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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Gonzales

Driving the Change

Years ago, one of my roles at the Santa Clara County Office of Education was to coach school teams and large groups in change management and the change process.

Change is a process, and certainly in public education, the process can be considerably more challenging than other professions. From the impacts of Ed Code to union contracts that differ district to district, to the cultures we find as we move from school site to school site, change can be just that....a process. A long process. In some cases, a painful process.

And let's face it...change is hard! From the stages of recognition to denial to grief to - who moved my cheese - the change process can be likened to the mourning process of losing a loved one or a friend. Or maybe it isn't hard. Maybe we can chalk change up to being terribly uncomfortable.


The first important step in working through the change process is to educate others on it. On the surface, it may sound like a waste of time, but calling it by name and acknowledging the challenges that may ensue is important. Once that step has taken place, creating a set of norms or revisiting already established norms on a team, school site or district level are critical. How do we communicate? What do we do when we have questions or need clarity? What is our timeline? Who messages the steps? All of the basic norms of highly functioning teams need to be taken into account.

Break Down the Silos

During any type of change, collaboration is needed and setting up structures by which groups that might not otherwise interact can work together and tackle the messy topics, the broader the communication and greater change of the change taking hold. The entire perspective of 21st century workplaces and thinking rely on the premise that groups collaborate, and the change process is no different. One way to look at it is - expect from ourselves what we expect from our students and model, model, model.

Take a Risk

Sounds trite, but taking a risk is essential for the change process. Beyond breaking down silos and ensuring norms are established and followed, having adults dabble in the uncomfortable and be vulnerable is probably the most important part of learning that can take place. After all, we talk about resiliency in our students and how they need to fail fast and fail often, so shouldn't we experience that same level of discomfort? Know how it feels so we can better empathize with our students? We need to do a better job as leaders and educators of taking risks and learning from our mistakes in a safe manner.

Here we go. Let's head into a new year...a new year of successes, learning from our mistakes, progress, and change!

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