Change Leadership Matters

If you Google image “Michael Fullan Books”, you will find at least a dozen titles with the word “change” in the title. Look closely at the others and the word will appear in many of the subtitles as well. What Fullan understands is that the implementation of any innovation requires not simply an understanding of the innovation, but a deep understanding of change itself.

Technology can create a lot of angst in the user. The teacher must learn along with the student which creates anxieties about class control, and worries around student perceptions of teacher competency. There is doubt about implementation. Will the tool work? Is the back-end bandwidth infrastructure adequate? Do we have enough devices to create a structured learning environment. Should the first efforts fail, there is a visceral response to give up and revert back to what one knows ..and what one can control. 

Leading innovation means knowing how to empathize with these very real feelings. It also means working with and teaching others how to accept failures as learning experiences so that the classroom can be enhanced by the successes. There is a misconception out there that teachers simply don’t want to change or learn. Some think that teachers believe that integrating technology is too labor intensive and the result is not worth the effort. Believing this as accurate leads to administrators judging teachers’ frustrations as an unprofessional defiance of new ideas instead of as an understandable emotional response. 

In the  2006 book “The Learning Leader”,  Douglas Reeves highlighted research data from over 6000 respondents. His report reveals that 17% of teachers were willing to lead initiatives,  53% were willing to model initiatives, and 28% would “fence sit.” In fact only 2% are actually resistant to the change. He calls these the “toxic 2%.”  If 70% are willing to be part of the change and 28% are willing to implement should it prove worthwhile, why do we automatically assume that teachers are resistant? It simply isn’t true. The 2% are loud and antagonistic but they are only 2%. 

Leadership here matters. Support, empathy, and vision can help a staff push past any of these obstacles en route to classrooms that are future ready.

Geoff Edwards
Principal
St. Paul Catholic School
Ottawa Catholic School Board

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