Welcome to the 2013-2014 school year! It’s hard to believe that summer is over and a new school year is already upon us. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love the beginning of a new school year. It’s crisp, it’s fresh and I honestly can’t get enough of the “first day of school” pictures.
But the beginning of a new school year is always an adjustment. It’s simultaneously an ending and a beginning. It’s both exhausting and exciting. And whether you’re a brand new teacher, a returning teacher, an administrator, a support service provider, a professional developer, a parent or a student, the beginning of this new school year has us all dealing with one constant: CHANGE. (The weather certainly is changing. It was 44 degrees when I left for work this morning!)
This summer, I was offered the opportunity to become a part of the Instructional Support Services team at OCM BOCES. I was, and still am, thrilled. The work is important and relevant and challenging. But even the most welcomed and exciting changes can be overwhelming. There is a poster in my new office that says “When you do what you’ve always done, you’ll be where you’ve always been.” I read it every day and I find that it helps me to frame the way I think about change. As educators, when there are external forces requiring us to change in ways that may be overwhelming to us, we can feel a strong desire for the stable, familiar and comfortable feeling of the instructional practices that we know. But as life-long learners, we also know that we need to continue to challenge ourselves in order to grow. One thing I know for sure is that we can’t do it alone.
In their book Collaborating for Success With the Common Core: A Toolkit for Professional Learning Communities at Work, Kim Bailey, Chris Jakicic, and Jeanne Spiller discuss how to make change manageable and effective. “Transitioning to the Common Core requires a culture that seeks continuous improvement and supports the concept of team learning. So what might these teams need from their leaders to support continuous improvement and collective learning?” (pg. 34) They outlined the following:
- Teams need time to work together, time to try out strategies with their students and time for professional learning and reflection on the impact of those practices across their course or grade level.
- Teams need clear expectations about what they will be doing and the reasons (the why) behind those expectations.
- Teams need support. They need leaders to guide them in these shifts with reasonable support that takes their learning needs into account.
I like this image from NTI August 2012. It was included in a presentation called “Making a Switch: How to Make Change When Change is Hard.” It reminds us that we have to think big and then start taking consistent small steps as we work together and change our practice, our classrooms, our schools and the lives of our students.
Instructional Support Services