On Saturday, March 16th, Adam and I once again got together at the university in order to hammer out the fine details of our major project. As we went through the various tasks associated with the final project there was one thing in particular that caught my attention and once again caused my brain to hurt – describe your intended engagement with change resistors.
The truth is, I don’t actually know how I would hypothetically engage with someone that believes that our idea is pointless (just to recap, the primary purpose of our project is to provide an adequate amount of ed tech training for the school so that everyone has an understanding of the programs that have become mainstream in our schools). Obviously, I think our idea has value. Technology is going to continue to be an important part of a student’s 21st-century education and skillset. Tech is an important part of our student’s lives so it’s important for us to implement technology into our classes if we want to engage increasingly disengaged students. Furthermore, teachers should constantly be striving to improve their practice. A teacher should not be teaching the same way today that they did 20, 10, or even 5 years ago. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
But what about those teachers that fail to see the value in incorporating technology into the classroom? Or those teachers that see the incorporation of tech into the class as just another change that’s being forced upon them? How do I sell them on our plan?
Well, I guess I’d start by pointing out that we’re not trying to drastically alter the practice of every teacher in the building. It would be foolish for me to tell anyone else how to do their job. That’s the beauty of teaching – there are multiple ways to be good at it. What we’re attempting to accomplish is to provide training in the programs that we’re either mandated to use (PowerSchool, Gradebook, My BluePrint) or are encouraged to use (Google Suite) while also exposing teachers (and by extension students) to additional tools that can be used to enhance the quality of education in their classroom. We’re not really forcing anyone to do anything and that’s an important part of our plan because the second that teachers are told that they have to do something, immediately you’re going to hear groans because let’s face it – teachers are busy people that have dealt with a litany of changes and initiatives over the years. The dangers of repetitive change are real and I’m reminded of the following quote from the article “Avoiding Repetitive Change Syndrome”:
“Employees who have to live through continuous rounds of change suffer the most, and the effect on the organization as a whole is likely to be corrosive. To guard against this damaging outcome, executives should continually monitor their organizations for symptoms of repetitive change syndrome: initiative overload, change-related chaos, employee cynicism and burnout”
We had this in mind when we worked to ensure that our modules were going to be brief and that the demands placed on teachers were going to be fairly minimal. Essentially, we want to work to disrupt their teaching practice in the least disruptive manner possible.
Aside from the teachers that don’t see the value in technology, what about the teachers and administrators that see the value but not at the expense of something else? There is an element of opportunity cost with our project – the time spent learning about ed tech is time that could be spent in a variety of different ways. How am I going to convince that segment that improved ed tech training is an endeavour worth pursuing?
While the answer to the previous question seemed fairly straight forward, this one is a bit trickier. For all the talk coming from teachers about the need for more PD, the reality of the situation is that the second that a PD day is used for something other than prep time, many teachers (myself included, from time to time) get frustrated and check out from whatever it is that we’re being taught thus rendering the PD meaningless.
“Why am I doing this when I have countless assignments/exams to mark? That’s how I should be spending my time today”.
Honestly, that’s a valid question and one that deserves a quality response. As class sizes increase and supports decrease, teachers are being tasked with more and more. Would I like to use the time provided to us on our limited PD days to mark/plan so that I could spend more time with my family after school and on weekends? That’s an easy answer.
Getting people on board with change is tricky. On one hand, we have identified something in our school system (ed tech training) that needs to be fixed. On the other hand, there is a lot that needs to be fixed with little time to do so. It turns out that finding a balance between solving a problem in an efficient manner while also avoiding repetitive change syndrome is tough.