Teacher to Teacher: Celebrate Change
by Lynne R. Dorfman
As new technologies, new staff, and new initiatives cycle through every district’s education system, change is inevitable. While teachers and administrators are approached with changes, appropriate response is vital for successful implementation. Choosing to respond rather than reacting to change will enhance the success of any endeavor. When you react, it is easy to feel helpless and frustrated, but if you respond to change, then you accept what is and choose to let it affect you positively. Three rules that will help create a positive experience with change are:
1. Be clear on how you want to handle change.
2. Set realistic goals for change.
3. Let change open new doors and point us in new directions.
Sometimes, we are working on a school or district goal. Other times, we may work with an individual teacher to improve instruction or with an individual parent and/or student to help the student meet his goals. We could be working with a team – perhaps, a grade level on a goal. And more than likely, we could be working on a few or all these things at once!
Everyone in the professional community works toward a common goal of helping all students be more successful. The major components to consider include the following:
Leadership – The principal sets the climate, involves all parties, uses teachers as teachers (teachers teaching teachers).
Implementers – WHO?
The Change – WHY? – district goal, philosophy, best practice, research, increase student achievement
The Process – HOW?
TIMELINE – What supports are needed? Respond to concerns “Another new idea, we’ve seen this before, what comes will go…”
Look at change as a constant. It is always going to be part of the equation. Although we will meet with some resistance, we can think about ways to counter it:
- Communication – increase knowledge
- Educational programs
- Professional book clubs
- Staff changes
- Ongoing staff development
- Providing resources
- Providing opportunities to attend conferences and share information
- Creating teams
- New policies/procedures
- Temporary structures
- Creating partnerships through co-teaching or peer coaching
- Employee involvement – committees at the district level that really have a voice
Help to be part of the change by setting new goals for your classroom. Perhaps, you will help students become part of the assessment process with a portfolio system that includes student self-selection and opportunities for reflection. Perhaps, you will examine your classroom library and make an effort to add books to your collection that will serve your present class as both mirrors and windows. Maybe you will try reading or writing workshop this year for the first time. Whatever you decide to do, remember that contemplation leads to planning and planning leads to action! Maintenance, however, is perhaps the most important phase of change. We find ways to sustain the change over time, live in the change, and attempt to prevent relapses to older forms of behavior, attitude, and thought processes that may no longer be productive or simply may not work in the present educational time we live in.
Change happens. Enjoy it! Embrace it! Savor the adventures you will have!
Lynne Dorfman is a co-director of PAWLP and adjunct professor for Arcadia University. This summer she enjoyed vacations in Maine and at the seashore. Lynne is looking forward to KSLA, PCTELA, and NCTE Conferences this fall where she will learn from distinguished colleagues across the state and country.
Thank you for sharing timely and important ideas regarding change — your suggestions and insights are spot on for the start of a new school year. Great reminders along with new ideas!