it frees them to envision their classroom space differently, to envision their role in the classroom differently, to begin to revise the flow, the interactions and the space. It brings a change to the classroom that other educators can sense when they walk in. Something is just different.
….. what keeps each of us from being able to bring about change? What if each teacher wrote their fears down and began to address them? What if we shared and worked together, helping each other?
….. recognition isn’t necessarily a motivator but being given responsibility is. According to Liz Wiseman, author of The Multiplier Effect, leaders who expect people around them to do great things and then give them the responsibility to do so multiply the effects of the people with whom they lead. What would happen if teachers were given responsibility, not for grades and assessment, but learning and growth, for supporting their students to make the world a better place?
…. why many school leaders are so enthralled with data that dehumanizes the learning relationship?
…. what data can tell us that a great teacher with strong relationships can’t?
…. why schools are so afraid of risk-taking and innovations if learning takes place in the space of discomfort between what we know and what we want to know, which may, in fact, include failure?
Get rid of grades.
Learners don’t need grades.
Throw out grades.
Over the past few weeks these statements have flittered across my twitter feed.
Many teachers I know are shifting and changing how assessment is done in their classroom. Many teachers I have worked with have already made this shift and are moving on. Although it may be something that isn’t common, it definitely isn’t new.
Ten years ago now, the school division I was working in began to move away from letter, percentage and other similar forms of grading in K – 8. Ken O’Connor’s book A Repair Kit: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades began a conversation about changing grading practices. Removing zeroes from assessment, allowing for flexible deadlines, creating rubrics and exemplars for students, providing formative assessment throughout the learning experience, Student Led Conferences, digital learning portfolios and online reporting were some of the shifts that took place as teachers moved away from traditional grades. It didn’t mean tossing report cards or jettisoning the use of tests but it did mean that teachers had to shift away from traditional grading practices, alter their assessment practices and shift away from testing.
Along the way, some teachers resisted, arguing that grades provided rigour and zeroes were a necessary as an incentive for students who didn’t hand in work. They resisted adopting a different mindset. Parents and students were also resistant – this wasn’t part of their worldview of school and learning.
Resistance Is Futile
Over time, those teachers who were resistant began to make changes to their assessment practices by changing their teaching practices and adopting such practices as peer feedback, self & peer assessment, formative assessment, and continuous feedback. This became the standard mode of operation as teachers shifted their teaching practices and restructured their planning. This happened through supporting and encouraging teachers through various PD experiences including division-wide inservice, conferences and developing PLC’s in schools. School leadership was a vital component of making a shift and helping to develop new cultures of learning in schools.
As a teacher, I have given very few tests over the past 15 years. My classes were project/inquiry based with a minimal amount of lecturing. Final grades were a combination of student/teacher input in senior classes while any middle years classes used a totally different approach to reporting on outcomes. This was not unusual for many teachers I have known who began to shift and integrate technology in the classroom, adopting
As an administrator, providing teachers with the necessary supports so they could transition from the traditional system was important because my own transition was supported through my own PD and learning. In the past 10 years I have worked in two schools were there were no letter/percentage grades in the K – 8. In grades 9 – 12 percentages were still provided at the end of the semester as they are required but assessment and reporting practices shifted to adopt continuous feedback throughout the learning experience. Project Based Learning and Inquiry were used by many teachers with formative assessment being provided on a continuous basis. Rubrics and feedback were used in all grades as was the use of digital portfolios. But assessment was not the focus – learning was.
The Future Has Arrived
For many teachers I work with, the shift away from traditional assessment began years ago. Students and parents have access to online information about student progress, online portfolios are shared with parents with regular updates of student work – they are developing a Portfolio Lifestyle as outlined by Jeff Goin – discussions about learning focus on growth and development not on grades. Student Led Conferences and Celebrations of Learning are opportunities for students to share their learning. Conversations revolve around improvement, learning from mistakes, support and growth. Marks are only discussed because of the need to provide them for reporting in grades 9 – 12. Formative assessment is part of every classroom with teachers using various tools to develop and improve the feedback and discussion that they are having with students.
This isn’t something to look forward to because it’s already been done – across whole divisions – successfully. The grading practices have shifted from the “test for mark” system to continuous feedback where formative assessment is incorporated into the planning, continuous access to growth is provided parents through online portals and portfolios, and testing is not the norm. Granted it’s not everywhere but it isn’t just a few random teachers who are trying to make change – it’s what all teachers are expected.
In making this shift, the discussion about education needed to change. Trying to convince people to change their worldview about grades and grading is very hard if that is where you begin the discussion.
Reward Risk-taking Not Failure
In the podcast the Accidental Creative, Todd Henry explores how creativity can be developed and cultivated. In his recent interview with Ron Friedman, they discuss his latest book The Best Place to Work. One of things that really struck me was the idea that many people and companies say they want people to be risk-takers and innovative yet they don’t reward people for being risk-takers and innovators. Instead, the pervasive climate of efficiency and the bottom-line continue to dominate the workplace. In schools, we hear the same thing. We want students to be innovative and take-risks but instead of focusing on creating the optimal space for doing this and developing a story for students to be risk-takers and innovators, we continue to discuss the same bottom line – assessment. The thru-line of the story is not risk-taking or innovation – it’s assessment and reporting.
Changing the story to allow for teachers and students to be risk-takers and innovators requires a change in mindset. It also requires that the focus of schools be learning where risk-taking and innovation are the focus of the story not the assessment. Maybe throwing out grades eliminates the punitive assessment practices but it still focuses on assessment. To create a climate for risk-taking and innovation, a focus on learning as a whole is critical to helping to change the mindset of people – a new story where risk-taking and innovation are central to the learning needs to be told.
Talk About the Learning
Many people have a fixed mindset when it comes to grading and grades. In other words they have “a set of beliefs or way of thinking that determine’s one’s behaviour, outlook and mental attitude.” It’s part of their cultural worldview and, as Seth Godin points out, getting people to change their worldview is very difficult – it’s admitting they’re wrong.
In my experience over the last 10 years with shifting mindsets and school cultures away from traditional practices, talking about grading and grades is the least effective way to create a shift. Instead, talk about learning.
When you discuss learning, it’s leads to a discussion of including and using formative assessment, the effective use of digital portfolios, the focus on taking risks, making mistakes, creativity and development, the use of differentiation for all students and the use of maker space/genius hour/inquiry/problem based learning.
It allows the conversation to examine the different skills that people will need in the future and how these skills are built into learning through the use of collaboration, peer-assessments, continuous formative feedback, differentiation and the opportunities for redo’s where learning isn’t finite but truly life-long. Talking about assessment and grades misses out on the important part of the story – the learning.
Change the Story of School
Many people have a very static picture of school. Too often I hear/read about students still in desks, where rote copying off the board is the norm and weeks of standardized testing take place every year. Honestly, I have no idea what that is like. My own transition began 15 years ago when I removed the desks from my grade 7 classroom and began to explore Inquiry Learning. I quit giving finals 10 years ago when I once again began teaching senior Social Studies and PAA classes. My own experiences reinforced that talking about grading and grades was beginning with the wrong end of the learning story.
As an administrator, changing the story of what happens in school is important. Connecting parents with classes and the school via social media allows parents to see that the story of school and the story of learning are changing and changing for the better for their children. Helping parents and students who were use to the traditional forms of learning and assessment is essential in helping a school culture transition. Telling a different story allows people to see themselves in a new way within the storyline. Without telling a complete story, but starting with assessment and grading, people are disconnected from the changes taking place in classrooms and the school, imposing their own story of learning which is incompatible with the changing story of assessment.
My work with teachers and their stories of connection and change through connecting online make me more appreciative of the need to listen to the stories that people are telling about school and learning. In a world that is hyper-focused on assessment and grading, the story of learning is a by-line when it should be the headline. For decades the focus has been on test results, so much so that the current educational environment seems to rarely focus on the learning – it’s all about assessment. Maybe it’s time to change the story…..
…. what would happen if learning and development were the focus of discussion rather than assessment and changing grading?
….. why people continue to only tell a small part of the learning story with a focus on the end instead of the journey?
…. what would happen if teachers were asked to focus on learning and innovation as much as they are being told to focus on assessment and assessment practices?
….. what if the assessment rhetoric shifted to focusing on learning, risk-taking and innovation?
It takes a great deal of hard work and support for people to venture forth and try new things. In my last post I discussed my own experiences with rejection in light of the work done by Jia Jiang and The 100 Days of Rejection. In his vlog, Jia post videos of his encounters with rejection. The entry on day 3 is quite amazing. In this encounter, Jia asks the manager, Jackie, of Krispy Kreme to make a set of doughnuts in the shape of the Olympic rings expecting to be rejected. Instead, she goes to work and fulfills his request. Take a moment to watch the clip.
Jia Jiang, in his interview with Jeff Brown on ReadtoLead podcast states that this encounter made him wonder how many opportunities he had missed because of his fear. How often do we pass on asking, trying, doing, seeing because of our own fear?
Fear Keeps Us from Exploring
In Multipliers Lis Wiseman explores how certain people, whom she calls Multipliers, get more from the people around them, multiplying the effect of their efforts.
They don’t see a world where just a few people deserve to do the thinking; Multipliers see intelligence as continually developing. This observation is consistent with what Dweck calls a “growth mindset,” which is a belief that basic qualities like intelligence and ability can be cultivate through effort. They assume: people are smart and will figure it out. They see their organization as full of talented people who are capable of contributing at much higher levels.
Yet most people end up not using most of their capabilities, stuck in a situation where their talent is not being used to its full capacity, they are unhappy with what they are doing but fear making a change to do something else. In a recent study Gallup Study, 63% of employees were disengaged in their workplace. This has many implications
People spend a substantial part of their lives working, whether in a high-tech startup in Singapore, a financial institution in Australia, or a garment factory in the Dominican Republic. As a result, the quality of their workplace experience is inevitably reflected in the quality of their lives. Gallup’s finding that the vast majority of employees worldwide report an overall negative experience at work — and just one in eight are fully involved in and enthusiastic about their jobs — is important when considering why the global recovery remains sluggish, while social unrest abounds in many countries.
There are many reasons given for this happening in the workplace with a number of different ideas of how to address the situation. Similarly, recent studies of teachers showed that up to 70% of teachers are not engaged at their work while studies of students show a significant portion of students in high school are disengaged. It would appear we have an engagement problem that spans more than just students in schools – it is impacting all aspects of society.
I often hear that if teachers were to employ particular strategies or methods or tools, they would be able to engage their students more fully in the learning experience. As the list below shows, there is plenty of advice on how to engage students in the classroom!
These are just a sampling of the articles about engaging students.
Student engagement is a major topic of discussion on twitter with a number of chats dedicated to this topic. From my PLN @MrH and @MrEhRon are leading #2k15reads, exploring Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz and Pure Genius by Don Wettrick this summer.