Random Thoughts

Putting the I in change

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To often I hear educators make remarks about change. Either about that it’s too much, too fast, too often, or the more famous one, “Here we go again.”

For some reason, some educators do not see the I in change. The school can change, teaching can change, students can change, as long as I don’t have to change.

How do we put the I in change?

Should we even be trying?

Change is difficult, change is uncomfortable and honestly we, as humans, don’t like change!

But we are in the change business. We change minds, we change knowledge, we change attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. If we are in the change business why are we as a profession so unwilling to change?

Change our teaching, change our thinking, change our outlook. Why as a profession (not all but still the majority) of educators do we have a hard time putting I in change?

Do we need more PD time? Do we need to make reflection a priority? How do we put the I in change?

The issue I’m having with this of course is that we say students need to have the skill of learn, unlearn and relearn. Are we teaching our teachers to do the same?

Do our teacher know how to learn? I know we hope they do…but remember when we were in school we were never taught to unlearn and relearn. We were taught to learn…..period!

We’re good at learning, we’re not so good at unlearning and relearning.

We grew up in a era when you just learned how to do something and that was it….you went off and did it your whole life. No need to change, everything stays the same. Case in point…how many of you have only ever worked in education? Professionally I mean, not that summer job you did in high school. I mean a real professional job that you lived off of. (I never have. I only know education…but someday I hope I can be a professional in another field)

I’ve been thinking about this after talking to some teachers who wanted to know when the next release of Mac’s OSX was coming out.

“I don’t want to waste my time to learn something that I just have to relearn anyway.”

The problem is you still have to learn it, and some of those skills will be transferable. But yes, you will have to unlearn and relearn. We want to just learn how to do something and then not have to do it again.

That’s not the way it works in the 21st Century. You can’t buy the same cell phone, the same TV and remote, the same DVD player because they go out of date. You cannot rely on data you gathered three years ago without researching to see if there is updated more accurate data out there.

We live in a time of constant learning and if you are not constantly learning you are becoming extinct.

Find a way to help those around you put the I in change.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Jeff,

    You really nailed it! Incredible post…it’s funny too often times educators are quick to complain about “new ideas or tools, etc”, but are not willing to take the necessary steps to adjust and change.


  2. Jeff
    Nice reflection! One thing really stood out and I would sure like to hear if my observation rings true for others.

    The staff here has worked hard to embrace change and different teachers of course are in different places along the path BUT.. you make this point

    “We grew up in a era when you just learned how to do something and that was it….you went off and did it your whole life. No need to change, everything stays the same. Case in point…how many of you have only ever worked in education?”

    AND interestingly Lucy who is both the oldest member of our staff and the earliest adopter and the most fearless explorer came to our school from industry ie education is a second career.

    Is this a coincidence or did it help her to understand the idea or relearning…I plan to ask her .but I also wonder if any others can make similar connections

    • Barbara,

      Interesting. I would love to hear Lucy’s response. I would think that her time in industry would affect this. Business has to change, has to constantly reinvent, or you are no longer a business. Seeing that Lucy is also the oldest member of your staff would also put weight on the notion that it’s not an age gap but rather a though gap that we need to cross.

  3. Interesting that, this morning at the breakfast table, this conversation happened to be about the same thing. It is hard to put the “I” in change when the “we” needs to make the process easier.

    Being a self- directed learner, in a world in constant change, takes a certain kind of resolve and a considerable amount of motivation. The “I” and “We” need to see the need for change.

    Please keep passing on the lessons.

  4. So many places to start…

    First, very eloquently put Lorna. Just as we try to teach our children, ‘we’ is more powerful than ‘I’. But, as Lao Tzu said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The journey of changing education will, ultimately, begin with one person pushing for that change.

    Second, teachers are notorious control freaks. By not changing, we are instituting a certain amount of control over our environment. Plus, a lot of the change that is occurring requires teachers be willing to relinquish control of their content at times. For some people, that is the most threatening thing you could push upon them.

    Third, although I am not a fan of the native/immigrant divide, as these so-called digital natives enter the teaching force in greater numbers and begin to take on positions of responsibility, they will undoubtedly force the entire structure of education to change. The question then is, how long will it be before there is a critical mass of digital native teachers?

    As for your question, should we be even trying to change? Wasn’t it Darwin who said, “Evolve or die”? If teachers don’t try to change they will make themselves obsolete. Perhaps in a tenure-driven North American school that doesn’t matter, but in the world of international teaching, that will make all the difference in the world come job-hunting season.

    • Evolve or die

      If only education understood this. If education was put on the free market like business or industry we would be forced to evolve or die.

      My prediction: We will see freelance teacher start to pop up on the web in the near future. A teacher teaching their subject from anywhere in the world and any student can take their course. As soon as that happens the school will be forced to rethink.

      • Jeff,

        It is already coming. I did some work for a company in SF this summer that wants to do exactly that: allow for students to choose their course, choose their teacher, and interact through recored video lectures, discussions, etc. It is not live, but rather anytime-anywhere. It is still very young, still in beta, and only with limited choice (hey, it’s the first generation, what do you expect?!?) but there are hopes that this model will be very scalable as the demand increases.

        Not only is this (shameful) self-promotion, but it points to the future: if students don’t feel like they are getting what they need they can ‘outsource’ their teachers. More importantly, if teachers don’t adapt to their (new) environment, they will lose their students to other sources…

  5. Great post. I think it is extremely important that you pointed out that as educators, we need to not just be willing to change, but also excited to change. By trying new things, incorporating new ideas, and using new technology, we will only be bettering our students’ education. It’s vital to accept and embrace change in today’s society.

  6. Jeff, professional development is broken. It does not work. If it did, we would be living and teaching in a different world. It is time to scrap the entire thing, and look to cultivation, not training. I hope to put this more clearly into a post, soon. – Mark

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