My name is Katelyn Ronzetti Cook and I am currently enrolled in a Master of Education program with Spalding University, 2 Revolutions, and What School Could Be. This program is about shifting our educational system, why we need to, and how we might go about that change. Honestly, it is a program that helps build educators as change agents. I’d like to share some of what I am learning that may help you instill change in your community, no matter where or what that community is.
Politics and pointless policies definitely do not encourage motivation in educators. It can be difficult to start change if you already feel nothing will come of your attempts. However, I encourage you to shift your mindset in the face of adversity. Instead of focusing on what will not happen, or putting up obstacles that will only get in your way, think about what could be, if….
“What could be” is a powerful statement that instills passion and motivation! We become more excited by the possibilities when we remain focused on them and not the obstacles that may or may not get in our way. It is easy to say, “Oh, well I KNOW this will not happen because of x,y, and z.” While your concerns or obstacles may be very real, no change ever started with why it won’t happen, but a refusal to accept anything else but what could happen!
Act with Urgency
When we hear the word urgency, we often think of people running around, stressed out, and trying to balance too many tasks at once. According to Kotter (A Sense of Urgency, 2008), true urgency “focuses on critical issues, not agendas overstuffed with the important and the trivial.” This means focusing on challenges in the community that are most important. Acting with urgency means being purposeful and intentional each and every day you walk into your community. It is about “winning” your goals and refusing to accept the status quo. When working with urgency, your actions reflect the importance of your goals and people can clearly see you in the process of executing them.
The opposite of urgency is complacency, which can kill your teaching practice as well as any other business. As educators, we know this system is not working and it needs to be overhauled. Educators all around the world, YOU have the power to be a part of that change. Will you change the entire system by yourself? No. But, you can be the urgent voice your community needs to spark change!
Come with a Game Plan
Once the need for change is established, it’s time to come up with a plan. When you are asking for change, the best thing to do is come with a possible solution and strategy for executing it. You may not be a curriculum director or team lead; you don’t have to have all the answers, but you have expertise to share. Present your knowledge to your leadership! Do they keep pushing your meeting back? Impress upon them that you will not wait any longer, and that while they are busy, you are asking for a concrete amount of time in advance. With insistence, they will give you the time. Remember, speak and act with urgency and people around you will respond accordingly.
Utilize Thought Partners
A thought partner is someone who you can share ideas and feedback with. They are someone you trust and respect. Hopefully, you can find a group of thought partners and create your own professional learning community, however, having at least one thought partner in your career is critical to success. Remember, change is not going to happen all by yourself, and you will need a team of individuals and multiple stakeholders to help accomplish small and large shifts. When we are able to talk our ideas through and gain feedback from others, our work is more powerful and credible.
I have saved the best and most important for last. Brené Brown said it better than anyone I know, “The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.” (Dare To Lead, 2018). As earlier stated, you do not have all the answers nor should you. A true leader draws on the thoughts and strengths of others and raises them up. Look around you and you will see a wealth of information if you open yourself to it. Be fearless and jump into that unknown with others. Show them you are not afraid to make mistakes on the tumultuous journey of change because they will happen. Communicate your emotions and needs along the way! Change brings out so many different emotions, all of which are completely valid, and ignoring those emotions only makes the journey harder.
Change your outlook on your circumstances and imagine what could be. Using the five strategies above to begin change, you will find yourself moving faster than you imagined! The possibilities are limitless with the correct mindset. If you are feeling frustrated or unmotivated because of factors outside your locus of control, find what is within your locus of control and start there. Bring attention to what is out of your control to your leadership and be relentless about it. While there may be nothing simple about change, there is something simple and beautiful knowing that it begins with you.
Katelyn has been an educator for 10 years. She began her career teaching English As A Second Language to university and adult students. After receiving her Masters in Education, she taught EAL to upper primary students and later became a classroom teacher. She is currently teaching First Grade at an international school in Houston, Texas. Her passions are educational leadership and building curriculum.
You can connect with Katelyn on her website and on social media.