Getting buy-in for radical school changes is a common complaint of school leaders. It is important to remember how you got to the point of believing a certain change was necessary. There was probably a learning process; you read books, heard podcasts, saw a compelling keynote speaker or heard something from a student that convinced you. Those experiences were all processed by you and then led you to believe a particular change would benefit your school community. Many times, school leaders bring the idea to stakeholders after all this processing has happened without allowing the stakeholders to go through this same process. Instead of getting new ideas and convincing stakeholders, consider these three alternatives.
Look for existing interests
Look and listen for what people are talking about in your educational community. If people are already interested in something, they will be open to learning about it. They will be willing to dig deeper. Perhaps a change that you would like to see could be connected to something that is already on people’s minds. In our case, there was a school leader interested in growth mindset and after we read Carol Dweck’s book on the topic, we started having conversations about how grades fit into this idea. With a critical mass of people questioning their current grading practices, there was fertile ground for asking bigger questions like what if there were no grades?
Look for strengths
Building on strengths is also a quick win. If a faculty or community is already good at something, trying to build on that and make it better can create innovation more quickly than trying to start from scratch. In our school, we have used a variety of these strengths to further our work. For example, we spent a lot of time revising our schedule several years back and as a result we created a block of time every day when kids and teachers were all free of a scheduled class. Our initial intent was to use this time for advisory once a week and academic time for students during the other four days. When we decided to move to proficiency-based system, we built on this initial system by extending our advisory groups to all four years instead of switching advisors each year. This small change has and will make a huge difference as we implement personal learning plans, student led conferences, and proficiency-based graduation requirements.
Look for results
Finally, look for where teachers are already seeing results. When I say results I’m not talking about test scores. Where are kids motivated to learn? What teachers are kids raving about? What are those teachers doing? Showcasing these examples can give others ideas. But just showcasing them can be frustrating for teachers who may not have the skills to implement in the same way another teacher may be able to. Providing training on these ideas or allowing the teachers who are having success share how they are doing it can be useful. There is not a teacher out there who wouldn’t want to have a room full of kids motivated to learn. So, if there is something they can learn how to do that would produce those results, easy buy-in.