So, all of you out there who are sick of hearing phrases such as the following:
“Teachers are resistant to change.”
“Teachers are refusing to change because they don’t want to have to work any harder.”
“We’re trying to change the schools, but the teachers don’t want to change.”
please put your hands up in the air.
Now wave them like you just don’t care.
Except, contrary to this popular belief, we do care.
Change is hard. For everyone. Last week I was on the phone with Mini Mimi’s pediatrician and the nurse who answered was clearly having a hard time adapting to the change in their phone system. When I stopped by one of my favorite restaurants to pick up a falafel (I HEART me some chickpeas), the person ringing me up complained about the change in registers. And when I was at the hospital five months ago having Mini Mimi? Guess what? You got it! The nurses were complaining about the change in diapers.
Did you see these individuals on the news being blamed for the failure of their respective businesses? Probably not. I’m sure the nurse was given adequate time to figure out the phones, the lady at the falafel place was given adequate support from her co-workers as she mastered the new register and the nurses? Well, I bet someone actually listened to them because I hear they are now using different diapers.
Do you see where I’m going with this, friends?
Personally, I don’t think teachers are resistant to change because we are hell bent on making sure schools fail, because, hey, who cares, we get summers off and oh by the way we need to walk out the door at 3. I think some teachers are resistant to change because they know that in twenty minutes or two weeks or two months or two years it’s all going to CHANGE AGAIN. And again. And again. And one more time just for ha has and/or to possibly mess with our heads. The Powers That Be can be crazy like that.
In my first year of teaching we used a scripted reading program, a games based math program, no particular writing curriculum and kind of made up science and social studies as we pleased. (I know, it’s probably OUR FAULT that no writing curriculum was purchased at the district or school level and that science and social studies were basically an after thought. THAT’S why we spent so much time after school trying desperately to fill those gaps…)
In my second year of teaching, we used a balanced literacy approach to reading and writing, began a brand new word study program and implemented a totally new math curriculum. Oh, and then the standards changed and we had to re-write all our science and social studies lessons.
In my third year of teaching, we actually kept the same reading, writing and math curricula but, don’t you worry! No stability here, folks! We totally changed word study programs and (you know it!) the science and social studies scope and sequence went through another overhaul which meant more time writing new units.
In my fourth year of teaching, we adopted yet another word study program (third times a charm?), instituted a battery of new tests and began to work in committees.
In my fifth year of teaching, things stayed the same. I got a taste of what it felt like to reflect upon the previous year and to thoughtfully improve my instruction. I began to experience what it was like to push myself professionally, to feel confident which in turn pushed me to work even harder. I started to….
Oh wait. Then I was asked to switch grade levels. Sorry professional upswing, time to start over!
On some level, because I am a sick and twisted individual who thrives on things moving at warp speed, I felt like I learned a lot by being exposed to so many different curricula, programs and philosophies. But my teaching? Well, that kept getting the rug pulled out from under it. I was left to feel like I was constantly treading water, waiting to drown at any moment. Let me just say that feeling like you are drowning does not do wonders for your professional confidence.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Does this woman ever stop complaining? Doesn’t she ever speak up and advocate for herself or her students?”
In fact, yes. Yes I did. Yes I DO. But, with very few people other than my fellow Super Colleagues listening and supporting me, speaking up was a bit like pissing into the wind.
(Yes, I went there.)
Maybe if I had been listened to. Maybe if I had been given the chance to achieve some sort of balance. Maybe if I had been asked what I think, what I need, what is working. Maybe if someone realized that constant change isn’t always a good thing and that perhaps by following every single trend that comes along, we’ve in fact crippled teachers, made them unable to adapt or see the value in changes that are made to their practice without their consideration.
Maybe sometimes change IS bad. And maybe, just maybe, sometimes it’s NOT the teacher’s fault.
Wow, it's like you chronicled my teaching career…change after change after change…and most teachers just want the opportunity to refine and polish their craft, like most professionals. Sigh.
I could not have said it better myself. You always get it right on the money. You know, the money that we are all in it for. hahaha
As a first year teacher…
The scripted programs. The pacing guides that we ABSOLUTELY HAVE to stick to. I want to cry. What happened to everything I just learned in college, about writing lessons to fit the needs of your students, stretching out a difficult lesson if need be, spending extra time, or dare I say it, speed it up or make it different if your class is totally with it?
Nope. Stick to the pacing guide. We all feel so lost.
Maybe it's just because I'm new, and I keep telling myself that it'll all get easier next year, once I've gone through it all once. I just hope they don't pull the rug out from under me next year, although I'm afraid that's probably too much to ask, isn't it?
I can really relate to your frustration. Sometimes, as a teacher, it feels like they want miracles but they aren't giving us the tools to achieve these "so called" miracles.
I really do feel like teaching is one of the only professions where they expect you to jump from one thing to the next without any sort of time between each thing.
Then again, I suppose they assume that, during all that time we have off during the Summer, we must have had the time to create a mechanism that will slow down time.
I really don't think that teachers mean to be resistant to change. I don't know any teacher who entered the profession with the purpose of hindering students or standing in the way of education. Rather, I think that teachers are so worn down from all the many expectations that are pressing on them from all sides. No one expects a doctor to treat patients, keep track of appointments, schedule appointments, manage the billing, etc. That's sort of what they expect from teachers, that they somehow are able to do everything with little to no support from anyone.
I agree wholeheartedly. The quick changes are so hard because we (most of us) don't just open the book and spit out the lesson. We take time to make lessons meaningful and to develop our own understanding of where we want our students to go academically (though it may be a moving target).
Not to mention the fact that changing programs and curricula rarely involves teachers as decision-makers. The changes are often something done TO us, not with us or because of us. I feel lucky to be in a school where the professional development (though lacking in funds) is teacher-driven most of the time. I have a math lab classroom this year! And I have days to work with my colleagues on goals that we set together! Thank you, stimulus money and a visionary principal.
Exactly on target, Mimi. I would just add that if teachers are "resistant to change" it's because we're tired of it disrupting and interfering with our teaching. It's one thing to change based on research. It's another thing to be told that you have to change by people who don't know what they're talking about.
When change is accompanied by research, documentation and training, most people I have worked with have accepted it.
Oh…and speaking of change, in 34 years of teaching I changed grades/positions a dozen or more times including one stretch of 10 years when I bounced around between first and sixth grades changing nine times. I taught grades 1, 3, 4, 2, then a 2/3 split, 3, 6, 2…and finally Reading Recovery. Actually, I enjoyed it. I learned a lot by teaching different grade levels.
AMEN! The worst part of it is that it's change because the politicians have changed and not for any good reason (for the most part)
For first year teachers, it will get easier, but at the same time teaching will always be hard. Why don't policy-makers and people bashing teachers understand this? We are NOT doing this to breeze through life. TEACHING IS HARD.
I can understand your frustration. One thing my mind kept wandering to as I read this entry..what about the students? What is best for the students? Change is not always the best, and in all reailty, may not always be the worst thing ever, either. I think it truly is a case by case issue. As teachers, we need to be focused on the kids. What do they need? Are there special needs students in the general education classrooms that can't particularly handle the change? This would be my major opposition to change — and the seed of any resistance I might have.
I can relate to your frustration as well and wrote my own vent called Change vs. Passion: They Just Don't Get It–which addressing a lot of what you just talked about.
It bothers me when people automatically are quick to tell folks that they have a problem with "change" Sometimes it is not about change.
Thank you for being a voice for those of us "in the trenches." I feel so overwhelmed and underappreciated much of the time–that's okay…I didn't sign on for a leisure, bon-bon filled, popularity contest. I've been checking out much of your blog, online interviews with you, and reading excerpts of your hilarious, yet touching book online. You are an amazing, insightful, intelligent lady. Again, I thank you for putting into words what I have experienced in my 25 years as an elementary teacher. Please don't forget our plight when you get your doctorate.
Well said, Mrs. Mimi.
Last week some colleagues and I scheduled an emergency happy hour following a two-hour training on "Unwrapping the new Sunshine State Standards with FCAT 2.0," which (surprise!) is a new test our students will be taking this year and on which our performance will be judged.
I have to admit, I felt a little "change-resistant" during that meeting.
Why change it if it's not broken? I work in a high school that has received very high marks from the state and been recognized for it's achievement in "growing" students beyond the one year minimum. So that's great, right? Instead of being happy that everything is working well, our admin decides to lengthen our class periods (I have no problem with this.) and shortening the day from 9 periods to 8. Now students have less opportunities to meet with teachers because they usually don't have study halls and teachers are still teaching 6 class periods and have very little opportunity to give extra help to students. Why in the world would they do this? We can't offer as many electives or enrichment opportunities and all of us are running around like mad. Anyway, although the teachers are very upset about the change, we have been informed that we are going to do this for at least 2 years before giving up on this schedule.
I just cannot understand.
What a timely post! The principal of the school that I'm completing my student teaching in this semester just announced that the math and ELA curriculum will be changing for school year 2011-2012. The educators that I work closely with are totally frustrated about this because they feel that they've just reached a comfortable point in delivering the lessons and material associated with the current curriculum.
Hey Mimi- in working on your dissertation, have you come across any journal articles referring to this idea of "change fatigue" in education? I'm inspired to consider including this in my research project. I've seen so much change in 5 years, it makes my head hurt. God help the teachers with 25+ years of this to keep straight.
For what it's worth… there are teachers on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean who experience just the same problems and feelings as yours, Mimi.Every year running after new rules, new systems of assessment. I'm a lucky one, since I'm a regular employed State teacher, but what about the substitutes? Well..let me tell you just one "little" thing to cheer you up: we get the equivalent of 1800 dollars a month..I bet you live better than us! Chiara, from Italy
As a pre-service teacher I can already relate with your thoughts about change, and believe that yet needed in some areas it begins to become more of a routine of continual change rather than an actual effective difference. I do have a couple of questions though regarding your views on teaching in general. How do you believe is the best way to balance personal life with teaching life? Is there much of a gap in the two or does teaching tend to carry over into home life? Also, when it comes to change how do you feel about the constant change in technologies? Do you believe they help or hinder the students? Which help the most? And, one last one, I promise!: would you have any advice on wanna-be teachers for their first years of going in?
-Thank you very much!