“The hardest challenge you will face is not changing yourself, but convincing or empowering your colleagues to embrace change.” – Eric Sheninger
If you are reading this blog, trying out new ideas, implementing innovative strategies, or attending meaningful professional learning opportunities then chances are you embrace change. Additionally, you are more than likely to be using social media for your Personal Learning Network (PLN) to push your thinking like never before. It is an exhilarating feeling to be exposed to an array of knowledge, resources, and ideas that can be used almost immediately to improve professional practice. In all of the examples mentioned above, or others that I have failed to list, the desire to change is clearly evident to you.
The fact of the matter is that change is desperately needed in the majority of our schools and districts. Employing the same old thinking will continue to result in the same old results. A major point of frustration that I had as a principal and what I see now in my work with educators all over the world is the unwillingness of others to embrace change. Many of us have now been exposed to the work of innovative thought leaders and practitioners that has shown us what is truly possible in our schools. What tends to be more or less demoralizing is when we travel back to our districts, schools, and classrooms and continue to see a narrow focus on the same initiatives, programs, and practices that are not in the best interests of our learners. This reality is brought up in virtually every workshop or presentation I facilitate.
Changing perception and behavior in your colleagues who either have their heads in the sand or possess the ultimate fixed mindset could possibly be the hardest task you ever take on. Change is hard. It is even harder for people that are stubborn, unwilling to overcome fears that they might have, burnt out from excessive reform, or really have no passion for working with kids. Regardless of the reason, the question becomes what are you willing to do about it? Every student in every classroom and school deserves excellence. A true testament to an exceptional leader, regardless of position, is his or her ability to convince, persuade, or inspire others to change, especially those who do not want to. It’s not now about trying to get buy-in, but moving others to see the value in the change through embracement.
The hardest, but most gratifying, work you might ever engage in is empowering your colleagues to change. Consider trying the following strategies to assist your colleagues to begin the process of changing their professional practice.
- Real change comes from colleagues modeling expectations for others. Lead by example even when initially it might be a lonely place.
- Share current research and practices that support the change you are championing.
- Encourage colleagues resistant to change to attend professional learning opportunities with you, especially administrators. Get him/her involved in quality professional development related to the change effort. Beg, barter, or plead to get your colleague to attend and learn with you. If that doesn’t work make sure you present what you learned at any recent learning experience either during a faculty meeting or one on one.
- Tackle fears head-on to alleviate concerns.
- Help others see the value of the change on their own.
- Clearly articulate how the change will improve professional practice resulting in improved student learning and achievement outcomes.
- Be patient. Treat your colleague like a student and remember how satisfying and rewarding it was when you helped that student succeed.
- Get your students involved. There is no better way, in my opinion, to convince others to change when educators can see firsthand the impact it has on kids.
- Work on building better relationships. Doing so could open the door to embracing change that otherwise might have been resisted.