Friday, December 19, 2014

It's About the People

School districts, states and even the Federal Department of Education have rolled out initiative after initiative after initiative in schools. These initiatives come with programs, protocols, procedures and all have intentions of improving student learning at some level. Many of them are conceived with the best intentions in mind. The creators of any one of these programs or plans were interested at some level in making school better for kids. You can define "better for kids" in a lot of different ways. We want to make schools safer. We want to allow more collaborative work for teachers. We want to increase student test scores. We want to prepare kids for college and career. We want a great many things for our students and teachers and we put in place many plans and initiatives to attempt to do this.  In schools we have a plan or a procedure for just about anything we think can and will happen. On paper many of them look really good.

However, a vast majority of them fall apart or are not effective in the manner in which they were intended. The simple reason behind this is often not a fault with the plan or the program but rather the people involved. I have spent countless hours of my career being professionally developed or trained on any one of these new programs or initiatives. Yet many of them fail to reach their intended results when it comes back to a building level because of the people actually responsible for the follow through and execution. At the end of the day there are some people that just don't have any interest in following the plan or getting on board.

You can look at Common Core as a contemporary example of this notion playing out in schools. Many districts have gone through curriculum review and are implementing new Common Core aligned units of study. Yet, even with new standards and new curricula, there are still teachers refusing to change or incapable of changing. They are holding on to their old ways and refusing to adapt or change for the sake of the students. Much of the failure I have seen with the new standards has little to do with the standards but rather with the individuals attempting to implement them. From PLCs and special education to BYOD and flipped classrooms, there is a program or initiative for everything and they depend on the people involved to make them succeed. It doesn't matter how good a plan is if you have the wrong people.


I wonder if we shifted our energy and resources away from programs and initiatives and into hiring and inspiring the right people we might be better off. How can we get to a place where we are constantly improving the level of teaching and learning through ensuring the right people are in our buildings rather than trying to change those who are already there and resistant to change? If we want to look at impacting students it is the people not the programs that will do that. Programs are important. Procedures are needed. Protocols must be in place. However, none of them are worth the paper they are written on if you don't have the right people in place to do the work
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