Can We Change?

You can change yourself and you can change the situation but you absolutely cannot change other people. Only they can do that.
Joanna Trollope

Change is a vital process in our schools because learning can be summarized as changing from old perspectives and understandings to new ones. We are all aware that the world around us is constantly changing; this has required schools and the people in them to develop new ways of thinking to keep up. Learning requires that we move past old concepts and ideas and develop new ways of doing things. “That’s the way it has always been done,” could possibly be the worst eight words in the education. The challenge in this lies in the belief that what we used to do actually worked, and it probably did back when we didn’t know there were other options. Some people get stuck because they think they have it figured out and what they are doing is still working. To be honest, it never worked. For example, in the past students were compliant, and when they were not, we threw them out of school. The difference is when those students left our schools there were still decent jobs with decent wages where compliance was a key factor to success. The world has changed, yet education has stayed systemically unchanged for almost a century. Graduation rates across the nation are dropping, but the crises does not come in the rate of graduation, it comes in the work we are requiring students to do. Schools (we) use 18th century content taught in isolation from other contents, we are using a 19th century farm schedule, we are using 20th century methods, and are trying to engage 21st century learners. I wonder why there is often a disconnect for students and education. Consider the table below from the Future of Jobs Survey and compare the trending and declining skills for 2022:

Source: Future of Jobs Survey, World Economic Forum (

So, what does this mean for us as educators and leaders? I am not sure what you are thinking, but this table reminds me that we need to do things differently than we have in the past. The skills that were needed to be successful in a compliance based society are being replaced with ones that go far beyond the curriculums we teach. We need to revitalize our work with new concepts, ideas, and beliefs in what our students are capable of accomplishing. But, how? How do we make this change from where we sit?

I need you to think about this statement: If the only people learning in your school are from the age of 5-18 then you are doing it wrong.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to help those around you learn. You cannot do the work for them, you cannot learn for them, but much like a classroom, you can help to provide the right conditions where people want to learn. You must find ways to help people take risks and be rewarded in it. We will not get any better by standing still. Change requires movement. To help people move, we must help support them with the tools needed to make that move. If we just require change, but never support people with the tools needed to create that change, I am sure you can imagine what will happen — anxiety, resistance, frustration, and false starts. You may create sporadic pockets of growth, but to create systematic change, each person must have the technical and emotional skills to manage the change.

Too often we try to make these changes by changing the environment. We build new schedules, offer new courses, and hire new people. While none of these are bad and can potentially move you to a better place, we must understand that great achievements do not come from changing circumstances- they come from changing ourselves as individuals. Too many believe that success is built on changed circumstances. You cannot change circumstances. If you want to influence circumstances for the better, that starts with an improvement of self. I have circumstances in my work that are out of my control, some good, some bad — nevertheless, they are there. Each person reading this has circumstances they are facing right now. The circumstances that are happening are happening. It is as simple as that. The future holds many options and outcomes, but future circumstances only change in your favor, if you improve yourself enough to change them. There is no such thing large organizational change in our schools. The change that happens does so- one person at a time. To change culture, you must change individuals on a large scale. It is a bottom up model, not top down.

This is why the next phase of Leading with L.E.S.S. is equipping people to make changes in themselves and their environment. Everyone’s trip from A to B is different, but no one will move unless you value their A first. You must start with Love, then we can move to Equip. People must know that you care about who they are first, then we can begin working with them to build the skill needed to create the change needed in our schools. If you want to change your school, first start by changing yourself, then help support change in your colleagues by equipping them with the skills needed to face the challenges our of current educational landscape.

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