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Thursday
Nov122015

The good girls/good boys club

One of my favorite bloggers is Anthony VonBank over at Cloudcation. After a hiatus, he is now writing thoughtful posts on educational technology and school change, including his most recent, "This isn't the job I signed up for?"

In questioning why teachers resist change he speculates:

Perhaps it isn’t just stubbornness and perhaps it isn’t about how we are wired exactly that motivates teachers to resist change in schools, even when it’s clear that the changes would be beneficial to students. Certainly stubbornness, laziness, and foul attitudes may be at play, but I propose that sometimes it is about a teacher preserving the culture of the career they chose.

...

Now things are changing. In some cases they are changing quite swiftly. The emergence of 1:1 digital learning and standards-based instruction are just two examples of fundamental changes in the day-to-day job a teacher does. Teachers have had to evolve. I am on the front lines of this change, and often the stress and consternation these (and many other) changes bring good teachers. I struggled to fully understand this. After all, I wondered, did they expect to do the exact same job for 40 years?

I’ve found that is exactly what some expected.

I am sure job preservation is, as Anthony speculates, a factor in resistance to change. But I am suspicious there is another reason as well. I call it the good girls/boys club that often runs schools.

Many of our school leaders have been very well served by our traditional education system. Performing well academically, conforming to standards and norms, and even behaving well have allowed our current teaching staff and administration to obtain the degrees needed to get their current positions. (Myself included.)

So consciously or unconsciously, do we as humans protect and maintain systems that have personally served us well?

As my rather cynical (and still unpublished) article "The Illusion of Change" suggests:

... what impetus is there for innovation if the one in charge of change has done quite well under the current system? They don’t  pull superintendents, principals, or classroom teachers from the ranks of those whom the current education system failed! (Well, maybe a few tech directors, but they are different case.) College professors are the total masters the educational system –having risen to pinnacle of academia simply by being very, very good at “school.” And you expect them to change this perfect system that rewards the best - they themselves? Please.

The reason these  “leaders” have the ability, the position, the power to make change is that they have all have succeeded in some fashion in a traditional education model. And subliminal questions run through every decision they make - "Is this change going to screw up the system that has made it possible for me to hold my position?" "Why do that which might shake me from my current branch?"

They will therefore only initiate those changes that don't really change anything very much, that won't threaten their standing in their school or community. Risks are for fools, especially when taken for anyone outside their own genetic make up or social class. Both Zorro and the Scarlet Pimpernel were, after all, quite fictional.

As our populations become more diverse, as our technologies change, and as the demands placed on education grow, we in the good girls and boys club must be aware of how we may be protecting an outmoded system that serves an increasingly small slice of the population. Future educators, perhaps?

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Reader Comments (2)

In the last year, I have witnessed exciting changes in our classrooms/schools and have observed teachers/students doing amazing things that would not have been even though possible only a few years ago. Yes, some may feel... "Is this change going to screw up the system that has made it possible for me to hold my position?" "Why do that which might shake me from my current branch?" But there seems to be more and more that are excited to hear/learn about transformational stories and improve their own classrooms/schools from those ideas shared. Instead theses leaders wonder - where would I be today if I had had these experiences? Where will my students be tomorrow if I provide them in my classroom/school?

I honestly think its good to have some skepticism and even a little resistance when change is upon us. It may even help create a better more doable product (for all) through compromise. Not to mention, its very important that we LISTEN and look at change through multiple lenses.

In the last year, I have been witness to another exciting change. Those on the last leg of Everett Roger's Diffusion of Innovation, the last 16%, the resisters, the laggards... are beginning to make a change towards adopting/integrating technology. Woo Hoo!

Why? I am not sure. Is it because our district vision is aligned to 21st century efforts (year 3)? Or maybe that our leadership team does not waiver from our district vision? Or maybe there is a new transparency in sharing stories of learning? Or maybe the technology is just better - its ubiquitous, much more reliable, and even fun! Or maybe we are becoming more a a growth mindset culture vs. fixed. Or maybe, we are getting better at finding ways to connect and support these last few in this new frontier. Its probably all of the above... and even more reasons.

Either way, we must celebrate their efforts of all of our educators no matter how big or small!

November 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJen Hegna

Hi Jen,

You comments leave me humbled and a little ashamed of my own negativity. Thank you for sharing what can happen with the right leadership and vision.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the old adage "don't water the weeds." We probably dwell too much and give too much time and attention to the "resistors" in our schools, allow our practices and policies to be driven by them.

I like your attitude and approach. See you at TIES.

A sincere thank-you,

Doug​

November 14, 2015 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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