Bonus Episode - What to Expect on a Change Journey
Earlier in 2023, we ran a course called Making Sense of Structured Literacy: Overcoming misconceptions for a smoother change journey. This bonus podcast episode is the audio from that first session. If you want to download the resources from that first session or you are interested in hearing the four other sessions, you can sign up absolutely free here. Once you sign up, each day for 5 days, you'll receive an email with a video clip and downloadable resources to help you work your way through the challenges that come with adopting structured literacy. We cover everything from, "Am a still a good teacher if I questions and doubts?" to "What does it really take to help teach comprehension?" I hope that you enjoy listening to the first session of this free course and remember to click above to access the rest of it, completely for free. The live events mentioned are, unfortunately, no longer available, but the 5th day is the recording of that event so, you won't miss out. Have a great day everyone.
Well, hello there, it's day one, so let's get going. Today we're going to have a look at what to expect on a change journey. I have prepared some notes for you, and for every single session, there will be notes prepared. So links to any key references or resources are in notes. So you don't have to worry about jotting things down quickly or any of that. It's all there for you, and make sure that you complete your professional reflection record. It's not an arduous task. It's not intended to be a 45-minute sit and journal. It's just a quick reflection about what resonated with you and what you might be able to move forward with into your practice. (Notes and full video presentation available here)
Let's talk about change
So let's talk about change. Change can be scary. Change can be hard, but understanding the process can really make it a lot easier. We're going to start this session by looking at three models for change, growth, and buy-in. This is the Kubler Ross change curve. (available in full video) Now you might've heard of the stages of grief. Well, the same lady who came up with those stages came up with this curve for change, and if you know anything about those stages of grief, you may recognise some of the terminology here. So the first stage is shock. Um, what do you mean we have to change things? I don't understand what's going on. I'm like totally blindsided by this. That can be a common response. The next stage in this can be denial. Well, I don't know why we need to change because everything is fine. You know, my students are reading well. I don't know why we have to change things. Look at our NAPLAN data. It's not too bad. so not engaging. Then comes frustration because, at some point, someone asks you to do something, and you're like, no, I don't want to. So things are going to change. but I'm not happy about it. So I'm going to feel frustrated with what's happening. Then we might get a little bit depressed. Now I think depressed might be a bit of an overstatement, but we could say lacking in energy, as it says here, is probably pretty representative, and what that might look like is, Oh, look, all right, fine. We're going to change it. I will just do the minimum that is expected of me. The things that someone's going to come and check, I'll do it, and if they're not coming to check, well, guess what? I'm not. Then we might start to see, Oh, actually, I'm looking at what people are doing around me, and maybe I've done the things I've been required to, and I've seen a little bit of impact here so maybe I'm ready to engage now and give things a try. Once we've seen that we've got a little foot on the bus, we're like, okay, yep. Maybe we can go there. Then we make a decision that, yep. Okay. We're going to be on board with this thing. After a little while of doing that, we integrate these changes, and we have a renewed involvement as an individual.
Now, experiencing big feelings as have been described here is not a questioning of anybody's commitment to the well-being of children. It's not to suggest that if you have these feelings, that somehow it's time for you to go and get a different job now in a whole new career. It's to recognise that feelings are normal. That having a dodgy day doesn't mean that everything is bad. It's okay. So you might have a think about changes that you've gone through in the past, and we'll talk about school 'cause that's what we're here to talk about or what you've observed in other people who you've supported. Now that support could have come about in a formal leadership role, or it could have been that you were a teacher in a classroom and you had a teacher in a classroom next door, and you were supporting that person. So knowing what the process is actually just makes it a lot easier to understand, and that changes the way we approach things. As I've said, the stages of change can be close to the stages of grief, especially if we're being asked to give something up. That can be a real thing.
Let's talk about growth
Now, if you've been with me for a while, you may have heard me talk about Ken Blanchard's situational leadership model. (available in full video) This is not his version, this is mine, but what I'm about to describe to you is absolutely his model, and you can Google this. There's actually a link in today's download where you can read a little bit more about this change model and the Kubler Ross one. So this is about learning. This is not necessarily about change, but it's about the process we undertake as we learn new things, and every one of us is going to spend some time in each of these boxes. when we learn something new. We're not all going to spend the same amount of time in each box or have the same intensity at each stage every time. But just know again that it's perfectly normal to have feelings.
Box number one, we're super excited. I haven't done this thing before, but you know what? Let's go. Woo. Very, very, very happy.
Box number two, I tried to do this thing, and then I realised that I had no idea really what I was doing, and then I felt quite frustrated because I went from saying, "yay, all my feelings are very high and happy to, oh no, now I'm sad because I just couldn't do it". That's happened to every single one of us. We planned a lesson at home in our heads and something new. Yes, this is going to be great. We've imagined how it's going to look. Get in the classroom, and the wheels fall off completely, and we get quite frustrated. This is the stage at which we blame everybody but ourselves. Now, I'm frustrated with the department for making me change things in my school. I'm frustrated with the students. Why don't they understand what it is that I want them to do? but deep down, actually, we're scared for ourselves. So we recognise we can't do this thing, and it makes us feel vulnerable. If we get some support and if we get some direction, if someone actually tells us what to do and shows us what to do and then gives us encouragement, we're going to grow our skills and knowledge to the point where we can do this thing.
But when we hit box number three, we doubt ourselves, so we can do the thing, there's evidence we can do it. I can teach this phonics lesson. I can unpack vocabulary in this certain way. I can teach reading as a whole class in the upper primary. But, because this is still quite new, I now doubt myself, and I retreat, retreat at every opportunity. Until the next day, then I feel good again, and then I want to do it. So this is what happens when one day on a Monday, you're feeling fantastic. You go in, and you teach a great lesson, it's just wonderful. You wake up on Tuesday doubting that you know anything at all, worried that the principal's about to walk past and figure out that you don't really know what you're doing, even though you actually do. So you go, and you find a black line master, or you find some printable from a site somewhere to help you. Even though there's that voice in your head going, this is not great teaching. You're in box number three. If that's what you're doing.
In box number four, we've done it for a while. We've got some experience, we're cooking with gas, and away we go. We're all going to pass through those stages and think about school-related things and non-school-related things that you've learned, the moments of frustration are absolutely normal and okay.
Let's talk about buy-in
This one is about buy-in. It can relate to ourselves. Or it could relate to having people who we are supporting. So you look at this through whichever lens is most appropriate to you at this point.
The blue box is awareness. So the first thing we have to do is be aware that there's a problem that needs to be solved. If we think that everything is hunky dory and that there's nothing that we need to adjust, then why would we bother to engage with the change process? No thanks. Everything is fine. So this is where data can help. It can help paint a picture and create a common vision of what's going on. But the data has to be reliable. So if we're relying on our benchmark reading assessment to help people see that there's an issue that may or may not get us where we want to go. Once people have accepted that there is a situation that needs to be resolved, then they can start to think about different possibilities. So I can see that there's a problem here. Now I have to think about what we're going to do about it. That is the next stage of getting buy-in from people. But we can't just say, okay, we're going to change our whole approach to reading and writing, so here are two, you pick one because it's quite likely that if we flick back to this slide here (available in full video version) that this person has just hit box number two, they actually don't quite know what they need to do. They're willing to think about things, but they don't have the knowledge and skills to make those decisions. So what we need to do is help people clarify thinking and build understanding. So here's where some professional learning can come in, helping people to really think about the underlying reasons we might be adjusting things such as this particular five-day professional learning sequence. Then after people understand the why and a bit of the how, they're ready to take steps. Help people accept imperfect beginnings are where we all start and that the goal is not perfection on day one, it's continual improvement. So we're going to have an imperfect beginning with the intent of gradually improving and refining practice over time, and I don't mean 10 years, I mean like a year. We're going to work on the small micro parts of our lessons so that the whole is really, really strong. Once we've done that, once we've started, and we're building strength, then we need to have a continuous focus. I have a podcast episode about the reasons the wheels might be falling off your whole school approach, and the fourth episode in that series was about what happens when we haven't focused on results to maintain. So having regular opportunities to check back in on what's happening is critical. So if you are working with a team or you're thinking about yourself and what you need at a particular stage of your journey towards this magical, amazing practice that we want to happen, think about what you might need and get it. We're going to talk about that in a moment. Ultimately, it is in our own best interest to accept responsibility for getting what we need to succeed in the workplace. It's not someone else's job to do all the things for us, just as it's not only the teacher's job because the student has a part to play. When it comes to getting what we need in our jobs to facilitate a change process, we, as the individuals who are involved in change, have a responsibility. Our leaders also have a responsibility, but it's not only up to them, and it's not only up to us. It needs to be a partnership with people working together.
3-Step Action Plan
Change needs to be something done with people, not something done to them, and we get there through collaboration. I'm going to give you a three-step action plan for change with a little bit of detail. The first one is to challenge our own assumptions. The second step is recognise and celebrate our strengths. Nobody starts from zero. We are all individuals who bring strengths to the table. Then we're going to connect and collaborate for success. No single person can do this on their own.
Step 1 - Challenge Your Assumption
Let's start by challenging our assumptions about what it means to be a good teacher. Is it possible that I could have had a misconception about how my students learn and still be a good teacher? Have a think about these questions. Is it possible that I can call myself a good teacher if I admit that I don't have the answers? Is it possible that people will still respect me if I admit that I feel vulnerable and uncertain about classroom practice? If I've been a teacher in the profession for a number of years and I stand up and say, "Well, actually, there's a bunch here I clearly don't know", am I still a good teacher? Will I still be respected? is getting at the heart of how we feel when we're presented with change and why we might resist. Now the answer to all of those questions, of course, is YES. Being a good teacher is acknowledging that there's stuff I don't know. It is also about embracing that uncomfortable feeling that some things I've done in the past might not have been the best for my students. That is really, really hard. What I want to say to you is that guilt has no place here. What has a place is acceptance and moving forward, but our big worry when we think about all of this stuff is that the answer will be 'no'. If I admit my vulnerability, if I reach out to people and say, I don't know, what are they going to think? What are my students going to think? From a school leader's perspective, you might be thinking, what is the parent body going to say if we say, actually, we've not been working with the evidence, sorry about that? It's really hard, but it's a conversation that needs to be had. Let's challenge our own assumptions now about how students learn to read and write. This first session, I promise you, is the heaviest and hardest of what's to come because we're going to challenge lots of assumptions today and really get down to the heart of why change is hard. Every other step moving forward is about what we can do about it. It is really hard to accept new ideas, and I 100% acknowledge that it is not a case of the good teachers just do all the things and the bad teachers don't want to know. That's such nonsense, and it's really unhelpful. So let's watch a little clip that unpacks why you might be resistant to hearing new ideas. (Clip available in full video)
What can we do in our school if we discover that people are challenged? Now I want to go back to there we go, this one here. So often, what we do in schools is get someone to accept that there's a problem, and then what we do is we give them a bunch of research, or the person is not accepting that there's a problem, and we give them a bunch of research. Inadvertently, what's actually possibly happening is that we are triggering that backfire effect. Oh, you don't agree with me. Let me give you another research paper. Oh, you don't agree with me. Let me send you a YouTube clip. It also explains why when we are challenged, we might be reacting in a way that is less than positive, and we look at ourselves and go, wow, I'm usually a rational person. Why is this upsetting me so much? There's information and facts here that don't fit with what I previously thought. It's really interesting to understand, and when we understand it, then we can take steps to address it.
Now, what the rest of the video (Clip available in full video) goes on to explain is that we can build connections. There is great benefit in finding connections and things that are the same between us and another group. So what are the things we have in common? Well, we're both year three teachers. What else do we have in common? We're both really worried about these particular students because they're just not growing. Okay, Now we have something in common. What else do we have in common as teachers and as educators in our school? Well, we have in common that we really love working with rich text. What else do we have in common? We have in common that we really enjoy a particular author or teaching with a particular tool. Find the things that are common and build connections. From there, we will be able to support each other through change.
Let's look at some common misconceptions about change, though that can stand in the way of growth. The first one is getting a new program or tool will make everything easy. So things were tricky. If we just buy this program and we put it in place, and we give people training, we give them the tools, everything's going to be much easier. Now, I'm going to say to you that I do believe that having tools is really important, and it does reduce cognitive load, but what it doesn't necessarily do is make all of the big feelings disappear. Here's another misconception. Only weak people have doubts. Or if I have a doubt, does that mean I'm not on the bus? no, it doesn't. You can still have that little niggly feeling that says, if I give up the sight words, are the children going to learn how to read, even though intellectually we understand about orthographic mapping and that we have to go through the sounds. Is it possible to have that doubt and be on the bus? Yes. But we don't let the doubt stop us. Everyone else except me has it all together. Oh, such a common misconception because we're all putting on our Instagram face, whether it's actually on Instagram or in our school. We're all putting on our public face when we're talking about this stuff. No one goes into the staff room and says, you know, I'm really challenged emotionally because I feel vulnerable, like maybe somehow, I'm not a good teacher anymore. no one wants to walk up and say that. I'm telling you, nobody knows everything, whether you are a teacher or a leader, no one has every aspect of practice all together. There is something that everyone's working through, and here's one that's particularly damaging. It is my leader's responsibility to make change easy and stress-free. It's not a leader's job to make everything easy and stress-free. Do they have a part to play? Absolutely. Do they need to be working with people? Yes. Collecting voice and opinion. Yes. Helping people have a say in developing common timelines and approaches. Yes. But it's not the leader's job to make everything easy and stress-free for us. Remember, we as the individual have a part to play in this as well.
Step two - Recognise and celebrate our strengths.
Step two. So step one was to challenge our assumptions. Step two is to recognise and celebrate our strengths. Now I've popped a link in the download for today to this VIA character strength survey. (available in full video) It will ask you a bunch of questions, and it feels like it's going to go on forever. Don't think too hard about it. Don't sit there and agonise over every one, and don't give up before you get to the end. So you do have to pop your email address in, but it's free, and what it will give you at the end is your character strengths in order, because we all have strengths to work from, and when we start from a strengths-based approach, rather than a deficit approach, we are much more likely to succeed in what we're doing. You can see there this is a screenshot of my actual printout. that is my top three strengths are creativity, a love of learning and curiosity, and that is what drives me. So being able to embrace your strengths is really powerful.
Step 3 - Connect and Collaborate
The third thing we're going to do is connect and collaborate for success. I've already said no one can do this on their own, and the most powerful phrase you can use is I need because the people around you are not mind readers. So if we're all turning up to the staff room with our best public face, how do people know that we're struggling? If we are blaming other people for our feelings, instead of saying, actually, I'm really struggling with this. How can anybody help us? Of course, there are going to be some people who we feel more comfortable having this conversation with than others and find that person in your school, ideally, and hopefully, that's your leader. It's your leader's job to be available to you to help you find solutions to the things that are worrying you, but you also need to reach out, I absolutely get that it is incredibly scary, but I promise you that you aren't alone and truly, together, everyone does achieve more.
There are two things we can ask for when we're reaching out. The first one is direction. Can you just tell me what to do? Can you just show me what to do? Can you help me clarify timelines, set priorities and give me feedback? This is where a program comes in. The program, the training, and the follow-up coaching do that for us. The second thing we need is support. Can you listen to me when I'm whinging? When I go, "Oh, I know I'm just whinging, but I really just need to get this out. Can you just listen to me?" We've all been there. Can you give me encouragement? Can you ask me questions to help shape my thinking? Can you remind me of my bigger why? Can you share relevant experiences that helped me to make my way through what I'm working on? Now, how much direction and support you need depends on which stage of development you're up to. We're back here, almost done with this clip. (available in full video). I know it feels like a long one, but I really want to encourage you to think about change through these models and think about this action plan.
When we're new at something, we don't need a lot of support. We don't need the handholding and the encouragement because we already feel good. So we just need direction. Just tell me what to do and show me what to do. But when we hit box number two and these big frustrated feelings come for a visit, whether we want it or not, (and there are days we feel like we don't want it) we do need direction, but this is the time when we don't want it. If you are the owner of toddlers or teenagers, I know "owner" is not a nice thing to say, but I was finding it a bit funny to say I own three teenagers. They live here quite a lot of the time. They need support, but they don't want it, and they especially don't want it from you. That can happen in school as well when we're trying to help people shift practice, and they need support. So we need to be building connections as we continue to support people and give them the guidance that they need. When we get to box number three, I don't need heaps of direction because I actually do know what I'm doing, but because I doubt myself, I need lots of support. I need the encouragement. I need you to ask me questions to help me reflect on what I actually do know and the results I know how to get. When I'm in box number four, and I've done all the things, I don't need a lot of direction. I don't need a lot of support. I can just get on with it. But there is never a point where there's no direction and no support. So even the most proficient person still needs direction and support at times. There never is a point in our teaching when we say there's nothing else for me to learn. If that's actually genuinely what you think, it's probably time to go and get a new job now. I don't think anyone watching that would say that they feel that way about their job because teachers who are committed to their students' well-being are desperate to learn new things to get even better outcomes.
In summary, there are different change models. One of these or more may resonate with you over others. That's fine.
Feelings of vulnerability and doubt are not a sign of retreat. They are a sign that we are about to learn something. So if we change our language, when we have these wobbly feelings from, "Oh no, this is going to be terrible" to, "Oh goody, I'm about to learn something." Your brain actually doesn't know the difference. It doesn't know if you're lying to it or not. It only knows what you think. So adjust your thinking. Oh good. We're about to learn something. Isn't that exciting? Fake it till you make it, people, that's what that's all about.
We are hardwired to react negatively when our worldview is changed, but we can use reason and connection to reflect and grow.
Other people can help us with direction and support. However, the decision about how we will respond in the wobbly moments rests with us. Other people are not mind readers. We need to ask for what we need.
So here's your three-step action plan. (available in full video). It's printed on your download for today.
Challenge your own assumptions, catch your own negative self-talk. Stop speaking to yourself in a really horrible way. If you heard a student in the playground speaking to another student the way you often speak to yourself, and I can say that with confidence cause we all do it. You need to catch it and stop. Instead of saying, Oh, I'm such an idiot. Oh, I have an opportunity to learn now. It's going to be okay. Catch the negative self-talk. Remember, your brain doesn't know the difference. It only knows what you tell it. Recognise and celebrate our strengths. Do that survey. See where you end up and connect and collaborate for success. Identify kindred spirits and Anne of Green Gables fans. You'll know what that means. Kindred spirits who can help us with support and direction as we need it. If you've never watched Anne of Green Gables, by the way, try and find it. It's really good. So where to from here? Download, print, and complete the Professional Reflection tool for this session and remember to register for the live wrap-up because that's the session where I'm going to model for you and unpack a whole bunch of stuff you can do. Really super simple things that you can do in your classroom. It's also where you're going to get all your questions answered and win some cool prizes. That's it for this session. I'll see you tomorrow.
How you can sign up for our FREE course?
I hope you enjoyed listening to the audio from session one of the Making Sense of Structured Literacy free course that we have available. Just a reminder that the references and downloads mentioned, as well as four other modules or sessions, can be found at www.jocelynseamereducation.com and go to the tab that says free training. Enter your details, and we will send you a clip each day for five days. It's completely free. Unfortunately, the live session mentioned is no longer available, but that's the recording of the fifth clip that you will receive as part of signing up. So you won't be missing out. Have a great day, everyone. Bye.