Recently, my headmaster gave me a chapter from a book by Robert Evans, Seven Secrets of the Savvy School Leader. The chapter, The Third Secret, is about understanding the psychological effect change has on people in general, but even more importantly for schools, how and why change can be difficult for educators.
Dr. Evans, an organizational psychologist, says that humans are by nature “pattern-seeking animals.” We are born this way, and we seek understanding through continuity. This statement means that we are naturally reluctant to change. After learning this, I now realize that people do not fight change purposefully, resistance is instinctive.
Evans looks resistance to change from a school’s perspective and says that understanding change is the key to successfully managing change. He says “teaching attracts people for whom continuity is a good fit, people with a strong security orientation and a strong service ethic, not etnrepreneurs with a thirst for risk and competititon.” Think about that for a minute…you teach what you know. What you know about math, does not change much over time. The classics in literature remain the classics. A verb will always be a verb. Teachers are experts in their subject area because curriculum (knowledge) is slow to change (says Evans). It was like a light bulb went off for me. Teachers are expected to be experts. When we change things on them, we are placing their competency at risk. Anexiety should be anticipated.
Now that we know why change is difficult for teachers, how do we manage change in a way that lessens anxiety and increases competency? Evans has the answer to that, too. Stay tuned for the next piece of the puzzle…”Pressure and Support.”
I bet that most administrators do very well on the pressure part and fall far short on the support part!