Welcome back! By this point in September, almost everyone is back to school.
I’m sure there are lots of exciting things happening as your district gets underway this fall. I love this time of year. Everything at the start of school is filled with possibility: the possibility of setting and reaching new goals, the possibility of new learning and achievement both for yourself and students, and the possibility that this year will be better than any year to date.
Of course, all of those possibilities involve change. And change, both personally and professionally in education, isn’t easy. Think of all the books and materials out there on change. And there is certainly a multitude of information out there on educational change.
So, how good are you at change? Are you good with change within yourself? Are you good creating the conditions to promote changes in others?
Because, if you are going to be effective as a leader at any level in educator (whether that be as a teacher in the classroom, as a principal, as a district level employee, or as an educational consultant), you need to be a master at change or you will be ineffective.
And, let’s face it. With change often comes resistance.
How good are you at effectively dealing with resistance from others and creating the conditions to promote positive change in others?
This school year, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a talented and insightful colleague, Dave Yingst, who is an instructional coach in mathematics in my district. Dave has a great phrase for this change process which he calls, “moving the needle.”
Both he and I work with a very talented staff in our building. Our jobs, though, involve encouraging change in the teaching and learning of our teachers to positively impact student achievement. Our daily goal is to find out “what’s next” for our teachers to accomplish that goal, and in Dave’s words, “move the needle.”
But, change is hard for almost everyone, and sometimes we meet with resistance. However, if you are moving forward, then you should expect resistance and be prepared for it.
What do you do when you meet with resistance? And, how good are you at dealing with resistance to get the result of change that you need to see to move forward in a positive direction?
Anthony Muhammad (@newfrontier21) conducted formal and informal observations in 34 schools across the United States in every geographical region of the country of staff (teachers, counselors, administrators, and support staff) interacted in the school culture and articulated their beliefs through their behaviors. In every school he visited, he found a war of belief systems between four distinct groups: Fundamentalists, Believers, Tweeners, and Survivors.
Resistance to change poses the biggest and most critical challenge to schools seeking to implement needed change, to create equity for all students, and to improve student achievement.
Muhammad called this group “Fundamentalists.” He found that this group was not necessarily ineffective teachers (since they displayed a wide range of professional skills), but one of the most distinctive characteristics of this group is that they display blatant and overt opposition to change that threatens the way schools used to operate.
Muhammad asserted, “Of all the members of the school community, Fundamentalists are by far the most active. They actively and consistently seek to add to their ranks and to gain political power to support their belief system” (2009, Transforming School Culture, p. 70).
He goes on to say, “The pattern of Fundamentalists is very predictable. I observed Fundamentalists using three primary methods of influence to achieve their political ends: defamation, distraction, and disruption” (2009, Transforming School Culture, p. 74).
The question becomes, “Can an educator’s resistance be reversed?”
In his work, he found four different levels (“level one, level two, level three, and level four”) of Fundamentalists (or “resistors”) that existed in school settings. If administrators or leaders know and understand these four different types of Fundamentalists, there are solutions and strategies to affect positive change for each of these four levels.
If you would like to learn more, please consider joining us at our upcoming conference.
Learning Forward PA (LFPA) is honored to host Dr. Anthony Muhammad at our annual Fall Conference on October 5, 2017, at Harmony Hall Estate in Middletown, PA. His presentation is, “Building a Culture that Creates Capacity for Leadership and Learning.”
The opportunity to register is quickly coming to a close, as we do not support walk-in registrations. Please register on or before September 26th to reserve your spot!
We look forward to seeing you!