Change is hard. What holds us back?


When I present professional learning workshops and courses to teachers, I think about the following questions:

  • Why do efforts of innovative colleagues fail to take hold—and more likely are actively resisted?
  • Why haven’t new ideas—even good old ideas—spread as viruses?
  • What prevents us from responding to off-the-wall ideas, trying them out, and adopting what works?
  • What keeps most of us where we are, year after year, generation after generation? (Gladwell claims peer pressure acts as a powerful inhibitor. I have taken off-beat paths at different times in my career only to find myself isolated either by standing alone among colleagues or by being rebuked by those in charge. I felt like the crab in the cage trying to escape but no one would let me.)
  • Is it possible, to create tipping points as individual teachers?
  • What good comes from introducing new strategies to faculties if teachers do not change?
  • What points would tip teachers—and schools—into becoming more successful with all their students?
  • How do we make worthwhile ideas contagious?

Most of the teachers in my workshops appear smart about teaching—and certainly know what they could do differently if they made the choice. (Some, as presenters well know, resist any ideas we introduce.) But, as consultants we rarely know if any of the ideas will tip them towards a different direction, towards more engagement, towards more learning in the classroom. Perhaps we do spark change. Perhaps we set tipping points in motion in classrooms, hopefully as “viruses” to cause learning. Perhaps.

How do these questions strike you?


For more on this crucial issue see Chapter 16 “Leverage Tipping Points” in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting students to Learn from Amazon: