I don’t know about you, but I often feel like I’m on fast forward. I’m always planning ahead, thinking of the next steps, ready for action. What this usually means is that I often want things to happen yesterday, when the reality is that they will take several weeks, months or even years.
So, I have to admit, it was a little difficult for me to “take it slow” last year (on the advice of my admin team) when I really wanted to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible. But time has proven them to be very smart people…
Last year I felt a bit like a door-to-door salesman (to use my colleague, Chad’s, analogy). Our school had never had a 21st Century Literacy Specialist before, and in fact, had never even had a Technology Facilitator.
Just one year before I came, we still had a traditional “computer lab” set up with scheduled classes which were, in essence, prep time for the teachers. So I can safely say the majority of the teachers really didn’t have any idea what my job was – or that they had a role in the embedding of technology into the curriculum.
I spent most of the year demonstrating what my role was by building relationships with individual teachers, helping them with their technology and literacy needs, and sharing exciting and engaging projects which I could co-plan and co-teach with them. Most times I had to do a little bit of convincing to get the teachers excited, but once we started, I could see them understanding the process more and more each day.
On the whole, I spent the year convincing, in every possible way, as many teachers as I could conceivably work with, that technology can be fun, it’s really not an add-on, and that I am here for support.
It wasn’t always as easy as I have a tendency to make it sound (I try to stay positive), but you can imagine my surprise when I came back this year to find:
- teachers clamoring for my time (instead of running the other way when they see me in the hallway)
- teachers asking me: “what’s my next step?”
- teachers starting their own projects without my help
- teachers helping their colleagues try something new
- teachers anxious to build in technology-rich projects as they continually develop their curriculum
Surprise, surprise, it may have taken a year, but I’m not so much of a door-to-door salesman now. The teachers that I worked with last year are ready to continue and kick it up a notch, those that I didn’t have the chance work with last year have heard a bit about what I do through the grapevine and are asking for support, and as the new teachers get settled in, I’m already starting to advertise and promote new ideas.
I guess my little seedlings are starting to grow.
Even though I like to move at lightening speed, I wonder if “taking it slow” will help bring about more authentic change. Will these individual relationships I have formed help garner more buy-in from those teachers than having a school-wide focus or commitment to 21st century learning? Is the grassroots approach more beneficial in the long run, or would school-leadership directed change be quicker and just as meaningful? What do you think?
Update: Here are some more questions that came to mind as I was reading your thoughtful comments:
Is this type of change more authentic or more long lasting than systemic, institutional change? Will it lead to systemic, institutional change, or will it always be the domain of individuals? How do you build a grassroots movement, yet at the same time institutionalize it, so that if the different seedlings go and plant themselves somewhere else, it will continue to grow here?