Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Eight Weeks Of Summer: Getting It Done

This post is week 6 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.

I've been doing this challenge because why not. I answer the prompts as my pre-tirement self. Here's this week's question:

How are you planning to implement change next school year?

This often depended on the change. For lots of changes, I just did it. Changing how I approached vocabulary? Just did it. Changing the reading list for Honors English? Just did it. Experimenting with my room lay out (like the year I got rid of desks)-- get help from the custodial staff, and then just did it.

My school was generally supportive of teacher autonomy in many areas (whether this was a matter of trust or indifference was always a topic of discussion), and so I was free to do a lot of implementing on my own. However, there was one element that was supremely important--


I worked with a wide variety of principals over my career, and I can't say that any of them were that concerned with the nuts and bolts of English classroom instruction. Nevertheless, I still told them what was going on. In particular, my rule at all times with administrators is that anything that might result in a phone call had to be communicated to them first.

Everybody wants a supportive boss, but you make being supportive hard when you set your boss up to be blindsided. If she's getting a call asking, "What the hell does Mr. Greene think he's doing with that new unit," it's not helpful to leave her stammering, "Well, now, actually, I have no idea what you're talking about."

So I would visit the office. "Just wanted to let you know. This is what I'm doing, and this is why I'm doing it, and here's why you might get a phone call about it, so here's my explanation of why this is professionally sound." This gives your admin the information they need to support you, and let's them respond to phone calls (if they come) with, "Yes, I'm already on top of that," instead of "Homina homina homina."

I also communicated with my department members, particularly those directly upstream and downstream of me. "You know how I've always done this thing? Well, I've decided to stop doing it, so next year the students I send you won't have done it." Of course, much of the time before I actually decided to change something. I had already discussed it with colleagues. But it's still useful to tell them that the change is actually happening.

The better your discussion, research, study, and general thinking-through for a change, the easier it is to implement. You just do it. The above mentioned deskless room lasted just one year, because I really hadn't thought it all the way through, and so I rolled it out before I was really ready to work it through. The deskless problems were secondary to the I-didn't-seem-like-I-knew-exactly-what-the-heck-I-was-doing problem. It's not necessary to have a micro-detailed plan for the change, because that can make you too rigid, and you'll miss some amazing opportunities that happen organically. But you can't just build the plane in mid-air, either.


  1. You may want to check out my post. I had to wonder where the challenge was going ... when all the prompts are put together, there seems to be an agenda. I did my best to check out PC. She has no reformy connections, but she is long out of the classroom and loves her some ed tech. The more, the better.

  2. Peter, I had a similar experience, especially since I was the only eighth grade teacher or the only sixth grade teacher. Like you, I had my studies, research, examples, pedagogy laid out for the administration and let them know how it could help students. The only issues I had were when a change came to administrators who were stuck in rigid teacher-directed instructional strategies -- but then our school board and instructional coaches supported my work-- actually my students' work-- and their engagement with their learning. I think that was probably true for you -- when the classroom is filled with engaged students learning and choosing their requirements, it's difficult for administration to say stop.