maanantaina, syyskuuta 12, 2016

About 100 recipes for change

About 100 recipes for change 
by Martti Hellström
Translated by Sirkku Nikamaa-Linder

Commonly approved and accepted goals are seen as binding, but flexible administrative-pedagogical guidelines. Schools choose the most important issues and start the development work with available resources. All feedback - especially critical feedback - is taken onboard and acted upon.

These ideas are based on a hybrid approach to change.

The approach ‘cross pollinates’ the visions of the authorities and the administrators with the ideas and practical know-how of the real actors i.e. the teachers. There is space for flexible actions, but also limits and goals defined by common vision.

The approach is largely problem based and it encourages removal of obstacles of success. It is fuelled by passion to do things in new ways - and to do them better.

A. The foundations of change

1. Ensure that everyone has the roadmap - on paper. A link to a web resource is not enough.
Arrange meetings to ensure that everyone has a joint vision and understanding of the key elements in the roadmap.
2. Be realistic. What is the will and the capability of change the school realistically has? Is the window of change wide open or just barely ajar? Is the everyday life at school ok? Does the system run smoothly? Has the work been organised in such a way that everyone feels ok with their work and has the necessary means to do it? Is there a clear vision and is the leadership good? Of not - start there.
3. Create a network of critical friends. Organise sparring partners who can give you honest, supporting feedback and add to your ideas.
4. Phase I: Go on a hunt for the best change ideas. Start with the problems in your school. They are usually not hard to find.
5.Recognise a problem: There is a disturbance. A disturbance can be that parents put their kids in other schools. The observable disturbance is not the problem itself. The problem is the cause of the disturbance.
6. Stare at that problem. Who has a problem? Whose work is impacted by it? How does that problem stop the students from learning and the teachers from organising the teaching and learning in a smart way?
7.Recognise the the problem from behind all the disturbances. They are separate things. Take care and take some time to identify the real problem.
8.Create a clear picture of the things that REALLY need to change in the school. All schools have practices that are outdated. Change that ones that are not working anymore.
9. Reflect on many alternative ways to solve that problem. A good idea is likely to solve the problem that is an obstacle for good teaching and learning. It is possible that finding the solution has even more added value and consequences.
10.When you “sell” an idea - any idea, tell which problem this idea will solve! First you have to sell the problem - then the solution. Show why this particular idea is a smart solution for the problem.
11. Ensure that your idea is a good one. Make sure it is easy to use and be sure that using the idea - or solving the problem - actually is actually satisfying and that it promotes the good things you want to promote.
12. Define the goals carefully and precisely: What is it that has to change? What do we have to do differently? A change can be stopping to do some things. That something should be done less often - or more often. Or that you do something you have never done before.
13.Ensure that there are different levels of solving the problems - some that are easier, and others that are more demanding.
14.Think about the most opportune place and the moment for presenting the idea.

B. Selling the change

15. Ensure once more that you believe in what you want to sell.
16. The best way to influence people is to sell. Selling is about presenting the new in ways that appeal to reason and to emotions. Forcing or cheating are not valid alternatives.
17. Sell the problem first. Show statistics, read out loud angry feedback. Make sure that people believe that change is necessary.
18. Talk about the problem (and later your ideas) using everyday language.
19. Charge people up with faith: The change is possible. Tell about previous success stories.
20. Show people what the new reality can look like. Simulate it.
21. If your own talk does not convince, use the why- question chain. (Ask Why? at least five times.) Why the change now? Because it is the new plan? Why the new plan?...
22. The problem has to be real and the new idea has to be smart and reasonable. Reflect together on the benefits for different parties of the new way to function (benefits analysis) No-one will undertake a change that is not useful for them and more generally. And the opposite is true: No-one will undertake a change that is in some way detrimental to self and to others.
23. The key is to point out the benefits to students. How do the observed disturbances and the problems hiding behind them actually hinder the growth and learning of the students? How does the idea at hand attempt to remove that problem?
24. Ensure that the necessary conditions are in place for realising the new idea: Knowledge, knowhow, willpower and space and opportunities.
25. Ask someone who has already made the change to come and speak about it. What made them enthusiastic about this solution?
26. Create a safe environment. Taking a new idea onboard is an emotional journey. Talk about the fears. What is it that gives rise to negative feelings? Moving away from something that is familiar causes sadness. It is about slow attachment to the new. It is about trusting the new. It is a journey from negative feelings to the positive.
27. Talk openly about (especially) the benefits that are related to the pedagogical autonomy and independence. Who wins if we implement this idea? Who loses?
Give the teachers a chance to ask questions. It is permissible to doubt the change idea. Collect all the “worries” and the doubts. Do not label them as prejudices. Clarify (during the following days) if these doubts are really valid  - for example by asking some people who have already tried the new ideas in practice.
28. Accept the fact that not everyone is immediately enthusiastic. Not everyone is equally eager to change. Be prepared for some initial friction and difficulties.
29. Dare speak about the hidden beliefs that are behind the opposition (e.g can the students really be trusted? Is learning (after all) about memorization?)
30. Listen carefully with both ears. Listening is not easy - especially if others are of another opinion. You do not need to give answers instantaneously. Promise them to find out and come back to them about the issue.
31. Do not get angry because of the opposition. When you react to it, make sure that after you react you end up being closer, not further away from each other. Ask them to tell more about why the idea you think of as a good idea is not such a great thing for them (or in their opinion).
32. If you are met with very strong opposition take a timeout. Do not force the decision. The consequences are negative.

C. Decision to try

33. Make a clear decision. Try out the new idea in limited ways and step-by-step.
34. Agree that everyone gives it a try for 2 weeks on the level of difficulty that they choose. First you only commit to try it.
35. Create a written consent and ‘contracts’ to try out the idea.
36. Make sure that everyone knows what is being tried out. You should be able to describe the basic idea with a few words e.g. let’s try the use of mobile phones in teaching and learning.
37. Put and ideas box on the table in the staff room (or collect ideas in a collaborative document online - if everyone knows how to access and use it)
38. Ask who would like to try out the idea first. The enthusiasm of the volunteers creates suction that helps bring along the slower adaptors - if the idea is a good one.
39. Write down the criteria of success. How does one decide that the problem that is being solved is eased or disappears entirely?
40. Do not forget that the students too can be very conservative.
41. Jointly agree how the problem and the idea are “sold” to the students (as benefits for them)
42. Encourage the teachers to try out the idea - preferably together.
43. Remind everyone that you may and that you are allowed to fail too.
44. Agree ahead of time what to do if the thing is not working.
45. Agree that everyone in any case will try out the idea. Agree to collect experiences and then collaboratively solve the problems that have risen. And problems will arise. Changing one thing often brings about unexpected disturbances that necessitate corrective actions.
Promise to hold a kick-off event for the students. In this event you talk about the new idea and you “launch” it.
46. Communicate the time limited experiment and trial implementation of the idea to the parents. Ask for their feedback. Promise to answer their questions.
47. Write a positive, upbeat message after the first meeting to all staff. Give a lot of praise.

D. Final decision and getting along with the new idea.

48. Focus the agreed change. Make room for it. Protect it as long as necessary from other new competing ideas and other demands that take a lot of energy. Return to the chosen change idea repeatedly in teachers’ meetings and sessions.
49. Collect all problems that have arisen during the trial. And there will be some problems.
50. Search for fixes and corrective actions together - at least try to find ways to limit the damage.
51. During the trial phase do not give up to the first setbacks. There will be setbacks.
52. Polish the idea and pivot “while running”. Try different variations of it. Learn from each other and learn from mistakes.
53. Listen to the teachers’ experiences with both ears. Go see for yourself how things are going. Go and help them.
54. Share the successes and good experiences. Invent new applications of the idea.
55. Look for schools that are on a similar journey and develop things in the same direction. Share ideas and experiences with them.
56. Feed enthusiasm by sending an exploration team to other schools. The composition of the team could be: “one with the hair flying, one brake pedal and one normal” Tankatkaa  innostusta lähettämällä niihin tutkimusryhmä: ”yksi hulmutukka, yksi jarru, yksi normaali”.
57. Ensure that temporary staff are also aware of your idea. A short paper about it is helpful.
After the agreed trial period hold a session where the final decision is to be made. To what extent will this new idea be implemented during the rest of the school year. Is it going to be normal practice for all? Or is it going to be one alternative? Or are we going to stop implementing the idea?
58. Make a clear decision (that is binding for all) about the minimum level of implementation e.g. every class will have at least one open book test.
59. The more meaningful the idea is, the more important it is to follow the criteria of success. If the initial problem was that the students did not like school very much, that topic should be followed up with bi-annual questionnaires about attitudes towards studies and the life at school.
60. If the idea is changed or improved it is important to make decisions about the corrective actions and to inform everyone concerned about them.

E. Giving up an idea

61. No idea works for forever. You have to prepare to give them up. It is possible that the hopes that were attached to the idea are not realized. The idea does not work if it does not solve the problem for which it was initially conceived. (B.t.w. It is interesting to reflect on how the old habits and practices were born e.g. what was the point of standing up to answer a teacher’s question?)
62. It is also possible that the idea works, but it has too many negative and unexpected side effects. They are an indication that things have gone wrong. Then it is good to abandon the idea - in a smart way.
63. Idea can also be give up if there is a new idea that is an even better solution for the problem. Before abandoning the old idea it is prudent to check out the new, replacement idea (see points 1 - 16)
Do not be afraid to stop implementing a certain idea, rather, turn it into a learning experience.
64.When you give up a practice, have a cup of coffee to the memory of it and collect everything you learned from it.
65. Or organise a real party to celebrate the successes.

F. Making positive change actions a regular feature in the school.

66. In the beginning of each term go over what you remember and what you learned from the previous term. Give tasks to different groups: What were the best moments of the year / term?
67. Try collaborative learning, use for example the Jigsaw method if there are a lot of instructions or a lot of material to cover in a day.
68. Ask the school nurse, the councillor and the psychologist to present themselves and ask them to tell everyone where, when and how to reach them.
69. Organise a pedagogical discussion. Read recent news relating to schools. What kinds of reactions do they create in the teachers?
70. Make sure the meetings are held in different classrooms. Every teacher then gets to tell others why the classroom has been furnished in a particular way.
71. Form the sessions in such a way that teachers take turns in preparing the issues for the meeting.
Set goals for each month; what new ideas are we going to try out? Write down the decisions and the action points.
72. Visit the lessons of each team of teachers. Give the children / students positive feedback. Ask the teacher how you can help him / her.
73.Aim to give positive personal and encouraging feedback to everyone each week (for example for helping, for challenging, for good humor, for being polite, for listening, for creativity, for following the rules, for trying hard, for being brave, for being a self starter, for finishing a job, for trying…)
74, Make the teacher sessions action based. Give the pairs and the groups questions to ponder. Preferably, give them questions that they have a specific interest in.
75.Evaluate the sessions for example by using for example traffic lights. Continue the evaluation and follow up the development. Go over the developments together and create ideas on how (in concrete ways) you can make the sessions even better.
76.Appreciate your staff and ask for their opinions.
77. If there are new immigrant students in your school find out about the culture he / she comes from. In all cultures children / students do not have the possibility to be flexible if the practices at school are in contradiction with the views and values of the family. All students are for example not allowed to sing or listen to any kind of music. It can be forbidden to touch the other gender.
78. In order to stay positive, try to find the positive sides in all things.
79. Chart the situations that lead to conflicts during the previous year / term.  Create ideas on how to avoid these situations.
80.Praise the entire school staff. Tell how brilliant they are.
81. Give tasks and responsibilities that each one cares for or does in their own turn.
82. Tell the staff the new ideas you will try out this year.
83. Pay attention to people that you do not usually notice.
84. Discuss continued professional development. Collect a list of different ways to learn from other people’s ways to do their work. Try out different ways one at a time.
85. Give serious consideration to ways to support sustainable development from the first day on.
86. Make a list of characteristics of a good working partner / work mate.
87. Describe “the promise of the school year” for each teacher. Check back at the end of the school year and evaluate the progress.
88.When there are arguments focus on the solutions. Who was the guilty one to begin with is immaterial, instead be solution oriented.
89. Invite the local school authorities to the school to tell what their wishes for the school are.
90. Discuss.
91. Create “tailored successes”, small tasks in which everyone can succeed the first day.
92. Go out during the breaks and observe what is happening in the yard and in the halls.
93. Find out what the students are interested in and what their hobbies are. Use this enthusiasm in learning and for creating a better atmosphere at the school.
94. Encourage the teachers to create connections between teams and groups of teacher and to teach together.
95. Reflect together during the first day of school - what was successful, what do we need to learn more about?
96. Use text, not cursive when you write by hand.
97. Install an ideas box in the teachers’ lounge ( or the lunch room). Explain what an initiative is and go over the ideas and initiatives each week.

A blog by Martti Hellström (23rd July 2016)

Translated from Finnish by Sirkku

“Noin 100 muutosresptiä rehtoreille” / “About a 100 change recipes for school leaders”


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