1. Find a teacher/coach.
No matter what your role, whether Superintendent of Schools, Principal, Director of Technology, or classroom teacher; finding the right person to guide and support you will make your journey much easier than if you try to do this alone. A teacher will shed light on your path and serve as a mirror to reflect back to you beliefs and behaviors that you may not be fully aware of. Your teacher will help support you as you take on new practices and behaviors. It is interesting that we, in the education business, are just beginning to see the importance of having a teacher in our lives. Every educator should have a teacher.
2. Make a declaration.
“For the sake of what” am I embarking on this journey of transformation?
Create your declaration by finishing the phrase: “I am a commitment to…”
It can be something visionary like “I am a commitment to transforming teaching and learning” or something more close to home such as “I am a commitment to seeing that I recognize the gifts of every student in my class.” We say “I am a commitment to…” rather than “I am committed to…” because the later is a goal that sits outside of me. “I am a commitment to…” means that I AM the commitment. As part of the declaration it is important to include how you will know that you accomplished it.
3. Center yourself around your declaration.
What are you doing in your life that is consistent with your declaration? What are you doing that is not? What will you change so that you are living your commitment fully? Your teacher can help you perform this self-audit. It takes courage and self-honesty to reveal the places in your life where you are not living the values and beliefs that ground your declaration.
4. Begin to practice.
Work with your teacher to develop practices that will help you embody the new behaviors you want to develop. “A practice is a conscious choice we make to train ourselves so that we will behave and act in a particular way so that it becomes embodied or part of who we are.” (Richard Strozzi-Heckler, The Leadership Dojo”. Generally, it takes 3,000 repetitions for an action to become so ingrained that one engages in it without thinking; so practicing new skills and behaviors is crucial to transformative change. “We are what we practice.” (Richard Strozzi-Heckler, “The Leadership Dojo”)
5. Assess and monitor your progress.
Work with you teacher (and selected co-worker(s) if there is enough trust) to assess how you are doing with your practices and with living your declaration. Inevitably, you will fall back to old patterns and behaviors. It is important that you are not too hard on yourself. It took a lifetime to create these patterns it will take time to change them. Re-commit to your declaration and continue to practice.
Remember that change always begins with ME! There are also organizational, systemic, social, and cultural changes that need to be initiated; but focusing on your own change is a fundamental step in transforming teaching and learning.