We all know colleagues who tend to overreact. Their achievement scores were mediocre or worse, they go to a few conferences or professional development classes over the summer, and drop a reform plan on their teachers with little to no warning. You can imagine what kind of buy-in that approach generates.
Every school reaches the point where things need to be shaken up a bit. When your time comes, here is the most effective approach to getting things done. Warning: this is not a quick process.
If you don’t answer this question to the satisfaction of almost everyone in the building, you’ve just created more problems than you’re looking to solve. Before you even have a plan (or perhaps you have a broad vision), sit everyone down and explain why something needs to be done using as much evidence as you can gather. Make sure you make it clear that suggestions and collaboration are welcome.
2. Assemble a team to analyze possible solutions
In the introduction example, the administrator is the driver of the change. That’s not optimal. You want a collaborative team around you coming up with ideas. You might have a suggestion or a broad vision, but you want to be able to point to a group that represents everyone when the grumbling begins (and it will begin).
3. Spend the most time on explanation
You might expect to start your professional development plan here, but you actually want to spend a considerable amount of time on explaining how things will work under the new plan rather than telling teachers how they need to change. This is the time for everyone to engage in the vision and build the culture that will move things forward. If that culture isn’t built, you’ve failed before you’ve even started.
4. Make a big investment
This is where you choke on your lunch a little bit. I don’t mean a big investment in the traditional sense, like millions of dollars. I simply mean a bigger investment than what the staff is expecting. You want to put your money where your mouth is. Purchase comprehensive professional development or new technology. Teachers respect reform when they feel they are being supported, not only emotionally but also financially.
5. Don’t stop
Many reform plans stop after the PD is completed or the technology is implemented. That plug-and-play approach might work for a nice toaster but not for school reform and its many moving parts. Make sure key pieces are revisited throughout the year(s) and provide ongoing PD. Not only does that reflect your commitment to the long-term vision, but it also helps indoctrinate new staff members to the school’s new culture.
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