Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why is "Change" such a bad word?

Questions about change are floating around in my mind after a teacher study group meeting. When I was listening to one of the teacher teams in our district, I heard remarks about the perception of change. We talk of change and reform quite a bit here in Van Meter, and this group offered suggestions for "changing" the word to something else.

Instead of change, let's call it enhancing our craft.
Instead of change, let's call it improving.
Instead of change, let's call it reflecting.
Instead of change, let's call it...

and then the conversation went on to say something like this:
"Why is change a bad word? Shouldn't we always be reflecting on what we've done to try and improve our practice? Don't you try new things in your classroom and analyze why it worked for one class and was less effective for another class? We want our students to problem solve and learn from failure. How are we so different from them? Don't teachers want that feedback just like kids about whether or not we are "doing it right?" Doesn't this feedback help us improve, enhance, and change our practice? We don't need to be flashy, we need to do what works."

Does it matter what we call it? This group ended up agreeing that it doesn't matter. What do other teacher's think? Is change a bad word? Does it always have a negative connotation? Why might some think so? As leaders, how can we communicate change as part of the vision and continual improvement efforts of our district, so it doesn't seem like change is done for change's sake? How do we make sure we are on the front-end side of change so that change doesn't become "done to us"?

I appreciate the conversations that teachers are having as we study professional learning communities. I believe the change in Van Meter professional development that has moved toward teacher-led collaborative groups in the PLC model is the right move for our district. Increasing the time for professional development by more than 50 hours this year was the right thing. Because teachers were clamoring for more collaboration time, I don't think this change was seen as much of a "change" at all. Makes me wonder... Is change a bad word only when we don't like what we are being asked to change?


  1. "Increasing the time for professional development by more than 50 hours this year was the right thing."

    Wow, JS. I'd like to learn more about this. Perhaps a future post?

  2. Thanks for the idea, Matt. I often struggle deciding what's worthy of a post.