HOW TO KEEP
Mutiny from Sinking
YOUR CHANGE EFFORT
“You will either step forward into growth,
or you will step backward into safety.”
—Abraham Maslow (in Tracy, 2010)
The usual narrative of school change is so ften repeated that the story is familiar to nearly every educator. First, a teacher or leader attends a conference session or eads a book and becomes excited about
a new research-based practice. An idea for school
change is born! That person involves others, and
discussion about the idea evolves either informally
or as a part of a committee or professional learning
community. A group of early adopters may even be
identified to start implementing the new practice.
Eventually, the leadership team agrees to try to
spread this practice schoolwide, and a new initiative
is presented to the faculty. Everyone behind the idea
has studied—and invested significant time in—the
new, research-based practice. They’re enthusiastic
about pushing it forward for the good of all students
in the school. What could go wrong?
This story of school change would be simpler,
although possibly less interesting, if the whole
faculty agreed before the school adopted the
practice, and then learning in the school improved.
In fact, that kind of fairy tale ending rarely happens.
Instead, as buzz generates about the policy or
practice being considered, some degree of mutiny
often begins to form in the school, and the shiny
bubble of enthusiasm bursts. Teachers say or think
things like: “It’s just one more thing to do, and I
don’t have time.” “What’s wrong with the way we
do it now?” “It’s only a trend. I’ll wait for the pendulum to swing back the other way.” “Will this
really help students? I don’t see it.” It’s a well-worn
Adopting a norm
Lee Ann Jung
of “disagree and commit”
allows schools to try
out promising new
practices even if some
teachers harbor doubts.