Lately, I have been thinking through the question of how meaningful change happens. The gap between the kinds of schools our kids need and the kinds of schools we currently inhabit seems vast and daunting.
I have always felt uncomfortable with the image of the heroic figure who single-handedly “makes things happen.” It seems that the changes that we need to make — to shift our paradigm and create truly innovative learning for our students — are both larger and deeper than one person.
A while ago, I read George Couros’s blog post “5 Characteristics of Change Agents.” In this post, he tackles the qualities of those educators who serve as catalysts for change. More importantly, he considers how culture enhances or limits the pace of change. He argues that:
You cannot be a connector if you are in an environment where people do not want to come together. So although a change agent can trigger growth in an organization, the culture in which they exist or are brought into has a huge bearing on their success. If a school embodies itself as a true learning organization, change will happen much quicker.
In short, leaders can influence the process, but the culture in which they work determines the pace and degree of change.
In “Overcoming the Status Quo,” David Culberhouse focuses on the daily choices and actions of courageous educational leaders working to transform their schools. By choosing to look underneath the surface, ask tough questions and challenge the ways things are, the rocks that block the path of change can be shifted. He concludes:
For it is when we are diligent, persistent, and deeply invested in our organization and those we serve, we are able to overcome these obstacles.
Taken together, both Couros and Culberhouse’s posts serve as an important reminder to me that change is hard work. Their ideas resonate with my belief that we can create ripples that have the potential to move our organizations forward — in the simple, yet sometimes, difficult choices we make.
Culture provides context; we provide the impetus for moving forward. In short, meaningful change begins with us.
Feel free to share your thoughts.