A new writing series. As the words came out of the mouth of our new reading specialist, I started to cringe. This is our third writing protocol in 4 years. Why? Because we want to see consistency among the grade levels. I thought we were already doing that with 4-square and POWER.
During the first week back to school (teacher prep week), most teachers are learning or experiencing a new gadget, form, initiative, focus, or vision. Education seems eager to be on the cutting edge of reform. If something promises to enhance student achievement, employee morale, or stakeholder cooperation and support, many administrators jump upon the proverbial bandwagon and distribute or mandate its usage, often to the chagrin of teachers. They simply exhale vehemently, accept the new “product” halfheartedly, implemented with little or no enthusiasm, or simply toss it aside.
The leaders of the school wonder why everyone isn’t as excited as they were when they found out about it. It had a proven track record with this principal and school or that administrator and grade level…can’t the faculty see that? The problem, however, does not lie with the new product, but with the inconstancy of the leaders and the initiatives they implement.
Ineffective leaders lack constancy. They implement new initiatives without allowing previous ones to fully take root or to allow followers ample time to master and analyze the success or failure of those initiatives. Warren Bennis (1998) writes in “The Character of Leadership” that “one of the things you hear about the least effective leaders is that they do whatever the last person they spoke to recommended or that they plunge forward with the latest good idea that pops into their heads” (p. 147). This creates mistrust in leadership, a crucial component to being an effective leader. It makes leadership appear disorganized, unsure, or questioning.
Furthermore, most of these new initiatives are implemented without proper research, tested practice, modeling, or even thorough explanation. Often, teachers are not involved in the decision-making process yet the burden is placed on them to implement new ideas in alarmingly short time frames. Teachers build up resentment and bias towards these new ideas, and ultimately leadership, when these new concepts are handed down and teachers are not given a voice in the matter, despite great intentions from the leaders.
There are many new great programs or initiatives out there but leaders need to truly consider the right time and pace for them. Ask the teachers what they thing is working and what needs to be changed. Ensure there is sufficient input, time for implementation, and plenty of training. And lastly, give it time to take hold and see if it is effective. One or two years is often not enough. There needs to be constancy, not perpetual change.
Bennis, W. (1998). The character of leadership in M. S. Josephson & W. Hanson (eds.), The power of character: Prominent Americans talk about life, family, work, values, and more (pp. 143 – 149). Los Angeles: Josephson Institute of Ethics.