Disrupting the Status Quo in Your Environment

As members of our greater community, we all have the opportunity to create change in the educational environment.  So, as innovators, what are the key hurdles holding us back?

  • wp-1453410873853.jpgTime
  • Money
  • Resources
  • Outside Limitations

In order to cultivate change beyond ourselves, we have to address any limitations we have imposed upon ourselves.  Do any limitations actually exist?

In order to disrupt the status quo, we have to shake up and disrupt our own.


This afternoon, I was honored to have the opportunity to present via the EdTech leadership group called Leadership Lift.  Delivered via Voxer, this presentation focused upon two key points:

  • Cultivating change within ourselves by adopting a possibility mindset, and
  • Instituting change management within your organization.


Cultivating Change Within Ourselves

Carol Dweck, the pioneer in the realm of growth mindset, uncovered that there are two general mindsets we tend to employ: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

In the fixed mindset, a person believes that he or she is predisposed to have certain abilities or skills.  In education, this connects with the concept of learned helplessness in which one is so conditioned to be averse to failing that they do not push themselves outside of their comfort zone.  The growth mindset, on the other hand, utilizes research regarding the brain’s neuroplasticity, which identifies that the brain does grow and adapt, to help one move beyond their natural aptitude. For example, a student who struggles in math could, with a growth mindset, work to employ different strategies, skills, and tools to help them augment their math skills.  The same is true for adults.

How can we use this information to help us improve ourselves in order to improve our environments?  Based upon the work of Dr. Willard R. Daggett and Susan A. Gendron, there are three key questions we can ask ourselves when we are poised to create a great change:

  1. Why?
    • Why do you want to address this road block? Why is it a challenge? Why must this be addressed to improve your environment, school, or students?
  2. What if?
    • What if there were no boundaries, rules, or hindrances?  What would you do to address the realm you wish to improve?
    • Ed Tech leaders, for example, already exist in uncharted territory and many visions for the future exist.  What is YOUR vision for the future?
    • At this point, dream without bounds.  It sounds hokey, but imagine there are no obstacles.  None.  Give yourself some time to marinate on these ideas and trust your instincts as to when you are done marinating.  Write them down, record them, make voice notes on your phone of them, and do not edit them.  That will come later.
  3. How?
    • Here is where the action happens: How can you make your idea a reality?  What is the FIRST step you can take to make that happen?  Who can you align yourself with to support you in this change?
    • Adopt an entrepreneurial approach.  Daymond John, founder of FUBU Brands and star of ABC’s “Shark Tank says to “take affordable next steps.”  This is one way entrepreneurs with minimal resources move from one level to the next.

Once you have addressed where you wish to impact your environment and inspire change, you can now guide those around you to join in your vision.


Managing Change Within Your Environment

Dobbs Ferry, New York Superintendend Dr. Lisa Brady identifies three quick ways to begin disrupting the feeling of complacency in your environment.

  1. Remodel (or re-imagine) Faculty or Department Meetings:
    • Whatever meetings or gatherings you conduct or lead, switch them up.  Not only will the participants notice the change which will hook them in, but if it is geared toward areas of their interests or needs, you will cultivate an environment for enhanced buy-in.
    • One idea is to have Genius Hour as Professional Development.  Genius Hour (a.k.a. Passion Projects) is where students can become experts in a tool or topic of their own choosing.  Why not do this with your colleagues?  Is there an ed tech tool one person wants to try?  Is there a new behavior management strategy one wishes to use?  In visiting many schools, the common thing I have heard teachers say is that they wish they had more time to explore things of interest to enhance their craft.  In taking it a step further, creating a Genius Hour-like space in Professional Development provides teachers, administrators, and other education professionals then have a safe space to apply what they have learned and a space in which they can fail without judgement or professional penalty.
  2. Reach Out to Seasoned Teachers/Colleagues:
    • “The only guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.” -Jean Paul Satre
    • People like to be heard.  Tap into the observations, experience, and concerns of your seasoned colleagues or of those who have social clout within your organization.  These individuals may be more likely to present any (sometimes well-intentioned) obstacles.  Why not include them in the movement by providing them with an audience; helping them feel heard and part of the overall team.
    • Remember to provide a forum for constructive criticism and not gripes.  There is a distinct difference that will make the difference between having transparent conversations and kvetch-fests.
    • Check out this simulation where you play a game in which you work to gain support for a new initiative at a school.
  3. Model Growth Mindset and Help Others Adapt One for Themselves:
    • What does a fixed view look like in others?
      • “I’m bad at technology.”
      • “What if the students go to inappropriate websites?”
      • “Our kids shouldn’t spend all of their time in front of a device, they’ll become zombies!”
    • How would the growth approach appear?
      • I know you are a little nervous trying new technology, but here is one small tool/tip/ resource that will make your life easier.  When can I share it with you?
      • Let’s take a look at the lesson plan to make sure that it is really engaging the students.  What tiered or extension activities can be included to keep them too occupied to be off task?
      • How is the use of technology enhancing your school?  Let’s make sure that we are using it to uplift our school/district/environment.
    • Maintain your possibility mindset in your work, be transparent with your failures and your subsequent successes, and by example, others will feel as though they have permission to push themselves beyond their own perceived boundaries.


FAIL in order to SAIL

Now I know I put a lot of emphasis upon the word “failure.”  It serves as a perfect acronym for applying a Growth Mindset.wp-1453410973282.jpg

FAIL=First Attempt In Learning

so you can

SAIL=Second Attempt in Learning

Remember, “Where there is no vision, there is no hope.” George Washington Carver.  Identify your vision.  Imagine big.  Create a sense of hope for the future.  Take baby steps, but don’t just create a plan, create a movement. Let’s re-imagine education by disrupting the status quo.

Recommended Reading

Below are books, articles and other resources worth exploring to prepare you to shake up the status quo in your environment.  This only scratches the surface, and I encourage you to go deeper into the rabbit hole of innovation.

  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck
    • This is the book on Growth Mindset from its creator.  Need more be said?
  • Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun, and Be Your Own Person” by Shonda Rhimesš
    • I recently devoured this book.  It made me chuckle, laugh, and guffaw.  Literally.  Shonda Rhimes, the creator of the TV shows “Gray’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice,” “Scandal,” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” chronicled her year of removing imagined obstacles from her way, and how the practice of doing so changed her life. (She even lost 110 lbs.!)
  • Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hil
    • While this book focuses upon the accumulation of wealth, like many business books I have enjoyed, it mainly focuses upon shifting your mindset.  Even though it was written in the 1930s, its concepts are still applicable today.
  • Mind/Shift by KQED
    • I have a bit of a crush on the Bay Area, since it is a hotbed of innovation and just really cool people.  This blog from KQED, a public broadcasting channel, features articles, research, and showcases of ways in which the realm of education is being molded, shifted, and re-imagined.  I subscribe to it and suggest you do too.



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