Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Slow Pace of Change

At Greer this year, we are beginning the long, slow journey of becoming an Expeditionary Learning school.  As noted in previous posts, this is something I have been interested in being involved in for a long time.  Here are some of the steps we have taken since last spring:
1.  About ten of us visited an EL school, Russell Byers, in Philadelphia.
2.  We had a two day, all staff retreat that focused on EL learning and principles of collaboration.
3.  Four of our staff attended a week long EL reading seminar in July.
4.  Twenty five of our staff attended a week long Responsive Classroom training in July.
5.  Eight of our staff attended an Intro to EL learning experience in August.
6.  Working with our school designer, we designed much of our pre-service week around developing a committee structure that are built on the Core Practice Benchmarks of EL and have worked hard to continue momentum of the seven committees.

Ok, we are now a month in, why don't we look and feel like an EL school yet?  I say that with a broad grin on my face but sometimes I feel that "change expectations" in our world are so quick.  I partially think this is true with the fast pace of technological change in our society, we feel that other changes need to happen as fast.  

Anyway, why is change so slow?

The first thing I want to say is that I am not one of those "blame the teachers" principals.  I hate that.  If you spend your time blaming the teachers for everything, you should get another job.If things are not working for you as a principal at your school, blame yourself!
  One of the reasons we are going slow is because of me.  Greer experienced huge gains in reading and math test scores this past year and I am terrified of implementing new and deep changes quickly and losing that success.  Why else is it a slow change?  Developing an EL school is a craft, a slow one, and involved craftmanship at the teacher level and at the principal level.  It is a theme throughout Ron Berger's Ethic of Excellence which I read last spring and we bought for every teacher at Greer this summer.  I found myself re-reading it again this morning.  Changing school culture, valuing people in the process, protecting and improving student achievement, engaging everyone in a new vision and mission, take a long, long time.  It is important to keep reminding myself of how much we have already done this year when in the face of how much more we have left on our journey.

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