To be a teacher means working in a constant change. It goes on and on and has no end. We all know that. We meet new groups of students, we teach new content to new age groups or we meet new teaching friends whom we are supposed to work in teams with. International school surveys like PISA and similar, serve as evaluation for school systems on a global level and governments in countries worldwide develop their school systems accordingly. We all understand school systems need to be flexible since everything else would be an obstacle to the whole educational system. But having said that, it would for sure help both teachers and students if changes on a local level would also be based upon scientific results, rather than a single person’s bright idea. Being part of something new and interesting and being listened to in a reciprocal process to create a better learning environment, such as the case below can be very rewarding for every participant, but what happens with the willingness to invest more energy in another ”bright idea” when you change principals in the middle of the process?
I remember a very interesting situation in my teaching career when the teachers in the school where I taught at the time, had worked together in smaller groups, with the only instruction to ”find a way to work more efficiently with the new curricula”. The groups may have been three or four. Every group consisted of teachers not only from school years 1-6, but also from the very new ”preschool class” level and from nursery school with children at the age of 1-5. The mix of teachers in each group, made it more difficult to find general solutions where every group member was satisfied, but on the other hand, all groups came to the conclusion that the very process was important. All groups also noticed that the process created a more close relationship between the different teachers involved. Being part of a group concerning school development stimulated the teachers and they found the project meaningful and interesting.
They also felt more professional, more engaged and interested in educational development. Most teachers took their time listening to each other, both to experiences of teaching, but they also listened to ideas, new input that they themselves had not tried before. The principal at this school was very engaged, too, and after a while, the whole school seemed ready to form a completely new organisation. Many of the teachers could see a very interesting learning environment take form and where thrilled to go on with the process.
The new thing at this time in this particular school was to split up the original groups and classes vertically rather than horisontically. So far this school had taught groups of children born the very same year. According to the new idea children would follow a certain path or track with mixed ages within the group. The students would thus be in groups with not only children who were born during the same year, but also with both younger and older children. Teachers specialized for a certain age group would be working with teachers focusing on other age groups than they did themselves and the idea was to create an enrichment for all involved, both students and teachers.
When the idea with tracks was fixed as a new organisation to come, the teachers met a new challenge in planning for the work in each ”track”. Those who would be teaching the very same children planned for their own track and now they needed to focus on questions like ”How?” and ”What?” and ”Who will be responsible for this or that?”. A new frustrating, but also interesting process started, where members of the groups tried to communicate what would be ”the very best solution” for their ”track”. Interestingly enough, the different groups found very different ways to work. None of them was ”bad”, but just ”different”, which every teacher in this school agreed upon. When they all met to share the results of the group level work. The good ideas were collected and shared between the groups. They all felt prepared and eager to start the new school year.
This school then changed principals and the new principal simply said: ”The idea with tracks is not my cup of tea. Let’s stick to the old organisation and cancel the change!”
I remember how I felt that moment… I remember I looked around the room and saw many disappointed faces… All the effort, all the anticipation and expectation for the coming school year was blown away… This was the starting point for a new principal with completely different ideas…