Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Are You Ready to Flip the "Switch"?

Over the summer I had the distinct opportunity to read the book "Switch"by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. In this book the authors analyze what approach produces effective change (switch) in individuals. I found their analysis applicable to administration and teaching. The book discusses our internal motivation being personified as an "Elephant" with a "Rider" on a "Path". The "Elephant" represents the emotional side of us that needs to be connected to change in order to focus its energy towards it. The "Rider" represents the logical, numbers-based part of us that finds comfort in a clear message and organization. And of course the "Path" being the road that needs to be shaped for the "Rider" to guide the "Elephant" down (I know ... sounds very circus-like so far!).

Some of the most compelling highlights of the book were these three points;
  • First, when you are looking to produce change, don't try to change the person, rather change the situation. A practical example from the book is instead of spending endless time trying to convince someone in your house to switch from whole milk to 2% milk, simply only have 2% milk in your refrigerator.
  • A second conclusion was, "Resistance is often a sign of lack of understanding." Too often when we initiate change we run into resistance. This is the logical "Rider" being asked to step outside their comfort zone. The "Rider" will only effectively guide the "Elephant" down the "Path" if they completely understand where they are going and why.
  • The third aspect of the book that I found compelling was the concept of "Bright Spots". You may remember Dr. Alvarez speaking about this briefly during the opening convocation. Sometimes we are doing so much that we don't truly know what works. Finding the "Bright Spots" means to examine your practice, find what works and replicate it to initiate positive change. Unfortunately, our past practice has been when we see a problem we just throw something new on top of what we are already doing (Overwhelming to say the least). The authors of "Switch" would suggest we do not have a clear "Path".
So as professionals, I ask you ... "What do you do to initiate change in your practice?"


  1. I really enjoyed reading this. It reminded me of nursing school and effecting change in the lives of patients. We all can effect change in our personal lives and in the lives of those we interact with everyday.

  2. Change can seem daunting until we see how easy and practical it can be with the right approach.

  3. Feeling free to try out new approaches and new materials helps me to change. Evaluating the success of new strategies and materials helps me to determine the "Bright Spots" to build upon. Sharing new ideas with colleagues also helps to effect change.

  4. I think with the right tools (mentally and literally), positive change can happen. The courage to try something new, different, or "out of the box" can help foster change and reveal those bright spots." I try to take "what works" and continue to make improvements, one step at a time. I also try to evaluate what "didn't work" and see where and why change is needed.

  5. I think it is natural to fear change. Still, I think everyone should be forced out of their comfort zones from time to time. It's importnat to be able to "step outside of yourself" to realize when change might be necessary and effective. Once you learn that you can succeed in a new situation, your confidence will grow.

  6. There obviously is a common thread to all of the post that have been made; I share in your sentiments. With regard to Karen's post....I completely agree with you!!! To go a step further with your thought, I think it's imperative for us to improve collaborative talks regarding curriculum with respect to activities and approaches. I believe our greatest resource is each other. My professional development goal for this school year is to embrace the knowledge and expertise of my colleagues.

  7. I think that the fear of the unknown can present a challenge when trying to initiate change. It can sometimes seems overwhelming for the "Rider" to get the "Elephant" on the "Path" to change.

    I completely agree with all the posts that have been made. In response to Samanthaa's comment, I couldn't agree more that our greatest resource is each other. I feel that I learn so much from collaborating and talking with my colleagues. We are so fortunate to have such a supportive and caring staff at Northeast. Having the support of your colleagues when initating change is a key to the process.

    I also really believe that in order to feel more confident in making a change, effective training is necessary. Then, having the time to try out those new techniques is crucial. This then cycles back into talking with colleagues about what works and what doesn't and evaluating the process.

  8. This is so cool that we can get inside each others brains here. We never have the chance to REALLY chat (on professional topics) on line at the copier or in the hall, running as the bell rings. With that said, can you tell that I am a virgin blogger?? :)

    Anyway, I think that some people overwhelm themselves with the thought that "change" has to be BIG. It doesn't. But I feel that it is essential. As professionals, if we do the same thing year after year, getting bored and run down is absolutely inevitable....... and this lack of energy and enthusiasm is bound to rub off on our students.

    How do I initiate this change? Well, I kind of force it. I don't allow myself to repeat everything. These changes take time, however, which you need to plan for. If you don't have the time to prepare and implement properly, you end you falling back on the "oldies but goodies" (which is not necessarily a bad thing, though.....it just means you have to start over again when you have more time!). Also, you can't be afraid to make a mistake...I do it all of the time. It's how you react to, or what you learn that becomes important. We are always encouraging our children to take risks and we need to do this by example.

    Also, I 200% agree with everyone's thoughts on our colleagues being our greatest resource. I learn sooooo much from what I see when I go into other rooms whether it be on the walls or in action. And ideas are never "stolen", they are always willingly shared. So thank you all for that!

    (Note to Nancy: Please don't look too closely at my punctuation and/or grammar. Remember, I'm just the science/social studies teacher and I tend to get carried away.............. :)

  9. For me change this year is a BIG one. LUCY CALKINS! Although I did change the lay out of my classroom, which believe it or not was so hard to do. But thanks to some of my colleagues thoughts and comments, it was much easier.

    I think the hardest part of change is getting started. Instead of taking one step at a time, I may have to dive right in!

  10. I think people are afraid of trying something new because they are scared they are going to make a mistake and look foolish. But we are always teaching our kids to push ahead because everyone makes mistakes. We all learn from our mistakes. The more you push yourself, the more you learn and the more confidence you gain in the unknown. I also agree with previous blogs that we can use each other as a resource which I know I will be doing this year being in a new position. Looking forward to a productive year!

  11. During my 41 years affiliated with the Montclair Public Schools I have witnessed and experienced many changes--from the evolvement of the magnet schools to building, administrative, staff, grade, curriculum and program changes. Frightening at times, it has also been one major learning trip for me. As a result of experiencing these changes, I have grown in my knowledge of what education is all about--far greater than any course I have ever taken. To me change is knowledge which elevates us to a far greater level of understanding. As I complete my last year of teaching, I am again faced with change that I hope to meet as another challenge in my learning experience. Change is good! Embrace it!!!

  12. Both Maureeen and Mary mentioned our students in their comments. Maureen said that the boredom of doing the same thing year after year can rub off on our students, and Mary said that we push our students ahead to try something new even though they may make mistakes since everyone makes mistakes. I'd like to take these comments one step further by suggesting that it may be effective for us as educators to reflect on our own emotions as we think about and initiate change. Maybe it will allow us to be more patient with our students, since, as children, they are going through so many changes. It takes us all time to get used to new things.

    (Note to Maureeen: First of all you are not JUST a science/social studies teacher. Also, I could care less about your grammar and punctuation. I have to worry about that enough already with my students.)

  13. I agree with Maureen.... this is so cool!

    As change may present fear of the unknown, I also think it brings excitement and challenge. Many of you have mentioned the importance of collaboration amongst colleagues. I feel extremely lucky to be in a position where I am always collaborating with different teachers to help develop lessons and activities where all children can learn.

    I once took a class where my professor required that we keep a self-reflection journal pertaining to our daily experiences in the classroom. At first I immediately thought I would never find the time for that. However, after getting used to the process I began to really enjoy it. I found that constant self-reflection was the best way for me to assess my methods. As a result, it helped me to initiate change. As Karyn said, it is important to not just look at "what works", but also look at what does not work and why.

    I enjoyed reading all of the comments. I think it is a great way to keep us all connected!

  14. Change can be rewarding . I left my family and friends and came to a new country. Life changed for me a complete 360. I consider myself fortunate to be a teacher and work with a caring staff. Not knowing what lies ahead can be daunting. But try to make changes. It makes life interesting and worth the effort. I am so excited about being a blogger.

  15. I third the... "This is soooo cool" comment! I REALLY liked reading all of the comments and what people had to say.

    After reading all of the comments, I had to think back... what was the actual question?!?!

    What do I do to initiate change in my practice?

    .... My subject is constantly changing without me even initiating it, which in turn keeps me on my toes. I also get very bored doing the same thing over and over again (I can't even have the same sandwich for lunch more than two days in a row!) My personality of not liking the same thing over and over again helps me to motivate myself to change what I do in practice. I don't want to say that failure doesn't bother me... because it sure does, but when something doesn't work out (which many times it does not), I try to figure out WHY it didn't work, and change it from there!

    I have to 100% agree with the "bloggers" that said they learned best from their colleagues. I am always looking for more ideas to change what I am doing from my colleagues... and I have even started to check out some "elementary educational technology blogs" because although they are not my "colleagues" they are in the same boat as I am with the ever changing technology that affects my position!

    Excited to see where this blog goes!!!

  16. This is really cool - I'm so excited. Never thought I would be blogging! Anyway, speaking of change it is inevitable in our lives. Moving forward can be scary because it is new, an unknown of what is to be, but I don't think we have a choice. Change can be exciting - something to look forward to. Life moves on and we need to go with it.

  17. From someone that is still new at the game, I have not initiated that much change in my practice. This will be the first year that I have taught the same subject consecutively. Even though the materials are the same as last year, the students are different. I know that if I want my new population to succeed, I am going to have to make changes.

    As many of us have mentioned, the NE staff is wonderful. It certainly helps to work in an environment where you are often praised for something as simple as a "cool" bulletin board. Whether it is a quick chat in the morning or a sandwich over lunch, I am constantly bouncing ideas off of my colleagues. I want to be the most prepared I can be for my students.

    Change should not be fearful. We do it in our daily lives more than we know. I have changed so much in the past six years at NE. Kinda used to it by now.

  18. Wow! I am so impressed by the participation on this blog already. Go NE bloggers! Everyone has had great things to share and I feel so fortunate to work with such a dynamic group of people.

    I think that the topic of “change” is very relevant to the start of any new school year, but especially this year with all of the changes that have taken place in our district and in our school. Despite all of the change that has been occurring, I really admire everyone’s ability to work together to adapt to these changes. As difficult as change may be at times, I truly feel that we cannot grow or progress without it.

    I totally agree with Colleen about getting out of our “comfort zones” and trying something new. Let's face it - as human beings, we become comfortable in our environment and the natural inclination is to resist changing that comfort level. Change takes courage. Sometimes change even requires a risk. As long as we remain open-minded though, we can look at change as a re-energizer and embrace it as a breath of fresh air.

    At NE, I believe that one of our greatest resources is each other (as Sam and others have mentioned). I also find that teaching websites and blogs such as this one can be an excellent resource to exchange ideas with teachers all over the world, while gaining new perspectives on various teaching and classroom management techniques.

    Okay, I realize I am beginning to write a book here... is there a word limit on these posts?? Haha. I’ll just end with this cool quote I found: “Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.” (Pauline R. Kezer) I feel that as a NE community, we are already off to a strong start and I look forward to “growing and reaching new heights” together!

  19. Change? What change? Enough change for me - I'm moving next week. Clifton here we come!

  20. Although change can be scary and at times frustrating, it brings about fresh ideas. Without change we fall into routine, which can sometimes ultimately lead to boredom. Going from an overall career change, to taking over both a regular and special ed classroom, I’ve found that change keeps me on my toes. It forces ME to become the student and further my learning experience in all areas, therefore helping to master my craft. In all my experience at NE, I feel so fortunate to have worked in so many different classrooms. Each one of you possess such unique qualities, and I’m privileged to be able to fuse all your techniques and strategies together.

  21. What has been daunting for me recently is trying to post a comment on this site for the past 6 days. I think the "blogging gods" are unhappy with me. As a result, my erudite colleagues who have posted before me have pretty much said it all. BLOG OOOONNNNNNN Northeast!

  22. Hoooooraaaay! I did it!

  23. Joanne, I must have upset the same “blogging gods”, too.

    However, I was secretly relieved because blogging is a change for me. My initial reaction to blogging was filled with apprehension. Also, I was intimidated that I would not blog as well as others. Nonetheless, with time and after reading all the thought provoking, fun posts, I felt more comfortable with the process.

    Routine is comforting because it is predictable. Predictability fuels a sense of control. Change dismantles all of that.

    In order for me to initiate change, I need time. Time to process, discuss and implement the idea. Also, having “change buddies” makes the process a lot easier. :-)

  24. I agree with Maureen and the rest of the gang who said this is so “cool!” It’s so refreshing to find a forum where we can discuss and share our thoughts on teaching and learning. I loved reading eveyone's insights.

    With that said, I think the image of the “rider on the elephant on a path” is pretty powerful. I often find my own elephant trying to control the ride, but I remind myself that it is I, the rider who must control the elephant. Often teaching can create overwhelming feelings both of joy and frustration, but once I remind myself logically what my goal or path is, I can tame that elephant of mine to move forward... towards change.

    I also have to comment on the quote Dana mentioned. I think change is wonderful, but the roots are just as important. It heps to work with people who are so well grounded. GO NORTHEAST! And go Joanne! You tackled the “bloggin' god” and won!

  25. Okay, maybe this is..."cool"! As I read everyone’s comments, I think we can all agree that as a community we all respect each others opinions and suggestions.
    I agree with (I think Sam said it) my colleagues are my greatest resource. They are the first I turn to whenever a new challenge arrives. Whether it's a situation with a parent, student, curriculum, or which decorative border looks best on the bulletin board. I take my colleagues advice with high regard.

    I am a strong believer of “everything happens for a reason”. While change can be scary, fun, stressful, exciting…all of the above, I know try my best to look at all the positives that it can bring. After all… “everything happens for a reason”! :)