We hear it all the time – Be Awesome – Be Great. This Post is a celebration of the ordinary, everyday change efforts of educators to Make a Difference.
You know sometimes we think that what we’re doing is minor in the grand scheme of all things education. That we just don’t cut it on the be a great teacher scale.
In the social media landscape where competition for attention is intense, the ‘work hard’, ‘don’t forget that you have the most important job in the world’, ‘be awesome’, and ‘do great things’ mantras can take a toll or at the very least make us doubt or undersell the impact of work we’re doing everyday.
Work that is making a difference. Work that is building community. Work that is showing students that their voices matter. Work that is contributing to change.
Change: It Starts With One
I was reminded of the power of one person’s efforts when I recently spoke to Aussie Principal Ray Boyd.
He mentioned a conversation with a class teacher (Tammy) that was a key contributor to whole school change at West Beechboro Primary School.
Tammy had been trialling (with Ray’s permission) a new teaching approach in her classroom (over three months) and gathering evidence of success along the way. By the time she spoke to Ray, she had data ready to make her case for change.
Listen below to hear about the transformation that then took place in West Beechboro Primary School over time (4:19 minute mark onward).
Change: It’s Building a Base
I recently co-moderated (with Judy Arzt) a twitter chat at #teacheredchat on driving change in education. I posed the question – What can you do if the change you’re passionate about doesn’t have majority support or interest?
The most common response: Seed the idea and build a base around it.
Educators suggested starting small, collaborating with those interested in and passionate about the change.
This small support base helps you maintain enthusiasm and encourages you to persevere.
Together, over time, you collate classroom data to support your arguments for change, regularly sharing what you’re doing, along with the results.
With your obvious passion for the cause, it likely draws more people towards you and the change you’re advocating.
It’s probably not an overnight success. It may not reach the scale that you desire but it is making a difference.
Here’s some of the #teacheredchat tweets about building a support base for change:
Check out the full #teacheredchat on Driving Change and Navigating the Bumps Along the Way here.
Change: It’s Opening the Doors
Increasingly on Twitter, I’m seeing Education Leaders stepping out of their offices and into the classrooms of their teaching staff.
They’re proudly shining a light on their school community’s diverse teaching and learning practices, along with the engagement of their staff and students.
In so doing, they open the doors to connection – to greater awareness, validation and appreciation; to opportunities for collaboration; and the building of a committed, passionate community.
They also remind us that change and innovation occurs in a myriad of ways.
It’s not always grand, shiny and sparkly. Sometimes it arises out of the ordinary and unexceptional, out of dogged persistence, showing up and applying yourself to the task.
Similar benefits can accrue through publicising of what’s taking place in classrooms via social media.
Ray Boyd, like an increasing number of education leaders, is encouraging his staff to tweet about what’s happening in their classrooms.
In recognising that many parents/carers (especially mums) were on Facebook, West Beechboro Primary School is also meeting them there.
This social media practice enables parents and carers to stay informed, and helps build connections with the school’s teaching and learning practices, as well as the education reforms that are being implemented within the school.
Listen to Ray Boyd speak about getting parents to buy-in to change and the role of social media >> 17:48 and 19:18 minute mark
Change: It’s Getting Out into the Community
Some education institutions are connecting learning to the world of their students. VLA Academy in Chicago, USA for example has a strong focus on social justice, social activism, and student agency.
VLA Academy students are learning through action – through getting out, getting involved and speaking up about the issues that matter to them – that impact on their lives as a community.
This is also community that also celebrates with and learns from experienced community activists – recognising the wisdom that is learnt from life-times of agitating for social justice. See more at the regular #VLAStyle Twitter Chat
In a different manner, an institution I worked in had a Learning in the Workplace and Community Policy (LiWP).
In our English Language Centre for refugees and new migrants, this LiWP provided a solid justification for real-world language use and community connection.
Instead of decontextualized language exercises and activities, we were able to link our teaching with real-world practice in the students’ community which greatly increased motivation and engagement.
Additionally we broadened students’ social networks as we partnered with local recreation, sporting and arts organisations.
And finally we offered Trade-Taster programs that taught students the English language skills of carpentry, painting, and bricklaying whilst they learnt the hands-on practical skills involved from workers in these fields.
The language we were teaching through our Learning in the Workplace and Community programs was authentic and relevant. We enabled it to live and breathe in real-world settings.
In a sense, it was a let’s try-out your language through action – then bring back your experiences, questions or issues to the classroom and we’ll go from there. It was quite a shift from the traditional model of English Language Learning.
Change: It’s Multi-Faceted
If we’re to consider the initiatives I’ve raised in this post as a whole – were they all raging successes from the beginning?
No. They take time to get buy-in. They require dogged determination and persistence to the cause.
Did they proceed in a nice linear path?
No. There’s undoubtedly bumps and detours along the way.
Are they all sparkly and shiny – busting the awesomeness scale initiatives?
No. there’s many ordinary moments with occasional instances of YES!! and WOW dotted along the way.
What we do see throughout though is an undoubted sense of pride and connection to their community, culture and institutions’ vision.
These educators are making change happen – one step at a time – in their own ways.
Related Posts & Podcasts
- Check out My Make Change Happen Resource Page – It’s packed with podcasts, posts and books to support you to Make a Difference.
- How to Navigate Social Justice Issues in the Classroom with Rusul Alrubail
- Pushing the Edge of Whole School Change with Ray Boyd