Friday, June 28, 2019

Are You a Change Agent?


I noticed an educator recently who had 'change agent' listed in her Twitter bio. I thought that was cool. I think every teacher, every educator for that matter, should be a change agent. We aren't just teaching lessons, we're cultivating potential. We're helping students become world changers. We are helping them build capacity in a variety of ways. Academics is only one part of what we do.

This summer I've read a number of books on change. One that was especially helpful was Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. I wanted to share a few of my notes and how I think it might apply to classrooms and schools.

Which of the following is most powerful?

Think, Analyze, Change or See, Feel, Change

Think, Analyze, Change is when we use data, evaluation, reasoning, and research to drive change.

See, Feel, Change is when we utilize stories, experiences, connections, and emotions to drive change.

For smaller adjustments and minor behavioral changes, Think, Analyze, Change seems to work fine. But for transforming change that requires much bigger shifts in thinking and behavior, emotion is critical.

Think about the biggest decisions and the biggest changes you've made in your life. I bet they were more driven by emotion than by analyzing. Where you went to college. Who you married. Deciding to have children. Buying a car or home. I'm sure you used your powers of reasoning in these situations also. But there were also very strong emotions at play.

Do most people get into too much debt because of a problem with analyzing or a problem managing emotions?

It's not uncommon for emotions to overpower the reasoning that we apply to a given situation.

So if you want the people (students, colleagues, staff) you are leading to change, it's probably more effective to help them 'see' and 'feel' why the change is important and not just present them with the reasons why they should change. 

You can't change them, but you can help create conditions where they can change themselves.

An example from Switch was a 1st grade teacher who told her students that by the end of the year, they were going to learn so much they would be as smart as 3rd graders. For 1st graders, it feels really good to be like a 3rd grader. It feels big and strong and important. So the teacher constantly revisited the idea that by the end of this class you're going to be like 3rd graders.

Our emotions are often driven by our identity, and we tend to act in ways that are consistent with how we see ourselves, who we believe ourselves to be.

Change agents use See, Feel, Change to help others see themselves in new and powerful ways. They see them not just as they are now, but for who they are becoming.

Here are five ways to use See, Feel, Change as a teacher or principal or parent. You can use these in any role.

1. Give people experiences.

Powerful experiences can be transformational. I remember moments my thinking changed entirely at a conference. We've sent teachers to Ron Clark Academy, even though we're a high school. And some of our teachers have credited that experience with a whole new trajectory in their teaching.

2. Give people affirmation.

Affirmation is not just giving a complement. Those are good too. But affirmation is seeing qualities in someone they may not see in themselves. My high school coach saw potential in me when I didn't believe in myself. That made all the difference. The person who influences you the most isn't the person you believe in. It's the person who believes in you. All of our students are future world changers. See the good in them.

3. Give people responsibility.

If you want people to rise, give them responsibility. It's amazing how the opportunity to take the lead can change a pattern. When you give responsibility, it shows faith and trust in someone. They don't want to let you down. The new responsibility can disrupt the pattern of disempowerment they've experienced.
"Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him." -Booker T. Washington.
4. Give people hope.

Some of our kids are hopeless because they don't think it matters what they do. Nothing will change. So we need to constantly tell stories of courage, perseverance, and triumph to let them know what's possible. We must give people something to believe in. Things can get better. We always have the power to decide. And our decisions will determine our destiny.

5. Give people connection.

And finally, give people connection. For people to change, they need to feel a sense of safety and belonging. They need to feel secure. They need to know they matter, that someone is listening, and that their presence here is making a difference. 

What are you thoughts on being a change agent? Is that something that's important to you? How are you driving change? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you.

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