For most of us, the past year has presented more challenges and demands for change than any other time in our careers. It was filled with uncertainty, unpredictability, and constant need for rethinking and adjusting. Some changes worked well and moved us forward. Others had to be reworked and recalibrated before they could be successfully implemented.
For some of our staff members, the rate and nature of change was exciting and invigorating. They were able to develop and try new strategies and approaches that would not have been possible in the absence of the challenges we faced. For these educators, more change in the future is a welcome prospect.
For others, the early stages of the pandemic were filled with bewilderment and confusion, but as time passed, they became more confident and willing to try new practices and adjust to new and changing circumstances. In fact, they discovered that change is not as scary and uncomfortable as they used to believe. The experience has given them confidence and an appreciation for the opportunities change can offer.
Still others began this journey reluctant to change, but they were unable to resist changing in light of the circumstances they faced. The experience has been stressful and exhausting. The prospect of further changes in the transition back and start of a new year is not welcome, especially if it can be avoided.
Of course, clustering individual staff members into such broad groups over-generalizes their experiences and perspectives. Still, it can help us to think about changes to be made for the coming year and reactions any proposals might receive.
We learned many important lessons over the past year about engaging learners, building learning independence, instilling learning commitment and persistence, using technology to support learning, and other aspects of our work. These lessons need to be captured and become part of learner experiences going forward, but support and persistence will be required to avoid a return to the previous state of practice.
This might also be the time to consider changes in key structures such as the daily schedule. Maybe it’s time to move toward a “looping” strategy where students stay with the same teacher for more than one year. Moving to “grade bands” at this time could alleviate some of the issues related to variations in student progress and readiness. Now might also be a good time to introduce flexible learning opportunities such as “genius hours” and “passion projects.” The list could go on.
One thing is certain, choosing to delay changes until after the next school year has started and people have settled into old routines and habits will not make changes any easier. In fact, by then, initiating change is likely to be more difficult and face more resistance. We have what appears to be a window of opportunity to make needed and beneficial changes. Unfortunately, the window will likely close in the coming months if we fail to take advantage of it.
Leadership is about developing and recognizing ideas and opportunities to make things better. Leadership is also about finding the right time to act. We have learned much that is important, new ideas and insights have emerged, and openness to change may be at its highest. Now is not the time to pull back. Carpe diem!