It’s January. Around here that means short days with little sunshine. Report cards are due in a couple of weeks. Flu season is in full swing. People are tired and worn down. At times like these, it becomes even more imperative that I stay on top of my game and maintain focus and perspective.
When I was learning how to ride my motorbike, the instructor reminded us over and over to keep our eyes on the road where we want to go. Allowing our gaze to stray and linger on oncoming traffic or the ditch will lead to disaster: You drift towards your focus. To avoid an accident, keep your eyes on the road ahead.
The same advice serves us well when we set out to bring about change within our schools and organizations. There will be plenty of oncoming traffic — people and structures offering resistance to your direction. And the ditch holds many dangers too. I’m not saying that we should ignore resistance and pitfalls — they offer us crucial feedback on our endeavours. Acknowledge the feedback, allow it to inform how you move forward, but don’t allow it to run you off the road.
A couple of blog posts this week got me thinking about how critical it is that we recognize and use the feedback provided when we encounter resistance and dips in implementation. The first was “Tears on the Keyboard” by Vicki Davis. I actually came to Vicki’s post via Scott McLeod’s post “Leadership means you’re supposed to lead”. Vicki wrote about a teacher feeling frustrated because her initiative had been shut down by leaders in her school district. I’m glad that I read Vicki’s thoughtful post because in Scott’s there was the suggestion that this teacher should pack up and head for another district, one that might embrace her innovative ideas. If every one of us did this every time we meet resistance, where does that leave us? In the ditch. Below are Vicki’s words of encouragement:
I’m heartbroken with you and for you, my friend. What else can I say but push through – this too shall pass. You’re leaving a legacy. We can look back and know that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb but as he failed 99 times you know he had to cry on his soldering. He had to. He had to wonder if it would ever work just right – it worked and he illuminated the world.
When we get this right – it too shall illuminate our world in powerful ways. We cannot stop but have to improve.
Keep your eyes on the road ahead. Stay focused and persevere.
The other blog post I read this week that resonates well with Vicki’s is “Resistance” by George Couros. He makes the point that whenever we set out to change things and to make our organizations better, we will meet with resistance. George’s final words sum it up for me:
Innovation and change is always met with Resistance, but if we are doing what is necessary for our students, then it is the work we have to do.
It is the work we have to do. Simple.
I am committed to bringing about some changes in our district and the road has been slow and bumpy along the way. I have experienced the frustration of hearing “No. The time isn’t right. We aren’t there yet.” Revealing my commitment to bringing about change means that I expose myself to criticism and rejection. But I cannot let my actions be hindered by the impediments I encounter. I need to take these opportunities to revisit my plan and get back in touch with why it is that I am pushing forward. When I know that what I do is “necessary for our students”, I have the moral imperative to persevere. Those of us pushing for change need to know that we are part of a larger network. Stay strong, stay committed and stay true.
When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure. — Rudolf Bahro
Keep your eyes on the road ahead.
cross-posted to my blog