In the face of change

Change, just the thought or mention of it, is never easy. What is it about change that some just despise? Is it the notion that change is negative? Is it the need to control and change is a loss of control? Might it be the person who initiates the change isn’t the right one? Whatever the cause of change, change causes people to feel uneasy.

Through what lens
Any effective change begins with having a vision. Just this morning, I read some tweets from #ISTELF12 that focused on vision and change. The only beginning to effective change is to have a vision and the vision must be all encompassing and sweeping throughout the organization. The vision is always how it looks to someone, let’s call that the mountaintop. The 50,000 foot view is where it really starts; the utopian view; the ultimate. It is this vision that shapes the learning community within a school, and the learning community needs to involve the teachers, principals, all levels of administration as well as the students. Looking through the vision lens gives you what you want it to look like when the the entire plan is enacted.

Doing the work, the tough climb
Pat Farrell, principal at the BBHMS, said to his teachers last year, “Do the work.” in reference to teachers working in PLCs. Thankfully he allowed us teachers to work as we needed to without oversight other than keeping a meeting log. When it comes to PLC work, or in this blog post, the work of change and vision, it takes hard work because the work isn’t given to you, you have to create it. Creating the work to a teacher seems to be difficult. The difficulty lies in the extra time and effort now added to a full day. The real difficult part is because teachers expect to be given everything they need to get the work done, just like they do with their students. So when the information isn’t readily available, and it has to be found, curated and then annotated, the real work begins and my “Spidy Senses” tell me teachers have difficulty learning. The work, the creation of knowledge, is the tough work because the information needs to be found and transformed into a product that others can understand and use to enhance their own learning. Along with this work comes the critical thinking part. What should we include, what shouldn’t be included, why should we use or that piece of information, and how are we going to get to the best knowledge and product. The critical thinking piece is what it is all about. Working towards the vision means the hard work has to be done upfront otherwise the infrastructure isn’t in place and the entire movement crumbles.

Know what you envision
This is the part that everyone wants to get to and that is the plan: making the lists, delegating the responsibilities, merging all of the ideas, and finalizing what is going to happen. This part solidifies the vision. Now, making the plan all come together means people have to come to the same point of view. The leader has to be skilled to bring everyone to the same point.

Accomplishments, shomplisments
So the plan takes life and takes off and it is time to know what is being accomplished. Are there measures built into the plan to assess success? Did the plan have intervention methods that allowed for shifts to take place along the way? How do you know you have succeeded and, perhaps, why the plan failed? Any plan, any vision cannot be said to succeed or fail until “all of the data is in.” The data is what tells you about the shape of the plan and whether or not it did what it was supposed to.

Along the way shifts are going to need to be made. Why? Because no plan, no matter how well the contingencies were planned for, is fail proof. I happen to watch a few crime shows here and there largely because my wife does. The one unavoidable fact is that a criminal cannot make a crime fullproof. There is always some evidence left behind. As a result of formative measures, how well is the plan working? How deep is the learning going? This data helps shifts to be made allowing for the vision to be realized.

Vision made proper
Now that the plan and measures are put in place, the vision is ready to be communicated. This is essential as all of the other parts of visioneering are done behind closed doors and no one else knows what the team is thinking and talking about. Without transparent communication of the vision, those being led get lost and have not a clue as to what is going on or where they are going.

In terms of teaching
Without vision a body of people are simply existing and the work they do have no value other than it gets done. Teachers who have the vision of the principal are more able to justify what they do because it makes sense to them, and when it makes sense, the educators give more of themselves to their work because it is valued.