Common Core and the Principal (Part II)
Leading in a Culture of Change
“Change.” The word alone is often enough to send reverberations of anxiety, fear and resistance through an organization. When the actual change – whatever it is – is perceived as “disruption,” people can become even more entrenched in their current behavior. And so, in the unfiltered reality, we recognize that there is a natural resistance to accepting the Common Core, accepting the change in culture that the Common Core demands. The principal, as Master Teacher, must set the tone of acceptance toward change.
Simple as it may seem when dealing with the Common Core, the principal needs to know and master to the fullest extent the complete workings of the Common Core. There must be a demonstrated comfort with the direction and expectations that the Common Core demands. When the principal takes on the systemic change, it must be grounded in knowing the full scope, intent and direction that the Common Core is taking. Having this proficiency then allows the principal to work on the systemic issues that need to be addressed.
In case you missed it, be sure to read Part I of this blog post!
In creating the culture of change and its acceptance, the principal needs to focus on a few basic tenets, which sometimes get overshadowed by the day-to-day operations. Teachers in general want to be part of an organization and be identified with its role and purpose. Teachers at the core want to be considered as agents of change in the lives of their students, and teachers essentially do want to make a difference. These are the foundational blocks where the principal can initiate the systemic leadership in changing culture.
Michael Fullan suggests seven ways in developing those relationships that in my mind, create the climate of “power with” rather than “power over. “He states that the essentials to developing relationships are:
- Setting clear standards
- Expecting the best
- Paying attention
- Personalizing recognition
- Telling the story
- Celebrating together
- Setting the example
For the first time in our long history of education, the Common Core has provided us with an opportunity to galvanize our efforts in a unified way that is more nationally inclusive, more equitable in distribution and even more educationally demanding. But as with any change, it disrupts the existing culture. It will now take a committed and visionary leadership to understand that instructional overhaul cannot take root and blossom until they – the leaders themselves – accept their role as leaders in a culture of change. In the publication Implementing the Common Core State Standards: The Role of the Elementary School Leader (2012) a quote from Seymour Sarason, puts it all in perspective, “If you attempt to implement reforms but fail to engage the culture of a school, nothing will change.”