Change can often be a source of fear and stress for people because they don’t know what might happen. When my family moved to Australia, the change of culture, country, people and way of life affected me for many years. I found it hard to cope because I was taken out of my comfort zone and thrown into a new life. Yes I had many more opportunities here, but it was alien to what I had experienced for the first 20 years of my life. I struggled to adjust and longed to go back to the place I called home. Australia had offered me freedom as a woman to live my life, yet I wanted to go back. Why? It is because Pakistan was my home- my cousins and relatives were still there. I had grown up having them around. My memories were there. I had left my grandfather behind. It was a place I felt comfortable and secure, because I knew where I belonged. In Australia, I didn’t know who I was anymore. I just didn’t fit in. I wasn’t happy with the change. It was as if I had to start learning how to live again, just in a new country.
Similarly in schools, resistance to change happens when people are taken out of their comfort zone. They are afraid of not knowing what will happen, they are afraid that all they’ve learnt will not be relevant anymore. Some of my closest friends at school are teachers who’ve taught for 15+ years. They’ve seen the changes come and go. Some have embraced technology whilst others fear it. Their reason is that when they learn how to use technology, they feel “dumb” in front of newer teachers.
At the start I used to get frustrated during school PD sessions when the presenter would start their topic at a very basic level. I wanted it to be at a higher level so that I could take my learning to the next stage. However I soon realised that this was not possible as not every person in that PD session was at my level. The presenter had to start the topic at a level that most would understand. This is what we as teachers do in our classrooms. I had made the assumption that my peers would be at the same level as well and this was not the case.
This was reinforced at a recent curriculum day when 3 of us were asked to juggle 3 balls each to demonstrate our ability. Standing up in front of my peers and trying to juggle was not easy. The balls dropped as soon as I threw them in the air. The other two teachers were better than me as for at least 20 seconds they managed to juggle the balls before they dropped. I was out of my comfort zone and realised that if this could apply to my students when they learnt something new, then it also applied to my peers when they were presented with new information.
I’m lucky that my school leaders have recognised this (something that I need to work on as a new leader). In 2014 when we started our Blended Learning Projects, staff that were more comfortable with using technology signed up. At end of the year, the technology leaders held a Learning showcase where these staff presented their projects to other staff. It was a valuable learning experience for those presenting as well as their audience.
This year, when the technology leaders began the project again, more staff signed up to participate. Many of the 2014 presenters agreed to become mentors to help the 2015 participants . Amongst the participants this year are those who are still learning how to integrate ICT within their units of work. Many were in the audience at the showcase last year and are going to have a go this year. It gave them more confidence to stand up and agree to participate this year. If they had been forced to do so, they would not have been willing to participate. As 2014 audience members they had the opportunity to see how the presenters had used technology in their own classrooms and realise that they could also try it in their classes.
As a leader I need to have patience and the ability to understand why others are resistance to change. I also know that as a teacher I cater for different learning abilities in my classroom and I need to apply this to my peers as well. Allowing teachers to showcase their work will help others see what is happening and it will encourage them to try it in their own classrooms. Yes at times there will be whole school change that needs to be implemented by all, however if as leaders we realise that whilst some will implement the changes immediately, others will most likely need to see what it looks like before they can try it in their own classrooms. Talking to those educators who are resistant, can also help us as leaders understand the reason for their reluctance and help them start their journey of change at their own pace.