As I was thinking about what to write for this post, I reflected on a recent change I just made in my career. I went from being a principal in Fulton County Schools to now being a principal is the second largest school system in Georgia, Cobb County Schools. This personal change was a great reminder of all the different emotions our teachers face when presented with change. As we work to implement the various components of professional learning communities, think through the following questions.
Are you preparing your teachers for the change?
Start having conversations with teachers about those various components. These informational conversations should be held in a very informal, non-threatening way. For example, while talking to teachers in the hallway or in the cafeteria during lunch, engage teachers in conversations about common assessments. On another day, engage them in conversations about RTI. And so on – the purpose of these conversations is to get an idea of where teachers are but also, to provide teachers with the opportunity to hear a different way of doing things before making any changes. Yes this takes time, but changing a school’s culture does take time! I have learned that preparation for the change is probably the most important aspect if the change is to be facilitated successfully.
How are you supporting your teachers?
This is a good question to think about as you implement changes in your building. Everyone wants to be supported but everyone sees that support differently. I learned that what I thought was support may not be the support that a particular teacher needs. Take the time to learn what that support looks like. Support can vary from being understanding about family issues when they come up to just supporting teachers emotionally as they vocalize the stress they are under. As principals, we don’t have the answers to everything, but we can put structures in place to help so that teachers feel supported during the change management process.
How are you providing the required resources to your teachers?
This is more than just finding money to buy resources for your teachers. This is about thinking outside the box to look at what resources are out there that your teachers may not even know about that would help them through the changes you are making. This is also about providing professional development. As an instructional leader, what does your professional development look like for your teachers? If we are about to make several changes, providing them with professional development opportunities is important so that not only they are learning but they are also buying into the change. For example, before deciding to change the grading policies in the school, spend a few months discussing the different policies that are used throughout the country, read articles on best practices for grading, have open discussion about the pros and cons of various grading practices etc. This may take a year but again, if we are changing our building’s culture, to do it right, will take time!