I’ve learned over the past eight years of my teaching career that I will never stop learning. As a teacher, it is my job to continue to progress through classes, professional development workshops, degrees, and readings to make sure that I am changing as quickly as our world. Because our job is to help our students grow to be productive members of society, I need to make sure that I am fully aware of what our society is and what it is capable of. I absolutely cannot prepare my students for the world without having an understanding of how our world is changing. That is something I’ve learned the most in my newest degree pursuit in digital leading and learning.
Over the past five courses, I have, along with fellow colleagues in the same department as me, developed an innovation plan that I feel follows my philosophy of change and growth. As the program progresses, so does the innovation plan, and I feel ready to begin pursuing this plan as the school year begins in just a few short weeks. This innovation plan involves a curriculum revolution across all departments in the building. We will be asking teachers to adopt the use of learning ePortfolios so that students can graduate high school with something substantial that they can continue to grow and see what and how much they have learned over their four years in Owen J. Roberts High School. Our goal is that the development of these learning ePortfolios will allow our students to enter the world in such a way that is useful to them. If they are going to college, their ePortfolio will host a plethora of digital tools, papers, subjects, reflections, and more to aid them in their studies. If they are off to travel, the ePortfolio will help them document their travels. If they are off to work, the ePortfolio will allow them to see where their skills and strengths are and will also hopefully contain a useful resume, cover letter draft, and other tools useful to them entering the workforce.
This is not an easy task or a simple undertaking, and it will take a long time for the entire teaching body to adopt and fully implement the use of the learning ePortoflio in their courses. One of the most significant hurdles will be resistance from other teachers. As teachers, we (mostly) feel that we are all doing the best that we can, and those who don’t do the best they can are choosing to do so because they don’t have the time or energy, and asking this of them will be catastrophic to their comfort and apathy. We also all take teaching extremely personally. If someone tells us we are doing something wrong or in a way that could be so much better, we feel that emotionally rather than just professionally. I don’t know if this is the same in other careers, but I feel as though it may happen more often or more strongly in the teaching profession.
Because of the resistance that my colleagues and I fear we will face, we have been studying the book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. The authors of this book delve into the extremely important acknowledgement of all aspects of a crucial conversation. A conversation is considered crucial if the stakes are high, the opinions differ on the topic, and if it emotions are strong (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2002). The authors of Crucial Conversations point out how important it is to handle these crucial conversations well because otherwise, your goal will not be achieved, and those who achieve the most goals are those who have mastered completing difficult but crucial conversations (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2002).
One of the most significant aspects of having a crucial conversation is the art of dialogue. Both parties need to have successful dialogue in order for the goal to be achieved. In our case, we would need to “dialogue” with many different people in various sizes of groups. There will be one on conversations, as well as both small and large group conversations. One of the points that I found to be extremely pertinent is that everyone in the dialogue needs to feel secure (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2002). We cannot bombard the entire school with a directive without having a conversation. The authors suggest that we “start with heart” and make sure that everyone knows why we are having the conversation and how we feel about the topic. We really want our school to adopt the learning ePortoflio because it will better the learning of our students, and it will set them up for more success in the future, and that is an important idea to get across to our colleagues immediately.
The authors then talk about what to do when the conversation starts to head south, when people start to feel unsafe or insecure. There will be signs that we will have to look out for when delivering our innovation plan to other teachers: physical, emotions, and behavioral signals that will tell us we need to slow down and make sure everyone knows they have a voice and an opinion worth hearing (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2002). We know that we already have a “mutual purpose” (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2002) which is to improve the learning environment for our students. We all have that common goal, so technically, we are already ahead of the game! What we need to make sure of is that everyone has “mutual respect” for each other’s art and philosophy of teaching. We will need to be careful about how to approach the why factor of the plan. We cannot allow teachers to feel as though their current practices are poor or negligent, just that this new practice will improve everyone’s experiences in the school as a whole.
Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler provide advice for how to state our purpose. They say it is best to Share your facts, Tell your story, Ask for others’ paths, Talk tentatively, and Encourage testing (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2002). By following this procedure, we hope that we will be able to hear other teachers’ concerns while at the same time providing valuable feedback and information about our innovation plan. After we state our paths, we plan to have an open forum to hear the other teachers’ paths, as suggested by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler. This way, we will be able to understand where the resistance is coming from and why. Finally, after following the steps as outlined above, we will “move to action” (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2002). It will be extremely important for the other teachers to see that we are practicing what we preach, and that by implementing the learning ePOrtoflios ourselves, we are modeling the behaviors we wish to see in our colleagues, and pieces of the puzzle will start to fall into place. When we begin to move to action, we will be using aspects of our Why Statement, Influencer Strategy, our 4DX Plan, and referring to what we learned reading Crucial Conversations to make sure that our plan is on track.
We began this course by creating a significant why statement that focuses on learning rather than scores: We believe in the importance of developing personal learning preferences and habits for creating the desire to become lifelong learners. After creating the why, we needed to learn about the how, and that’s when we looked at both the 4DX and the influencer strategy plans. I was more connected to the 4DX plan because of the authors’ acknowledgement of the whirlwind, the mayhem of our lives that prevents us from reaching the goals we have. In our 4DX plan, we discuss how to move past that whirlwind and achieve our WIG of increasing the use of the ePortfolio by 95% and to make sure everyone in the English department understands our 4DX strategy plan so that they too can feel less stressed about this innovation plan in the midst of the chaos of school.
In this course, Leading Organizational Change, I have been able to see our plan start to come to life. I have started to change my syllabus for my senior classes, the ones who we will begin implementation with, and I couldn’t be more excited. I know that in order to be successful, we will need to approach all aspects of change: personal, structural, and social, and we have decided to focus our efforts on the collaboration of the social motivation and ability aspect of the influencer model. As the weeks go by and I begin my school year, I now look forward to the collaboration that this innovation plan can have among our colleagues, and I am so excited to see the learning process revolutionized among our students. It feels as though the puzzle pieces are finally coming together, and I so look forward to seeing the product come to life.
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