On Views of Education: Vol. 2 – Change

As a member of a teaching staff, I marched to my own beat as a believer in need for reform across many aspects of education. In discussions, I was often the contrarian in the group. A person described me as, the best devil’s advocate she had ever been around. I countered her comment that I wasn’t being the devil’s advocate, just being myself.

In the world of educational conformity, I was the voice in the wilderness. I spoke my mind, and a few of my past colleagues who read these pages will think – Yep, he said that.

Packing to move provides an opportunity to sort, discard, and organize. I kept some of my writings from my teaching days, thus recently gathered some of the quotes, most of which were written between 1987-2001.

Some will cheer while others jeer. Some will detect a passion, others will think Oh no, he’s one of those. You may disagree with some, all, or possibly none … and that’s OK – after all, I’ve handled dialogue on sensitive subjects before. But keep in mind, because we may disagree, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong – thus it just means we disagree.

Below is a collection of quotes with each standing on its own so I’ve numbered them only for reference.

Today’s Topic: Educational Change
1) Change is a journey, not a blueprint. Change is loaded with uncertainty, difficulties, and excitement. Change is hard and it takes a lot of time and energy. In the difficult times of change, three keys are necessary to keep the process moving toward the vision: the presence of a vision, support, and encouragement. Because education reacts to immediate needs, it has a long tradition of short sidedness, education lacks the long-term commitment that is necessary to implement change. So let’s embrace following further behind society.

2) I’m not pro-teacher, not pro-student, not pro-community, and for God’s sake not pro-administrator … but I am pro-outcomes and pro-processes that leads to benefits for the students and society. Thus the mismatch: producing an early 20th century product for a 21st century world.

3) Change is difficult. Some will refuse to travel the journey, yet others will reverse course along the way, which also means some will not survive – yet the strongest, the committed will arrive to establish a new way.

4) The body of knowledge continues to grow, but school processes remain relatively unchanged.

5) Society’s It-Was-Good-Enough-For-Me Club will prevent change from occurring, so pseudo-reform will occur to create an illusion of change rather than change itself.

6) At best, reform has simply been a “tinkering” of the old system; whereas restructuring involves overhauling the existing system to establish a new operating structure.

7) Given the amount of change needed, the educational system would be best served by shutting down for a year to reorganize and retool.

8) Change is more than a determining if we are going to have a Homeroom period or not. After all, the best reason for not having one is to put it back in place down the road.

Previous posts in the series

Reform

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39 thoughts on “On Views of Education: Vol. 2 – Change

  1. Yes, Frank. Humans typically don’t like to change and from your quotes, maybe educators (or at least the educational system) even less. But as one of my teachers once said, ” If I could be a master of at least one thing, I’d want to be a master of change. Because change is the only thing that is guaranteed.”

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    • Cathy,
      Absolutely true that humans (as a whole) don’t like change, thus people in an organization don’t either. At the time of these writings, our administration was promoting change ideas while working hard at keeping things the same … thus a perfect example of rhetoric at work. From my eyes, I was one of the few out on the limb for change, thus I found it easy to challenge.

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  2. “Change” is a weak, vague, and almost empty word. It is neither good nor bad—it could be either or both. Until you SPECIFY just what you want a change FROM, and what you want a change TO, you will keep dancing around to the sound of loose change, change, change……lots of whining for hope and change, change, change…Don’t wait for the world to change You don’t have the power to make it do so. . As Voltaire said in CANDIDE, one must cultivate one’s own garden….however humble that may be.

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    • Cynthia,
      First, keep in mind that these comments are stand alone, but only gathered as a theme. On the other hand, I completely agree with your thoughts because I one of only a few who who challenged administrators on this premise. They talked a good game, but didn’t believe themselves. At the same time, I changed my teaching style 180 degrees. I was part of a department that drastically changed what we were doing … and both of these changes were positives for students.

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  3. I think we are cut from the same cloth, Frank. I have been an educator and return to uni often to pretend I still live there… change is hard. It’s also necessary, and yes, change for the sake of change is okay too. Standing still gets you no where. With three young kids, I do a fair amount of teaching at home, as one size never fits all, never will, and we have to adapt to our young people.

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    • Trent,
      It has been interesting to get responses from the readers here that with working experience in education. Yes, there is no context for any of these quotes, but they are meant to convey a collective message. I saw the need for change, and was willing to dive into the unknown, but the number of others with similar thoughts were few.

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    • Kayjai,
      As we know, society is changing at a fast rate … and who knows where we it will be in another 10 years! Keep in mind, I wrote these many years ago. … next week’s focus will probably be administrators.

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  4. So on target.
    Without change, there is stagnation and death…like sharks who must keep moving and adapting/evaluating the environment to survive.
    Change for the sake of change often results in “out of the pan, into the fire.” Constantly jerking kids from one teaching method/reading method to another instead of holding steady from K-12 (like many well performing private schools do) can mean disjointed body of knowledge. Too many expect immediate results and are too quick to try “something new”. It takes time to see if any system works – sometimes 12 years…but few want to have their kids be the lab rats.
    #7 may be the only hope.
    Free market system for schools might help. Those that educate kids well and do a good job will flourish. Some schools and kids will fail, but it’s all failing now. Parents must be watching out for their kids.
    Keep expecting some parent to stand up and sue a district for handing a kid a diploma when he/she can’t read better than a 1st grader. (and yes, there must be good effort from student and parent…but seriously, accepting a kid can’t read but give him/her a certificate that says K-12 accomplished? Makes all the others worth less…)
    Good points, Frank

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    • Mouse,
      Thanks for the input. There’s a short story on #7. The Ast. Sup’t told one of my building administrators that there were suggestions at a recent conference stating that fact … to which the building admin told him that someone on the staff suggested that two years ago.

      Change for the sake of change is horrible … and just as bad is attempting to implement a change without the necessary processes in place. Yep … I’ve seen that, too!

      I suggested (long ago) that one hope may be to privatize the whole thing, thus get the public out of the business. After all, what does the public run well? Parents would receive vouchers to educate kids at the school of their choice … well, assuming the can get in, plus stay in. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad you liked Milton Friedman’s idea of school vouchers because points 6, 7 and 8 suggested you were looking for fundamental rather than piecemeal change and that brings with it the risk of large scale failure. A centralized public school system is the last entity we want jumping on the bandwagon of the latest educational reform du jour. The market is the best means we have of rapidly transmitting information about what works and what doesn’t and so limiting the downside risks of change.

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        • Malcolm,
          Thanks for your input. Plenty of research exists about reform and learning, but schools are good at ignoring that as well. Besides, they prefer focusing on a content community rather than societal needs. As an administrator once told me, he would rather have teachers who are perceived as good over teachers that are good but have a negative perception.

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  5. Had a good dose of change theory in grad school and had a chance to put it into practice in business. Found Lewin’s theory ( Unfreeze – Move- Refreeze ) to be the most useful. The participants (Mgt and workers) need to want to make the change (unfreeze) which is the hardest part to nail down. Great post (as usual)

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  6. Many thanks for your longtime support of music in the public schools, and especially for the way you supported the students in my high school band program. The kids really got a kick out of seeing one of their science teachers, who had also played in a college band, stop by the band room to listen to their contest pieces and make comments afterward. They really listened and took to heart what you said! You made a difference.

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    • Tim,
      I still recall the day I walked in and you were working on a march … and you made a suggestion about the 2 eighth notes at the end of the measure, which were actually leading into the next phrase … I mentioned separation and emphasis … and wow … they did it perfectly!

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  7. I love your fifth quote. The Old Guard insists that if they had to go through it, then everyone does (especially the pain). Bull-hockey! As an educator, I keenly remembered what I thought was ineffective or unfair (from the chair of the student) and vowed not to put my students through that pain and suffering “just because.” I knew there had to be a better way of educating compassionately and effectively. Guess what? There was! I was willing to change, which made me the exception, not the rule.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: On View of Education: Vol. 3 – Leadership | A Frank Angle

  9. Pingback: On Views of Education: Vol. 4 – Teaching and Learning | A Frank Angle

  10. Pingback: On View of Education: Vol. 5 – Curriculum | A Frank Angle

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