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Oct 08

Chris Smeaton

The Change Continuum?

There are those who thrive on change. Most of us however, prefer to default to our own comfort zone. The reality is change is inevitable. I would suggest that because we often think of change as an either/or action, we tend to fear it and in many instances avoid when possible. All this talk about transformation in education leaves many of us in the field a little uneasy. We assume that it will happen tomorrow and the world that we currently live in will cease to exist. While my personal feeling is that we require that type of leap of faith to get us to where we need to go, I’m also conscious that most of us are not prepared to jump in with both feet.

Change, especially in education doesn’t require either/or thinking. In fact, we need to start to believe that it is a natural journey or progression from where we are to where we want to be. It should not assume that we are currently doing is irrelevant. Quite the opposite! The change required is all about our professional duty to be the best that we can be! Assumed competence means being at the top of our game or at minimum, striving to get there all the time. The non-negotiable of the profession is the continual desire to get there! In her article, “Change is Hard, Here’s Why You Should Keep Trying“, Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter, explains why change is hard and more importantly why change is required.   

Few leaders if any, are ever hired to maintain the status quo. Whether it be the educational or business world, the desire to improve will always be a high priority. Often the changes required when viewed from the 10,000 foot level seem to be so common sense. And because they appear to be so common sense, it is frustrating for leaders who want to make the grandiose change required to be patient. While a better understanding of the change process does not speed up the rate of change, it does provide a better perspective.

Taking a page out of the work from Anthony Mohammed and a recent workshop with Jerry Goebel, I would like to forward these stages of resistance to change. In doing so, I hope that all educators recognize where they are in the change process and begin moving toward the next step on their journey.

  1. Cognitive barrier- Lacks knowledge or understanding
  2. Emotive barrier- Lacks perspective and trust
  3. Technical barrier- Lacks skills
  4. Visceral barrier- Lacks motivation to change

From a leader’s perspective, I’m quite willing to work with those experiencing the first three resistors. There are always solutions to the first three barriers both from the leaders’ or participants’ actions. Divisions offer various  professional learning opportunities and the connected educator has the ability and autonomy to continually access development. However, when there is no willingness to change as in the final barrier, it is only surmountable with a exit strategy. Individuals who possess a visceral barrier are poisonous to an organization. Not only do they choose not to make necessary changes but they are also active recruiters for their way of thinking. Great work done by individual leaders or  staff members is often sabotaged by their actions.

If we continue to think of change as either/or rather than part of a journey, we will continually struggle to adapt. If we allow those who openly lack the motivation to change to rule the process we will NEVER adapt.  However, if we are prepared to join the journey, fully aware we will experience some strife in our efforts to get better, we WILL adapt. And when we adapt, our practices will continue to improve as we move along the change continuum.

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