Evolution is all about looking forward.
When we think of organizational change it is best to think of it as an evolution not a revolution. Over the course of the past several years, we have implemented new programs and changes that have improved the student experience. Likewise the goal of these changes is to improve the working conditions for teachers and give teachers the tools and training to provide a world class education. We have worked hard to take a thoughtful approach to these changes (evolution) and have resisted the urge to make sweeping changes (revolution). When implementing new technologies we put devices in the teachers’ hands before rolling out to students. Our curricular and instructional shifts have come with extensive teacher trainings. New programs are either piloted or phased in to ensure we have the opportunity to make course corrections.
For some teachers this “evolutionary” approach is painful and has them asking, “When will it be my turn to (fill in the blank)?” Additionally, those teachers who are piloting may often wonder why the process isn’t as smooth as they’d hoped. The fact of the matter is for change to be sustainable we need to be thoughtful and move slowly. When rolling out 1:1 devices to our students, we started in two grade levels (4th and 5th grade) and moved up and down one grade level per year. This methodical approach allowed us to train teachers in how to best use these devices and address any pain points that may exist in our rollout. This approach is not exclusive to technology initiatives. As the district shifted to a workshop model for writing we ensured that teachers had the training they needed to implement that instructional model. Likewise, we asked teachers to only implement a single unit in year one. This process allowed us to identify what needed to be fixed and gave us the time to fix it. We have applied our evolutionary change model to other aspects of the district as well. Our HVAC systems, boilers, and roofs are replaced on a rotating cycle that ensures that we are maintaining our buildings well in the most fiscally responsible manner. It is clear that this process yields positive results and ensures that changes we make are sustainable.
Not surprising, we applied this evolutionary approach to how we purchase furniture for our classrooms as part of our flexible learning spaces initiative. In year one (2017-18) of this initiative we simply encouraged teachers to use their learning space differently and supported the inventive ways teachers modified their classroom environments. This year, we were excited to see how teachers used flexible classroom grants to improve instructional techniques. The next phase of our evolution is to pilot a furniture procurement process and set standards for classroom furniture. As part of the process, the teachers met with a classroom designer and discussed what they hoped to accomplish by updating their spaces. The designer was then able to provide suggestions to help the teachers better accomplish their instructional goals. The team tested different furniture at the company’s warehouse and submitted a plan to administration for approval. It is my hope that by focusing on how new furniture can best impact instruction we can provide our students with even better classroom experiences.