Principal Helpline: How can I help my staff see it’s time for change?

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

school change

Q

My staff doesn’t seem to trust me. It is my third year at my current school. I’ve brought a lot of good programs to the school. My staff is very stuck in the “this is what we done for years” mentality. It’s difficult bringing about school change. Is there anything I can do to improve this attitude?

A

It does sometimes seem as if innovation in education moves with glacial slowness. And changing attitudes is really hard work.

But a couple of comments in your short question give me pause.  You say you are only in your third year, but you’ve already brought “a lot of” good programs to the school.  I’m wondering how these programs were introduced and implemented. I’m also wondering how many is “a lot.”

Get buy in

For new programs to be successful, it’s essential to get buy-in from teachers–the people who have to learn the new programs and modify or change what they’ve been doing. Perhaps the new programs will bring better results, but it may be difficult to tell in the short time you’ve been there. And perhaps teachers were not only comfortable with what they were doing, but also felt that they were already getting good results.

Garner trust

While I’m sure this wasn’t your intent, too much school change in a short time subtly suggests to your staff that nothing much was happening until you arrived. This is where the trust issue comes in. Some faculty, especially veterans, may feel that you don’t value the work they’ve been doing or the experience and expertise they bring to the classroom.

Slow down

I would suggest that you slow down a little. Take some time to show your support for the good things your staff is doing. Talk to individual teachers to get their perspective on the changes you’ve made.  And before you introduce anything else, meet with teachers and see what they think. Try to build consensus before you proceed.

There may be a few faculty members who are resistant to any kind of change, but in my experience teachers generally are interested in different methods and different classroom ideas.  But as George Burns, the comedian who lived to be 100, famously observed, “Timing is everything.”

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Suzanne Tingley

Posted by Suzanne Tingley

Suzanne Tingley has been a middle/high school teacher, department chair, principal, and superintendent. She taught graduate classes in education administration for the State University of New York. She developed a series of education videos and has been a Scholastic Administrator blogger.