Breaking down the change barriers

There are some ‘givens’ when we are on a lead team in a busy school. We know that we need our staff to the best they can be. We know that they are the engine room of change. And we know that professional learning, in some shape or form, is the oil to that engine. The leadership of change, and professional learning, is often a portfolio for one of the lead team members, and it is generally agreed that this is how schools bring about improvements for their students.

How do you try to make change happen in your school? It can lead to some pretty tense, sometimes (dare I say it) even deficit conversations, such as:

“He won’t change.”

“That team just isn’t interested.”

“She’s such a luddite…she won’t participate, no matter what we do.”

“We have some staff who are just totally resistant to change”.

I have heard all these types of comments in my time as a professional learning leader around schools in New Zealand. They reflect the challenge of trying to take people with you as you strive towards a new approach or initiative. Such comments, despite the deficit language, are often less about how people feel about their staff and more a reflection of the pressure to inspire a team of complex professional to change.

Such comments may also be because we have adopted an approach to change that fails to take people with us. If we hear ourselves making glum comments about “reluctant teachers”, perhaps it’s time to look at how we have designed professional learning…



This article was originally published in the ‘From the Deputy’s Desk’ column in LeadershipED NZ and LeadershipED AU (Term 2 2018), published by EducationHQ. The opening of the article is published here with permission.

To read the rest, sign up to EducationHQ’s Hub; it’s free for schools. Direct link to the full article is here:


Image via Liz West, ‘The Open Gate’ under CC

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