“At the end of the day, what qualifies people to be called ‘leaders’ is their capacity to influence others to change their behavior in order to achieve important results.” Joseph Grenny
In a time where the only constant in education is change, people involved with education need to become “change agents” more now than ever. You can understand pedagogy inside out, but if you are unable to define “why” someone should do something different in their practice, all of that knowledge can be ultimately wasted. People will take a “known good” over an “unknown better” in most cases; your role is to help make the unknown visible and show why it is better for kids.
Look at the debate over “new math” right now. Many people, including educators, are pushing back over the new curriculum based on the idea that math was taught in a much better way when we were kids. Simply explaining the process and the way we teach and learn math is not enough. It has to go deeper. Ultimately, you want people to feel that this is so much better than they were kids, and that their children are better off. Innately, people want what is better for kids. Tap into that, and people are more likely to move forward.
“To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources—not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end.” Daniel Pink
So how does this happen? Below are some things that I have seen effective leaders to have not people only accept change, but embrace it as an opportunity to do something better for kids.
- Model the change that they want to see. Although this might seem extremely “cliche”, it is the most imperative step for any leader in leading the “change effort”. Many organizations talk about the idea that people need to be “risk-takers”, yet they are not willing to model it themselves. Until that happens, people will not feel comfortable doing something different. It is also the difference between talking from a “theoretical” to “practical” viewpoint. Have you ever seen a PowerPoint on “21st Century Change” from an administrator who does not exhibit any of the learning that is being discussed in the presentation? Me too. People will feel more comfortable taking a journey to an unknown place if they know that the first steps have been taken by someone else. Although I believe in the idea of distributed leadership, the idea of “leaders” is that they are also ahead; they have done things that have not been done before. Chris Kennedy has shared the idea that leaders need to be “elbow deep in learning” with others, not only to show they are willing to embrace the change that they speak about, but to also be able to talk from a place of experience.
- Show that you understand the value that already exists. The word “change” is terrifying to some because it makes them feel that everything that they are doing is totally irrelevant. Rarely is that the case. I have seen speakers talk to an audience for an hour and people walk out feeling like they were just scolded for 90 minutes on how everything that they are doing is wrong. It is great to share new ideas, but you have to tap into what exists already that is powerful. When you show people that you value them and their ideas (and not in a fake way which is pretty easy to read through), they are more likely to move mountains for you., and for themselves. Strengths-based leadership is something that should be standard with administrators to teachers, as it should be standard with teachers to kids.
- Tell stories. Data should inform what we do and is an important part of the change process, but it does not move people. If you look at major companies like Coke and Google, they use stories to elicit emotion from people. Of course they have numbers that they use in their process, especially when it comes to stakeholders, but organizations know the importance of telling a story to make people “feel” something. To inspire meaningful change, you must make a connection to the heart before you make a connection to the mind. Stories touch the heart. What is yours?
- Bring it back to the kids. What does a 80% to a 90% tell us about a kid? That they are now 10% better? Most educators got into the profession because of a strong passion for helping kids, so when we reduce who a child is to simply a number, or teaching simply to a process, we lose out on why many of us became educators. To help kids. If you ever get the change to see Jennie Magiera speak, watch how she shows kids in her presentations and it shows the impact of her work on them. A 10% difference does not create the same emotion as watching a student talk about something they learned or have done. I have shared a video of Tony Sinanis doing a “newsletter” with his students and I have watched educators all over the world engrossed by what they are seeing. Think about it…it’s a school newsletter. Imagine if I handed out a piece of paper to educators and asked them to read a newsletter from another school. Do you think they would care as much as seeing the kids, their faces, and their emotions? Don’t let a grade tell a story; let the kids do it themselves.
- Get people excited and then get out of the way. I have been to schools, watched administrators encourage their teachers to embrace something different in their practice, and they make that change impossible to do. Giving the answer that “we need to change the policy before you can move forward” not only encourages the detractors, but it kills the enthusiasm in your champions. When “yeah but” is the most commonly used phrase in your leadership repertoire, you might as well just learn to say “no”; it’s essentially the same thing. The most successful people in the world rarely follow a script, but write a different one altogether. Are teachers doing something better “because of you” or “in spite of you”. If you want to inspire change, be prepared to “clear the path” and get out of the way so that change can happen.
“Increase your power by reducing it.” Daniel Pink
The change process is a tough one but simply being knowledgeable is not enough. Some people that actually “know less” but “influence more” create more change than some of the smartest people you know. Education is not about “stuff” but about “people”. Tap into that and you are more likely to see the change that you are hoping to see.
Clean water is a problem worth solving in Rwanda. If interested, World Relief may be the organization to partner with to make it happen as they are providing clean water filtration systems to hundreds of people. Here is information about their work putting together their systems and after reading I encourage you to support their cause at https://20liters.org/give/
FOR IN RWANDA
- The average residence holds 6 people
- 1 out of 7 children die in infancy
- 2% have electricity
- 89% attended primary school, but only 8% attended secondary school
- 80% live on daily subsistence farming
- Less than 1% have running water
- 71% use the Nyabarongo River or local ponds as their primary source of water
Fly into Kigali, Rwanda on a clear day and you’ll see that the lower the altitude, the lower the income. The hilltops are the places for the newest, most expensive homes; while the valleys hold the slums. It’s like this because here there are no sewers, and there’s a lot of rain. City runoff and drainage flows down from the hills to form valley streams—streams from which the poor collect their water.
In an age when water catchment and filtration technology exists in abundance, much of the drinking water in Rwanda is unsanitary. We see its effects in the health of the most vulnerable. The childhood mortality rate in Rwanda is about 1 in 10, due to the prevalence of water-born disease.
Yet, this sad reality does not have to be. In 2008, 20 Liters in partnership with World Relief Rwanda began working in the Rwandan sector of Masaka to bring filtration solutions to those most vulnerable there. Masaka is located about 30 minutes outside of Kigali, Rwanda and was selected as the initial place to begin their work after a cholera outbreak killed nearly 500 people there in 2006. An underdeveloped rural area also hit hard by the 1994 genocide, over half of Masaka’s 35,000 residents are 18 and under—with 6% of children having no surviving parent and 22% having one deceased parent. Since 2008 20Liters has additionally added a second project at Gahanga, a small sector to the west of Masaka, Gahanga is inhabited by 19,632 people across 41 villages. Located near to the Nyabarongo River, some within this region only walk a 1/3 of a mile, while others in the Gahangan villages must walk up to 1.2 miles to the closest swamp or river to collect water—water that will make them sick without a filter. With no hospital in their district and only 1 health center, that can create a lethal situation. 20 Liters work in this region began in June 2012 and will run through September 2013, with the majority of their efforts focused on the installation of SAM 3 filters. Visit 20 Liters 3-year-plan to learn more and see how you might partner to solve this solvable problem.
By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin
Published Mar 11, 2014 at 12:01AM / Updated Mar 11, 2014 at 06:17AM
A cadre of Bend-La Pine Schools administrators and teachers will make what has become an annual trip to the central African nation of Rwanda for spring break.
The self-funded teacher training mission is led by Assistant Superintendent Jay Mathisen, who first went to Rwanda in 2010 while still a George Fox University School of Education doctoral student. At the time, his goal was to help some professors with a master’s program they were developing, but in the end, Mathisen said he only made it to the school’s campus once. On his first night in Rwanda, he had dinner with another American who was training local teachers in instructional techniques to help mentor other teachers.
“I invited myself to hang out with them for the rest of the trip, and found myself on the back of motorbikes going to schools for a lot of the time,” Mathisen said. “I just really loved it.”
The trip sparked Mathisen’s dissertation, which examined the 1994 Rwandan genocide’s impact on three education reform movements. Near the end of the document, Mathisen concludes, “The impact the slaughter had on the education systems was immense, and continues on in some regards today.” He offers recommendations, but acknowledged they “do not include simple answers to the complex nature of those challenges.”
Despite these challenges, Mathisen has stayed committed to helping ameliorate some of the issues faced by Rwandan educators, in particular the lack of access to research on the latest teaching techniques. Since his first trip to Rwanda, Mathisen has become the organizer of American assistance for the organization he helped in 2010, the International Education Exchange (IEE), a Rwandan-led group that provides professional development to teachers. While there this year, Mathisen’s goal is to help train the roughly 40 Rwandan instructional coaches whom IEE sends to 80 schools serving more than 80,000 students.
“Because of Jay’s vision, we have been able to help hundreds, maybe thousands of teachers,” said Karen Stiner, a High Desert Middle School teacher who went on last year’s trip. “It’s changed me profoundly to have gone.”
Stiner describes the trips as a chance to put “research into action.” But she also noted that even the best pedagogical techniques can’t overcome some of the disadvantages faced by Rwandan educators.
“They have class sizes into the 70s, very little to no resources, and from third grade on, English is the only language taught, so there’s a high need for second language (instruction),” Stiner said, referencing the great linguistic diversity in the country.
Nonetheless, Mathisen said, “You can still work with teachers to get kids to think and talk in groups about a task even in a room with that many kids.”
“When I went in 2010, it was chalk-and-talk education,” Mathisen added. “And the lectures were in English, which plenty of kids couldn’t understand. They would copy the symbols and try to memorize them, but they didn’t grasp the content. By now the teachers who work with IEE are thinking about how to get students to think about tasks and engage in problems. You can tell the difference right when you walk in between an IEE school and one without that help.”
Going on this year’s trip are Bend High School Principal H.D. Weddel, Weddel’s wife Patty, a kindergarten teacher, and their two children; Highland Magnet School Principal Paul Dean and his wife Mary; Executive Director for Curriculum and Instructional Technology Shay Mikalson; Bend High science teacher Kathleen Yaeger; and Mathisen’s wife Shannon and the couple’s two children.
— Reporter: 541-633-2160, firstname.lastname@example.org