Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Seeds, Serendipity, Sustainability

It's the one constant in life, yes? And yet human nature seems to be such that many of us will cling to the old ways like a life raft in stormy waters. Why? I don't know. What I do know is that, my own issues with change aside, I have worked hard for change in schools. My twitter profile, until recently, read "wannabe change-agent." I changed that the other day, as I realize that I am no longer a wannabe. I am an agent of change.
Looking back, I realize that my school has changed. This is year 4 for me, and I am amazed at what is taking place. Are we firmly, solidly planted in 21st century, learner-centered, relevant education? No, not yet. Have we glimpsed the future and it is now? Yes.

I thought I would share my story in hopes of encouraging other wannabes out there. Keep
plugging away. Change does happen.

First, you plant the seeds. Do what you do. Talk to everyone about your ideas. Keep it upbeat. Don't expect people to get it. They won't. Keep learning. We are so lucky to have our online colleagues who do get it. Talk to them. Network, network, network. You need your network! You are planting seeds, and it will take time before you see growth. Keep planting and nurture whatever growth you see.

This is when things begin happening of their own volition. You can't control the winds of change, and you can't do it all on your own. As one person you can only do so much. Hopefully, at some point, change itself takes over and helps you find the support you need. The way this happened for me seems amazing, but maybe it's really not. Maybe it's what happens when you plant the seeds and let nature run its course.
My personal story of serendipity started with a chance (and extremely short) meeting two years ago at FETC. Because of that meeting, the PLN, and a person with vision and leadership, a new position was created at my school this year for a 21st Century Learning Specialist. The position was created specifically for Silvia Tolisano, not as an abstract concept, as in "let's hire a 21st century learning specialist."
This, in itself, seems unusual to me, but correct. People make all the difference. The position was much less important than the fact that we recognized Silvia's skills, experience, passion and visionary leadership as something good, something worth having, something worth trusting.

This is the chapter still to be written. Silvia's blog tagline "Langwitches -The Magic of Learning" says it all. She has worked magic, and she has done it by embedding PD into classroom teaching. Our students are engaged in global communications and other relevant, exciting learning, our school has a new website, teachers are blogging, we've implemented google apps for education. We have tasted the future, and there is no turning back.
My concern is that, while Silvia is truly an incredible teacher and we are extraordinarily lucky to have this time with her, I worry that we are putting all our eggs in her basket. Silvia is an agent of change, a support, someone to lead the way -- but the teachers MUST begin to develop their own PLNs, we must learn to be better at collaborating, sharing, supporting and teaching each other. That is the only way for these changes to be sustainable.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Andrea

Always when I learn about change being brought about I ask questions.

Why do I ask those?

I ask questions because I am inquisitive.

I ask why we are changing and I listen. The reply I get allows me to decide whether the change that's proposed is something I'd support.

If I am confronted with the question, "Don't you support change?" my knee-jerk reaction is always to ask, "What change or changes am I being asked to support?"

If I get back nothing but an argument on change, I become suspicious that the goal of the agent for change is simply to change, without recourse to why, how or if a proposed change is for a real benefit (to my learners or to me).

There is always the possibility that change could mean retrograde change - moving back to what was - or moving to situations that are of no real benefit, yet it is always assumed that 'change' is good and means moving forward.

Why do I think like this?

Much of change that I have been coerced into over many years has not been thought through beforehand. It is only weeks, months or years later, when in hindsight, it's seen that the change that was enacted was not needed, or was falsely initiated, or there was obviously a political agenda.

All these observations were made by me in the same way as we expect our young learners to think and make decisions: observe - analyse - consider - observe - analyse - consider, etc.

I ask the question, "Is an agent of change what's wanted, or is it a particular considered change that's needed?" I also wonder why an attitude like mine is so often met with disdane and comment suggesting I'm not really interested in changing anything.

My reaction to that is . . .


Catchya later

Andrea said...

I *think* I understand what you are saying. You are suspicious of change simply for the sake of change?

I guess I could do a better job of detailing the changes of which I speak, but I am working on keeping posts succinct (so that I actually post something!) I have written other posts in the past that give more insight into the changes I am trying to facilitate.
I welcome questions. I trust that the questioners are open-minded. But the trust goes both ways. Sometimes it takes more than words. I can explain and talk about the ways I think education is changing, but some things must be experienced to be understood. I could share with you my thoughts about blogging and why I find it valuable, but once you give it a try yourself you will find your own reasons why it is or isn't valuable. You will understand, make your own decisions and then you and I can have a much better conversation about blogging.
The changes that are happening at my school are, in my opinion, exciting. I didn't want to bore people with the whole long story (which I actually think is pretty cool), but I did think someone might be interested in reading about a more long-term perspective of how changes can take hold.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēna koe Andrea

My comment was not levelled as a criticism of your post - far from it.

Change is happening all around us in education. I guess I'm echoing the sentiments of educators. John Hattie summarises it beautifully in his latest ED Talks video on National Standards in New Zealand.