Sunday, June 22, 2014

Opinions Are Nice, But Actions Are What Matter

Change has become quite the buzzword in education as of late.  You hear it in schools, during face-to-face conversations with educators, at the dinner table, and most emphatically in social media spaces.  Virtually all of these conversations have merit to them.  It goes without saying that education, schools, and professional practice need to change in order to provide learners with the necessary skill sets to succeed in today’s ever-growing digital world. This is no easy feat, something that I experience each day of my professional life as a high school principal.  Can you even imagine a world where change was easy?

With the overall structure and function of schools remaining unchanged for nearly a century, there is a great deal of work that has to be done.  This, compounded with the onslaught of reforms and mandates enacted by individuals that have no business in education, makes the process of enacting change much more difficult.  The current education reform climate has just exasperated the proliferation of schools as testing factors where students’ learning, an intricate science, is reduced to meaningless numbers. Change in this sense is not positive, but how we respond to it will ultimately determine the fate and success of our students.  

This leads me to the point of this post.  Conversations about change are a dime a dozen. Within these conversations, an endless array of opinions are dished out about what needs to change.  In about half of these same conversations, suggestions are offered up as to how to go about implementing the change.  Opinions, suggestions, ideas, and even strategies are great to discuss in theory.  They all make for great conversational catalysts where even more people will engage and respond.  However, offering opinions and stating what one thinks should be done to change anything in education falls short of the intended outcome. Real, meaningful, and sustainable change capable of transforming school culture and professional learning comes from taking action.

Leadership is not about position, but rather the actions that we take in our respective roles.  Each and every one of us has the capacity to lead if we so choose, but initiating sustainable change hinges upon our ability to move from the talk and rhetoric to actually do something.  The process seems simple to those who get all caught up in the talk, but change leaders know full well the challenges associated with what may be the most difficult thing to do in education.  Change leadership focuses on these specific elements:
  • Identification of the problem and articulating why the change is needed
  • Development of a plan of action to provide stakeholders with a sense of how to effectively implement needed changes
  • Ensuring all support structures are in place to increase the success of the initiative so that it becomes sustainable
  • Implementing the plan through action and monitoring the process throughout. It is so important that we model the expectations that we have for others so that change is embraced
  • Evaluation and providing indicators of success.  If the change process fails then reflection is paramount in order to improve the plan
Think about these elements the next time you engage in a conversation about change. If you are in a position to do so, how will you help others become change leaders to help create schools that work for kids as opposed to ones that have traditionally just worked well for us?  The world is full of opinions, but lacking in the definitive actions that are needed to transform teaching, learning, and leadership.  Be the change that you wish to see in education through action. 


  1. Eric this is very powerful and very true. With all that you have inspired and enacted recently you are definitely someone who "talks the talk and walks the walk". What you are accomplishing at New Milford High and what you are Inspiring through your writing is nothing short of a digital revolution. Thank you for carrying the shield and leading the charge!

  2. Jon - Thanks for taking the time to comment. I feel it is so important that as many of us as possible continue to share how we are taking action to improve school culture. Talk is cheap and never results in the changes our schools need.

  3. Viva la Revolution! Our school is taking action. Through positive teamwork and thoughtful planning we are beginning the change. I have created a PLN through Twitter and my Geek Teach blog and our teachers are using both as a part of their professional development. The best part of the revolution at Serviam Girls Academy...we are making the changes necessary to become an exemplary school through responsible digital citizenship, innovative technology use combined with Project Based Learning, and bringing our learning facilitators (a.k.a. teachers) into the 21st century. Keep the revolution going. We appreciate you and your guidance!

  4. Eric, this is a powerful post and I appreciate reading it today, following a #satchat conversation about being a connected educator. The change elements you've outlined are valuable and practical steps, that will move theory (or conversations) to action. I am learning, from experience and from mentors in person and through social media that the best way to lead in a time of change is to invest in others, so they're part of the process. Whether they're leaders, early adopters, "good followers", or demonstrate having potential, when people become part of a process, it adds meaning - to their learning, to the process, and to the resulting outcome. In fact, there's even an important place at the table for dissenters, because they add a perspective that challenges the process, and adds to outcome. Excellent post - I always learn so much from your leadership.


  5. It was like you were speaking right to me, Eric. I am definitely guilty of talking about how school could be different, but I never think I am doing enough to actually change anything. It takes time for me to change something in my classroom, at least the way I see it. I do have my students blogging, which they really seem to enjoy. My hope is they eventually use them as digital portfolios when applying to high school. Thanks again for stretching my thinking.