Musings on Approaching Change

Apr 17, 2014 by

I recently received this e-mail from a young teacher starting their first student teaching/practicum assignment:

Hi Prof,

This may sound kind of weird but I do not know who else I can share this excitement with but you.

This morning I went to the school I am working at for my practicum.  I am very excited to know that the school is adopting technologies in their teaching approach.  The school works with Apple and is introducing iPads as early as the first grade.  The school gets parents to purchase an iPad for their child and then has parents present it as a gift during a gift ceremony.  For parents who are not able to afford devices for their child, the school has about 300 units for loan.  Classrooms are equipped with Apple TV too.  The school also adopts the pedagogical approach of Purposeful Play while realizing that play for these students includes mobile devices.  I am very excited about the vast possibilities of things that can be done to support and teach the children in this school.  I think this is a school I want to work in after my practicum experience is complete.

Thanks so much,


I love these kinds of e-mails.  I love teachers who are not scared to try new things and I love schools that embrace change for the good of their students.  But…. wait for it, wait for it… I spoke with another teacher recently who was sinking into despair because he was trying so hard to personalize learning but was receiving some backlash from administrators and colleagues.  This teacher is excited about teaching everyday, works hard for his students, and really makes an effort to create a “non-failure culture” where students are willing to go outside their comfort zones, to push themselves, to be creative and think about possibilities and not failure.  He does this by teaching with abandon and not suffering from paralysis of pedagogy.

However… as good as he is, his colleagues and administrators don’t support him.  Part of this, as he will admit, is because he doesn’t always do a great a great job of communicating his ideas.  So here are three things I think are important when trying to change the culture of your school and your classroom.

How we tell the message is as important as the message itself.  We have to think about our words as we try new things in our classrooms.   Saying, “I am going to let students use devices all day and let them do what they want in math” sounds much more dangerous than “I am going to really try to personalize learning in my classroom so every student is engaged and I think one of the ways I can do that is to use more mobile technology.”

Are you being a positive pragmatic?  Anybody who works with me knows how much emphasis I place on the power of our attitudes in the classroom.  If people don’t want to work with us, they won’t care how good the message is that we are proclaiming.  But even if we are well-liked and positive, most teachers will need to be reached at an intellectual level too.  It has to make sense.  This is why I encourage teachers to have some facts on hand about the proliferation of mobile devices and why it is important that we use them in the classroom.   Colleagues may not like our message but it is hard to argue with the truth.  We are Social has some great infographics on this.

Finally, it is also important to Find or Be the first follower (and this takes guts too).  If you have ever moved, you know that sometimes the key to initial happiness is just finding one good friend.  Change can be like that too- sometimes we need to find just one good colleague to support us.  Finding that one follower can be hard.

BUT if you can find that one person or if you are willing to be that one person, magic can happen!

Stay Crazy in the Classroom,



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1 Comment

  1. Fei Ashley

    This is what I needed to read right now. Thanks for the message. So much has happened over the past seven weeks since practicum started… I’ve laughed a lot, cried a lot and also learned (and still am learning) a tremendous amount (about the school culture, working with people, working with students, myself) within this short span of time. Anyway, it’s heartening to know that there is still so much more to learn.

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