If you’re an educator, at any level or grade, sitting back and expecting education change to happen, without you getting involved, you need to stand up now.
If you think that you can’t do something, or start change, you’re mistaken. And if you spend time fearing that leadership won’t let you do things that are educationally sound in the direction of change, you’re wasting your time, your colleagues’ time and, most of all, your students’ time.
The hardest thing is to do nothing while complaining that you can’t do anything. The easiest thing to do is to try to make a difference.
Get started doing something
Try a bit of stealth leadership. As a regular classroom teacher, it may be the only way you can begin to suggest solutions for change. And while you may be closest to your own building supervisor, education change ideas that travel through a school leader may not always reach the person who can act upon those ideas. You certainly shouldn’t wait to be invited to higher-level or even middle-level policy meetings.
What you need to do is forge a relationship with the district leaders who can make change happen. If your district uses an inter-school mail system, a formal, well-composed introduction letter will work. If you know that email is acceptable for introductions like this, do it that way. If you write five letters to five different people, make sure that you write five unique letters or emails. If these people talk with one another, you want them to know that you see them as individuals—when you do, it will be easier for them to see you that way as well.
The letters should include who you are, what you do and where you do it, as well as a little background about yourself—even if they already know you. The kicker should let them know you have ideas for positively changing how teachers teach and students learn, as well for improving school culture.
Furthermore, share that you’d like to share regular ideas via letter, email or any other convenient communication format. Check your letter for everything before you send it—grammar, spelling and clarity. Sometimes you’ll get a direct meeting right away.
Whatever you do, make sure to include your immediate supervisor or administrator in the loop. There may be a chain of command, and hopscotching that can be interestingly tricky. While no immediate supervisor should stand in the way of your communication, there may be a control factor, so it pays to keep them informed.
No one can stop you from sharing positive education change ideas beyond your classroom or school walls. Just follow whatever leadership procedures have been set up, no matter how ancient and hierarchically crazy. Good ideas, backed by your own administrative supervisor, can result in feathers in all hats.
Mum’s the word
At the start, no one needs to know you’re doing this, other than your immediate supervisor or administrator. This is where the stealth part comes in. The object of this is not to give you a soapbox for standing up and shouting out in the faculty lounge that you are sending leadership ideas. What you want to do is open a friendly channel for your ideas.
Once it is opened, flood it with your best, well-thought-out ideas and concrete action solutions. Own the Guinness record for positive education change proposals in your district. Not all of those proposals will have a chance, but you’ll have been successful when a small percentage are noticed in the right places.
When you’re satisfied that someone is reading your ideas, it’s time to come out of stealth mode. You can do this in a few ways. Start small with educators you know and work with, possibly on your teaching team. Then, ask for a few minutes at a faculty meeting. A good building supervisor/administrator may offer you that chance before you suggest it.
The more good ideas generated by staff, the better it will be for the administrator. By moving from individual stealth to collaborative leadership for education change, you may start something far bigger than you imagined. It can happen, and it can begin with you.
Ken Royal is a former teacher and DA editor. He blogs at connectlearningtoday.com.