Ed note: This blog was co-authored by David Culberhouse, Jon Corippo, and Cori Orlando.
Urgency. The time to create educational change is now, it isn’t an option. Our students, our world, and our future are changing, therefore our students’ education must change as well. When organizations feel the urgency to solve or heal a problem, it is easy to look for a quick fix. That is part of human nature, see a problem…fix the problem. Makes sense, right? But let us ask: “How is that working for you?” Is that quick fix; that band-aid, what is needed for truly sustainable change? It’s time for a new conversation, time for a different plan of action…we need to look deeper than the surface wound. We must look under the band-aid. We need to diagnose the origin of the holes to heal them at their core. So what is holding us back?
Gaping Holes: Disconnected systems: Many systems try to increase cognitive loads on individuals in the organization. But adding “one more thing” diminishes space for new learning and creating new knowledge that should be focused on better idea flows. Instead, we should identify things we can let go of – schools are a mile wide and an inch deep. What if we narrowed our scope and dug deeper? Like the quote that’s attributed to Einstein says: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” When is the last time we tried to make the process of education more simple?
Unhealing Holes: Initiative fatigue across organizations: When the focus is on implementing programs more than shifting mindsets, people become fatigued. Their mental bandwidth for change decreases with every new event. So let us increase leadership capacity to make a shift in our educational organizations. Let’s focus our change efforts on mindsets, mind shifts, future and around the corner thinking, internal and external awareness, greater emotional intelligence and empathy, greater understanding of improvement and transformational processes.
Rather than a short-term, new initiative every year (replacing with a fresh band-aid) let’s think more long range. The president of Honda was once asked how long their long-range plan was by American MBAs. He replied “250 years”. We need to think the same way. We must develop a real plan for raising healthy human beings not test scores. To do this, we need to shift our minds and actions to be student-centric so we can focus on the best ways to help all of our students become their best.
The wound that begets the band-aid: Lack of awareness: If there is not a deep understanding as to the “WHY” change and transformation are even necessary, it will be difficult to create and sustain a plan. It may create an unwillingness to look beyond what we’ve always done to better prepare students to be adaptable and agile to a changing world. It could blind us by not seeing our own “Napster” moment staring us in the face. Educators (all levels of educators, including administrators) should look at books like Dumbing Us Down and The End of Average and films like Most Likely To Succeed and Race To Nowhere and grapple with the idea that to some degree, we are culpable. We can not change unless we are willing to understand our own responsibility and power within the system.
Self-inflicted wounds: Facing the enemy within: We create our own internal divisions (between teachers, administrators, district office, parents, etc.) that inhibit collective transformation and impact. This keeps the system from having any type of momentum as it is constantly stepping on itself. Communication and transparency are key when creating change. Involve those who will be affected. Ask for and listen to ideas, regardless of where they come from. Listen beyond titles, rank, role, age; because amazing ideas can come from the most unforeseen places.
Change is never easy, large change can be painful. “Pain is mandatory, misery is optional”. At all levels, education takes a Herculean effort to be excellent. Education is COMPLEX, INTENSE and requires SACRIFICE. Being an educator means long, hard days. But by keeping our eyes on the prize – a healthy, creative and connected next generation- it is worth the cost. When we believe that and work together, the misery dissipates.
What is the antidote? We can start by ripping away the band-aid to allow holes to scab over. We need people and organizations who have a (disruptive) beta mindset. Those who have a willingness to engage in ongoing learning (should not be an event), as well as a willingness to disrupt mindsets that inhibit change. Those who see and share new possibilities that lead to new learnings and new behaviors. We have to be willing to ask hard questions, have tough conversations and be transparent and honest in doing so. We have to also be in tune and truly listen to what students want and need from their education – it is their future we are creating.
David Culberhouse: Educator, Ideapreneurial, Exponential Mindset, Social Architect, CUE Rockstar Admin Faculty, TEDx, Facilitator for NISL, Proactively Designing the Future… @DCulberhouse