Four Hundred and Twentyfirst Asic- The Impact of the Principal in the Process of Change

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.

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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.

 

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Guess what????

 

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…

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Twohundred and Sixty-Fifth Asic- Fifteen Thousand Views

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Today this blog reached 15,000 views!

Thanks for reading! 

One hundred and fortieth åsic- The Impact of the Principal in the Process of Change

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 as a way to understand in what way teaching could be the same or completely different when comparing one setting with another. All groups also noticed that the very process created a more close relationship between the different teachers involved. The bonding and feeling of being a member of a group with a mutual idea of how this very school could change, made a tremendous impact among the teachers.

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They 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.

 

stopp-hand.jpg (390×517)

 

Guess what????

 

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’d say this is typical for what it is like to work in a school in general… A principal starts off a change and his staff more or less reluctantly give their engagement and hard work to make that change possible but another principal won’t continue the process and the staff is left to just follow new orders but still enjoy the every day work to the same extent. It seems to be the same thing on a national level although it is supposed to be groups from different political parties who deal with long term changes in our school system. Why else would the School System change every time we change Governments?

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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. We all understand we 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 would always be based upon scientific results, rather than a single person’s bright idea. It would also, for sure, be great if we could get some peace and quiet and a chance to focus on students’ learning.

If you are interested in a more general blogpost, then please read the #one hundred and thirtyninth åsic.

One hundred and thirtyninth åsic- A New Year Brings New Ideas

Let’s hope the headline for this Åsic is true! I believe it is. SO far, a new year has meant a brand new start to so many things in my working life as a teacher, that I dare to hope for 2015 to be likewise.

change-4-1imepyc.jpg (640×655)A few times my start off in January after relaxing days off during Christmas Holidays has meant a completely new setting with either new students or a new school to work in. Sometimes I have even changed level in the Swedish education system. After 23 years as a teacher I have experienced the changes of curricula on a state level a couple of times. I have also decided for myself to start teaching a new subject and thus I have needed to focus on learning, for instance by getting university grades in that subject. No matter what kind of changes I have experienced as a teacher, they all seem to have had a lot of things in common, if a whole school or a group of teachers are involved.

What first might be a challenging struggle where everyone is interested and engaged, might turn into a nightmare where all fight for their own ideas. But it may also be a very good opportunity for teachers to listen to each other and share ideas to define or develop the main idea together. Different viewpoints or ideas for solutions need to be negotiated and exposed to the whole group, in order to go on to the next level of change. This ciritical point in the group process is where many teachers and for that matter, principals, tend to give up, instead of forcing themselves to ride through the storm and realize that there will be a calm sea on the other side of whatever the problem might be.

To some extent changes are difficult to deal with and steal a lot of energy before everything is settled, but in a way I always know that there will be many advantages in the end if I just go on. It is interesting to note how different teachers think when our little world of education in the local school is to be changed. If you like to read about a certain example from my own teaching, then please read the next åsic, #one hundred and fortieth åsic. Education on a general level is a change in itself. I agree completely with the quote below:

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The Swedish Government will still find difficulties in getting the message of change through since the oppositional parties in the Swedish Parliament (Riksdagen)are reluctant to give up their ideas of education management. Although representatives for all political parties in the Riksdagen except Swedish Democrats (SD) came to a mutual agreement for passing minority governments’ ideas through the Riksdagen, we might still have to wait another four years for any kind of major change for teachers and students in Sweden. But hey, let’s find new ways together!

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One hundred and thirtyeighth åsic- Teacher of the Year 2015

I had the great opportunity to share the everyday teaching life with a marvellous teacher, Cathy Jacobo. During my stay in NJ in October/November 2014, I experienced teaching and instructing from an American point of view. I am sure my visit had been less interesting without Cathy and I am so happy to share that she was awarded the title ”Teacher of the Year”!

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Congratulations, Cathy!! 

⇒For those of you who’d like to read about our adventures, please follow the links below! Please also note that there are no ”ninety-third” and ”ninety-fourth”, since those texts are written in Swedish… 🙂

The eightieth åsic- Sharing teaching experience with friends abroad or from abroad

The eighty-first åsic- Learning Among Friends

The eighty-second åsic- Second Day in an American Teacher’s Hectic World

The eighty-third åsic- Uppe med tuppen!- Being an early bird!

The eighty-fourth åsic- Fika as an ice-breaker is never wrong!

The eighty-fifth åsic- ”HALF & HALF” or Completely Wrong!

The eighty-sixth åsic- Höstlöv, höstlov, hostlov, Fall Break!

The eighty-ninth åsic- From Påskkärring to Tomten in Twenty

The ninetieth åsic- My New Favourite Tree

The ninety-first åsic- To help students understand and find connections is what teaching’s all about!

The ninety-second åsic- Being happy for having friends

The ninety-fifth åsic- The Yellow Wall and The Blue Wallpaper