Coping with Change

CEO, One-to-One Institute

The world and information move fast.  Changes occur every day across our personal and professional lives.  It’s hard to hang on to something stable or unmoving even as much as we may crave it.  The latter becomes even more important when the whirlwinds sway around us blinding us from focus and stability.  Check out the new book, “Whiplash” (Ito; Howe, 2016 from MIT Labs) to get a good handle on 9 tools to help traverse our ever-changing future.

Ever more challenging is the fact that we are expected not only to perform and be accountable across a myriad of measures but to simultaneously be in a continuous cycle of professional growth.

No one is exempt.  The above is true for all education stakeholders and their communities. It’s important for all to perceive that ‘change’ means ‘learning’.  Once this is established, all of the work will be viewed as essential to personal and professional growth.  Each person and collective group need to enact coping mechanisms, reflection and collaborative processes.  It’s up to top level and building level distributed leadership to ensure this happens.  Here are some ways I’ve navigated as a teacher, principal, central office administrator, state-level director and non-profit CEO.

  • Identify the driving forces and anchor these where appropriate, as soon as possible, in the life of the school/district/classroom.  These come in the forms of mandates (state, federal, local), initiatives, projects, special programs and assessments.
  • Ascertain the connections among these forces.  Determine how and where these forces will be embedded in systems, processes and day to day efforts. How can they be integrated so they are meaningfully engaged by groups and individuals?  What resources are needed?
  • Honor the reality that emotions will be continually in play.  Frustration, excitement, anxiety, enthusiasm, fear, etc., will be part of everyone’s experiences along the way.  Ensure a place to talk about them and, when needed, determine resolutions and celebrations.
  • Create and communicate a working model of the ‘changes’ afoot.  Enhance with timelines, benchmarks, roles and responsibilities. Frequently revisit and adjust as needed keeping the feedback loop intact.
  • Be proactive.  Anticipate and address where the transformations may have obstacles, stopgaps and may instill fear or resistance. 
  • Provide consistent, ongoing, embedded time for educators to collaborate, reflect and share while working among the many forces that exist.  This includes expectations and tools for professional growth and advancement in content and areas of desired expertise.
  • Keep learners as the focus.  Each decision, question, actionable data and assessment should have at the core, ‘how does this enhance learners’ experiences and outcomes?’
  • Ask for help.  Be clear on why and what assistance is needed.  Find the experts – locally and globally.  Some challenges don’t have immediately recognizable solutions.  Colleagues, administrators, other community members can help.
  • Effectively use technology tools.  The rapidity of knowledge and change can be addressed by understanding how to best use available technologies.  Every device at our disposable performs many operations that make life and work easier and more expeditious.  It is often the case that we scratch just the surface of how we can use our apparatuses.
  • Know the culture.  Keep some of the traditions intact to ensure stability while new strategies and systems become the new normal of ‘how we do things around here’.

This is easily stated with my 20/20 rearview mirror in place.  ‘Learning’ through experience is the best teacher.  The above strategies have been tried and true in many places I have worked, consulted and observed.  It’s not an exhaustive listing. I regularly seek more ideas and exercises that can enhance educators’ digital conversion and all that means in a school setting-practically and from the standpoint of being human.  I welcome your ideas!

Leslie Wilson, founder and CEO of One-to-One Institute, has served education for 38+ years in top level, key decision-making roles at state and local levels. Recognized as an international expert in education technology, Wilson is a frequent writer, presenter and interviewee. Among her many publications, she co-authored, “Project RED-The Technology Factor, Nine Keys to Student Achievement and Cost Effectiveness” which is the most broadly used research around successful implementation of 1:1 technologies in schools.


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