Apparently, her school strategic plan for the next three years was too tightly focused on improving what they were already doing, and this didn’t pass muster with those higher up.
Apart from feeling slighted, her dilemma was such that the financial situation at her school meant to focus on a new initiative would mean less resourcing of what she called the “day-to-day” essentials of running her school.
This scenario is not uncommon to us in our work with schools. All too often we hear of departments, or school leaders pushing for change through the discovery of a silver bullet, or the ‘new thing’.
This obsession with transformational change misses the larger point that change within a school rarely occurs as a result of the implementation of a radical new approach.
Rather, change occurs increment by increment or by a tweak based on what’s already working well. Indeed, our fascination with ‘the new’ often leads to cynicism, as professionals grow weary of the latest fad.
It’s a rare teacher who cannot recall initiatives that have died out, despite the time, effort and money poured into them, and whilst leaders might question why staff aren’t buying into the new approach, they appear unable to recall how they felt as teachers as change was rolled out.
In the saccharine world of education conferences and social media debate, such cynicism is sneered at and used as a weapon against educators who aren’t as quick to drink the Kool-Aid, and this can lead to quite divisive debate about what makes a great teacher.
To be clear, there is nothing inherently good about ‘transformational change,’ indeed there can be many unintended consequences – you only need to look at how email has transformed communication in your school.
Returning to the principal at the start of this article, it is worth noting that her colleagues in the room went to great lengths to illustrate all the ways in which she, and her school, were affecting change, not only in her school, but also – because of the nature of that community – how her work was empowering all the principals in the room to do great work in their respective schools.
You’d have thought the Department would have recognised that, no?