School reform has been taking place continually in America since the 1950s. The movement has been slow, but some things have changed--and for the better. The current reform--this era of education--is not as simple as implementing a solution to address an issue. This reform is about the evolution of American schools.
The education evolution is about:
- Embracing technology
- Embracing the drastic change in the real world and being proactive in preparation for the changes that will occur in the future
- Embracing the concept of learner-centered instruction
Are we prepared to enter into this evolution knowing that with such change will come failures, delays, resistance, and risk? While this is a momentous challenge, it is certainly not impossible.
Here are three quick to-do’s for both administratos and teachers to spur this process forward.
Move beyond the job description:
This type of change is not listed in a job description. It is mental, philosophical, and takes place largely outside of the 8-3:30 timeframe. This work includes personal professional development, re-designing lessons, and continually growing.
For administrators: Be unafraid in asking for that type of commitment from teachers, but provide rationale and support through the change process. Remember, if you are not engaging in the same types of behaviors yourself and extending beyond manager/instructional leader, the effort to promote such thinking amongst your colleagues will fall short.
For teachers: Be unafraid to stand out amongst peers and lead this movement. No school is designed for this type of change, so no job description can encompass all that will take place in the coming years. You must be the change that we wish to see in our schools.
Model appropriate edtech behaviors: Technology will define much of the transformation and evolution taking place in schools. The movement toward technology is not to teacher-proof classrooms, but to create learner-centered environments that support student learning in their preferred style.
For administrators: Become an active member of a PLN, participate in #edchats, and provide an abundance of professional development in this area. To assume this change will occur independent of opportunities being provided for teachers is to make a critical error. The only manner in which teachers discomfort can be eased is through exposure.
For teachers: Be actively involved in a PLN, active on Twitter, and integrating technology resources within your classrooms. Two powerful actions to facilitate change in your building are to: create a personal S.M.A.R.T. goal regarding technology for yourself and mentor one colleague per quarter on technology use. Both serve to continue personal professional development while reaching out to colleagues (passively and actively).
Be visionary: The best schools of 2017 will not be schools trying to replicate what successful schools did in 2012. They will be schools that are actively preparing for 2022. The primary purpose of schools must be to educate students, not to preserve the history or traditions that no longer exemplify or amplify the educational experience.
For administrators: Systematically, with input from as many people as will share, create a five- and ten-year plan for your school. Students, teachers, parents, community-members, and other leaders will active pursue something if there is a purpose. Create the sense of urgency and establish a sense of purpose in your building. Remember, people only take risks when they feel safe. You must create that environment.
For teachers: One class per week the first semester and two per week second semester should have a 21st century focus. This means that they are learner-centered, involve technology, and have outcomes that will serve the ever-changing needs of our students.
Reform is no longer about applying solutions to existing problems and deeming them fixed. Education reform is no about the evolution of schools and how educators must promote this process in order to best prepare our students for the future. We must be the change.
PJ Caposey is the principal of Oregon High School in Oregon, IL and the author of Building a Culture of Support. Read more at www.pjcaposey.com and twitter.com/PrincipalPC.