Optimizing Changes within Schools
Schools can be among some of the most difficult
institutions to change. There are many reasons for this, including the finite
number of opportunities teachers generally have for long-term planning or for
collaborations with colleagues, the lack of funding for professional
development, minimal resources available for long-term visioning or strategic
planning, and school leadership that may not always support innovation. And
then consider the shortage of teachers across the country and, as a result, the
greater percentages of professionals who do not have the necessary depth of
pedagogical and curricula training. Taken all together, one can understand why
it’s an uphill battle for schools to innovate, even when they recognize the
necessity of doing so.
Yet, most educators are keenly aware that the content students need to know and how they can most effectively learn it is constantly evolving. Even when many obstacles are cleared away, it is often difficult to implement any number of new initiatives that are necessary to prepare students for the range of challenges they will face in their lifetimes—let alone to help them get ahead of the curve.
So how can schools make the most of their limited
bandwidths and increase opportunities for innovation? To start, faculty and
staff can build consensus around the most important problem at their school and
then explore initiatives that will have the greatest potential impact. Once
identified, teachers and administrators can collaborate more effectively as
they take specific steps to address these priorities and make improvements, all
while working within timelines that are reasonable yet finite. Once the changes
are implemented, the faculty and staff should work together to evaluate the new
initiatives and their potential outcomes. Knowing what was successful and what
wasn’t after implementing changes will make future innovation more effective,
fostering continuous improvement in other areas at the school. And though
initiating a cycle of identification, implementation, and evaluation may seem
difficult to maintain at times, I believe it’s necessary for schools to stay
vibrant while continually striving to meet the needs of current students.
There’s always room for improvement within every school, no matter how many or
how few resources are available to make it happen.