It’s easy to look at schools down the road and to want what they have. What we tend to see in these situations is some sort of evidence of success. And we want it. And we think it must be easy to achieve by creating just that role, and by getting just that right person who will do just that job. We think if we write it into our strategic plans and make it a focus with our groups, then it will happen. And a priority is for it to happen quickly. A nice fit for a yearly plan might be a 6 month period. 6 month periods of change always achieve a nice write up in a report of the year don’t they? Ticking boxes is always satisfying.
What has really led to that state of perceived success however, is much like the iceberg image below. 5 or 6 years of baby steps. 5 or 6 years of pushing the agenda to encourage people to think a little differently and to do things a little differently. 5 or 6 years of decision making that at times wasn’t quite strategic in the true sense – sometimes more just a case of people taking a leap of faith in one of our beliefs about the way forward. 5 or 6 years of personal frustration at the slow pace of change. 5 or 6 years at glimpses of success that would drive us further. 5 or 6 years of the occasional opportunity that fell into our laps that we could then build on. 5 or 6 years of building partnerships and relationships with people that would provide benefit to both parties.
And are we there yet? Absolutely not. There is much to do and it is tiring and amidst change above us, often pushes us to the brink of exhaustion and self-doubt. I see where we are and sometimes only recognise how much there is to go. And I also tend to see how many challenges are placed in our way and how many blocks are left there from decades of ‘We have always done it this way’ thinking.
The biggest blocks however, are in our minds. What I have recognised is that mindset shift is the hardest thing to do. This can take years, if it ever happens at all. Mindset shift for teachers is often moving them away from something that, to them, has always worked. Mindset shift moves people to uncertain ground, challenging them to think differently, to question and to not assume that the well trodden path is the right path. In much the same way that we must challenge our parents to recognise the alternate paths for our kids’ futures, we must also continue to challenge our teachers to lift their heads from the work that is overwhelming them and to place importance on learning and being a learner. It’s also up to us to continue the momentum despite challenges and change, placing importance on high quality teacher learning and providing the time and space for this to flourish.
So, in summary, good change is not about ticking boxes, about putting people in roles, assuming they will check in with you occasionally and just get the job done. Managing and embedding change at a leadership level means providing the vision – the vision that is achieved through collaborative and creative efforts with our people and then supporting people to reach it. It’s about recognising the unique nature of your site and your own community and leveraging this to work differently, work harder or work smarter. It’s also about keeping your eye firmly on the future and taking small and solid steps constantly to get there.