Monday, 18 July 2011

Change as a Process

Change is a process, not an event.
                                    - Gene Hall & Shirley Hord

What is the difference between an event and a process?  An event is a one-time occurrence.  It happens, and it is over and done with.  In contrast, a process is ongoing.  It takes place over time and evolves.

How do people treat change as a one-time event?  The following are some typical illustrations:
  • Send out a memo saying that from this point on, this is how things will be done.
  • Invest in a new program and expect that people will automatically be able to use it.
  • Send people off for training and expect them to immediately behave differently.
  • Enact a new policy or practice and then announce it to the staff.
  • Offer people professional development with the expectation that they will successfully help others.
  • Involve only a small number of people in making the change instead of a more broadly based group of stakeholders.
  • Expect to see immediate results from a change initiative. 

When people treat change as an event, it is doomed to fail.  Unless the change is one of minimal consequence, it simply won't happen.  What is different when people see change as a process?  They do the following:
  • Involve the people affected by the change in planning for and leading the change.
  • Account for the impact of change on the people involved.
  • Know that any significant change takes time and plan accordingly.
  • Employ professional development over time to ensure that people acquire the right knowledge and skills to implement the change.
  • Set realistic expectations for implementation.
  • Build a culture of support for the change that avoids blaming people for past mistakes.
  • Apply a monitoring procedure to track key benchmark events.
Viewing change as a process increases the likelihood of obtaining desired results.


From:  Leading Every Day by Joyce Kaser, Susan Mundry, Katherine E. Stiles, & Susan Loucks-Horsley
Published by: Corwin Press

40 comments:

  1. I must say that I agree and disagree with the article in a couple of different respects. Definitely to get long lasting change and buy-in, we need to see change as a process. People need to be involved together with you as the leader.
    But there are times (e.g., student safety because something is not being done) where as the leader you must implement change as an event.
    K. Ko

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  2. K. Ko reminds us that the leader is responsible for deciding when immediate action, and sometimes change, is required. For the most part, however, there is time to think, reflect and slowly adopt the change process. As leaders, we have often had the opportunity, and time to research and contemplate an initiative before it is announced on a larger scale. If not given this time, I have seen some leaders become hesitant and pessimistic. Why would we expect any different from those who we are expecting to implement the change?

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  3. I wonder if part of the reason why leaders would want immediate change is because of the timelines of the school year? It is desirable to implement an initiative early and fast enough so that it would positively impact students within that school year. The 10 months of the academic year creates pressure. Leaders in eduations will need to think bigger picture and beyond the one year timeline.

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  4. Having been involved in a variety of leadership initiatives from the role of a teacher I can relate to some of the points made above - specifically, the unrealistic (yet, at the same time, common) situation where teachers who attend workshops/network meetings etc. are expected to somehow become instant experts and share what they "learned" with the staff. The reality is they themselves need time to make sense of what they learned before being remotely effective at sharing it with others. Not to mention effectively helping others.
    I'm pleased to see how much emphasis and importance is placed on time as a factor in lasting change. We are often looking for time that doesn't exist in order to communicate a message to staff - be it at a staff meeting, division meeting, learning group or others. Who attends the plethora of meeting is also an on-going issue. Should it be the same people for consistency? Should it be different people each time to allow for the greatest number of staff to be involved?
    I think this topic is very similar to the first discussion. If we agree that change is a process that takes time, then are we not destined to fail if we are constantly altering our focus?

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  5. Hi;
    when it comes to change I think that one of the best processes that many schools engage in to manage change is the school improvement planning process. More specifically the school Effectiveness Framework (SEF). When schools embark upon lasting change they meet with a team of willing participants who look at various data sets with specific questionis in mind? Data sets can include EQAO, Spec Ed Rates, reading scores ( PM and DRA), attendance rates, school climate data etc. Once issues or trends are identified by the team, then the School Effectiveness framework can be consulted. Focus domains and specific lookfors can be used to guide walkthroughs and eventualually will help to direct schools to professional learning opportunities that will support the growth and development of effective teaching practice. The progress of the school's change efforts can be measured through subsequent walkthroughs looking again at those specific SEF lookfors or indicators and through a reassessment of the data sets on a regular basis. This process is oulined clearly in the school improvement plan that all a schools are required to submit and update on a yearly basis.
    The question about Tim ines a good one. I think that in many cases you can start to affect change in a year. In a smaller elementary school like the one I am in it is probably easier to affect change in a year than in a large secondary school. However I think the advantage of using both quantitative and more qualitative measures such as walk through allow us to notice smaller changes as they occur and allow us to celebrate and grow what is working in our buildings perhaps before we see changes with the larger scale quantitative measures such as EQAO. Ongoing monitoing and refection on the results bard on the context of your school as well as the greater board and provincial context is necessary in order to plot a course that is long term and that makes a positive difference for the students that we serve.

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  6. Please excuse the typos above....I was posting from my iPad. I am still learning.
    Thanks for your patience.
    Lisa

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  7. I like the distinction made between an event and a process but I do wonder if the ebb and flow of the school year lends itself well to change as a process. I agree with what K Ko says about some policies (safe schools) needing to be implemented as events. I also think that initiatives are often presented to admin as change events, to be implemented at the 'next staff meeting.' If we really want to implement change as a process then we have to look at it over the span of several years, as a series of events that lead us through the process change.

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  8. Regardless of whether change is being treated as an event or as a process you need to take the ripple effect into consideration. Ripples, or in some cases waves, are made in any situation. The question is whether or not you have planned for them, planned to build on them, or are reacting to them. If you treat change as an event you will constantly have to be reacting to everything that stems from it (which is necessary in some cases) as opposed to acknowledging that issues will arise and change needs to be revisited often in order to monitor progress and facilitate growth.

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  9. Very nicely put Dave. I like the 'planned for, built upon, or reactions' way of summarizing it. As some have already commented, the reality is there will be time when change is an "event" out of necessity such as school safety issues, health-related issues, a new student with special needs etc. Other times, change will be a process, and as Dave put it, the relative success of that change will depend on how well planned for it was in the first place.

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  10. One thing that I make sure that I account for is the last point; 'Apply a monitoring procedure to track key benchmark events.'

    I like to follow what I can the 3M principle-
    Memo/Mention/Monitor. The memo puts the expectations out for all to see, the mention is my way of talking about the idea or change in a context so that it becomes usable, workable knowledge and the monitoring is that critical component that allows me to see the idea or change in practice and see ownership of it in the classroom or school.

    As a school leader, it is important for the people I'm working with to know that I'm not just going to lob ideas out from my office to their mailboxes, but that I'm actually invested in creating the change along with them.

    Brian Harrison

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  11. Change: I am reminded of a statement I heard many years ago about the Titanic - it supposedly took 5 miles for the ship to make a right turn when moving due to its immense size and momentum. Large organizations are similar - they require setting the course, and then gentle, constant pressure and monitoring over the long run to make a permanent change. There is a natural resistance to change in the form of "momentum" in the organization - it is easier, safer and more comfortable to continue with present practices. Making an change is easier with a large group of leaders (distibuted leadership) who collectively apply the pressure and constant checking/affirmation needed to maintain the move to a new direction. Checking the "charts" and confirming the present direction in relation to the final direction are essential to create a sense of achievement.

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  12. "Checking the charts' is easier now that School Improvement Plans are 'evergreen' documents capable of reflecting change over time. There was a time, not that long ago, that they were in permanent black ink on acid free paper. :)

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  13. @ Athena: Moving from the 10 month model is a change we've started in some of the schools. That was a change a long time coming and very welcome!
    What structures would you like to see that would release some of the pressure? For a leader, I suspect this type of change is rather large, with the need to involve many constituents - has anyone here been through that process?

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  14. @Dave, that is very true. Ripples continue and often we forget how those ripples look from various points of view. We may implement change having built it upon consultation with staff and people in the organization, however parents do not see what we have done or thought through. We must never forget all the stakeholders and how those ripples will look. While we shouldn't be concerned as much with perceptions and looking good, we do want to ensure that people understand (i.e., good communication) what we are trying to do when you make change. An article in today's Toronto Star talked about how when a company makes a small change, it can evoke a very large emotional response in the consumer; surprisingly it is the most loyal consumer who can make the largest negative response feeling that we have personally attacked them. In a school context, all the changes we do whether at an admin level with respect to teachers/staff or at a school level wrt students we need to ensure we
    communicate and do it well.
    K. Ko

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  15. The titanic analogy for big organizations and the change dynamics is a good one but I could not help thinkingof the unfortunate ending to that ship's journey. When we are attempting to implement change there is an expectation of eventual success and improvement in our endevour. The necessity of distributed and collaborative leadership is key to the change process. In our Board, I see that the Literacy Networks have increased the collaborative leadership and are instrumental to supporting the change process in our schools for staff and students. There is greater clarity about initiatives and there is focused conversations about implementation and end goals. The data/ evidence is gathered and shared for further reflection and setting next steps. Many of the components needed for effectively implementing the change process seem to be suppported in Networks.

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  16. Time needed in the change process has been studied and Fullen has identified that change for a large organization takes time. Our issues as school leaders are that we are always on tight schedules and wanting to show the impact of our successful changes each year. Our other issue is what to do with the data that does not show the expected improvements. What next... we, the leaders, need for changes to happen quickly but still be compassionate to the needs of the staff who are struggling with their need to understand and accept the changes. There must be a balance in the need for change and the human factors involved.

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  17. When I did my reflections on my leadership experience, I have dealt with changes as events more than processes. But I have to disagree with part of the article that says “When people treat change as an event, it is doomed to fail. Unless the change is one of minimal consequence, it simply won't happen.” There are times that we have to deal with some changes as event. School building is a miniature of a community at large; there are occasions where plans or changes are needed to be done as “event”. In the busy school building, administrators are required to prioritize all tasks. It will be ideal to have a process for everything, but in reality, I do not believe it is doomed to fail when people treat changes as an event.

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  18. I have been told that I was a perfectionist when I was a high school student. Here after many years of walk of life after high school, I have learned that we need to leave room for errors in almost everything. School administrators are just like every human-beings that we do make mistakes sometimes. The most important thing is the lesson learned after the mistake and avoid repeating the same mistake again. But a high sense of awareness is essential for school leaders who are supposed to be more sensitive to errors and be able to come up with immediate(event-like) or long-term (process-like) solutions.

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  19. @Shanti, I agree! The literacy networks, and in our case, coupled with the SEF work where we have incorporated our Literacy Teacher and worked together with staff has indeed changed practices (at least from discussions with them). They are looking at the skills needed in terms of the big picture and not just the end product. A shift in thinking took a while to achieve. Collaboration and much discussion as an entire staff (almost the entire school year!)

    On another note, I reiterate the need for a change event in certain situations where there is a priority that must occur (e.g, safety)

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  20. As leaders it is important that we manage the change over time that must inevitably take place. As educators, we can never be complacent - we are always seeking, in Richard Elmore's words, "the next level of work". It is up to us as the leaders to manage the change process because we know that all stakeholders do not deal with change in the same way. It goes back to having that "vision" and selecting the best path through the "right jungle". We also need to remember that changes we implement must always be based on data and for the purpose of improving student achievement. I really like Mr.H's (nice Mr. H!) idea of "memo, mention,monitor". I think I've been doing that but had not thought of the phrase. The ideals that we prize, that we have thought deeply about and know, not just from our own experience, but based on research, to be those that make a difference for students, are the ideals that we want to maintain as foundational. Like "the next level of work", SEF, and the School Improvement Process, the effective literacy block, assessment for/of/as learning, equity and communication. Then those ideals must always be kept at the forefront as we consider other changes suggested to us. The people we lead need to know that our vision remains the same and that we filter everything for them through that vision. These are my initial thoughts on another very thought-provoking article and insightful comments from my colleagues!

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  21. @Kim Garner: I agree that making changes in a large institution has some resistance to its momentum. As a physics teacher, I am more sensitive to the term “momentum” as Kinetic energy is directly proportional to the square of the momentum (physically speaking). Applying this concept as an analogy of making changes at school, that means it takes extra energy to make a small change. And I believe that small changes accumulate into big changes over time, provided that the direction has been set clearly and correctly.

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  22. @ Benjamin Law: I agree with the concept of energy needed to make change - one of the key attributes of an effective leader is energy - along with optimism - and vision - which ties into your last statement. I think that the leader needs to keep the vision clear and constant so that everyone knows where all the change is leading to - otherwise it is easy to get lost and exhausted from all of the hard work and energy invested into the change process. Yet if the leader maintains the vision and communicates it to all then there is a focal point and a goal - a landmark on which to set one's sight beyond all of the hard work involved in the change.

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  23. Claire Hainstock21 July 2011 at 05:27

    @ Brian Harrison: Picking up on something Brian mentioned is the idea of investment of the leaders in the change. People have been conditioned to expect change for some time now but they are definite more discriminate when they see change after change being "lobbed" their way.

    They become jaded very quickly if they feel there is no personal investment of the leadership group and this is just another missive from on high.

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  24. Changing the process of how we do business in schools is not a new idea but it is taking a very long time to implement. There is such a variety of opinions about what education looks like and how it should be delivered. Our data is clearly telling us that there needs to be changes in the classrooms for each student but implementing this change is quite the challenge. Clearly "there" is a moving target to be fair to the traditionalists who resist the vision because it is not their own. As a leader who supports the vision of the board, it is important to support the jaded and to help restore confidence and to celebrate the successes.

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  25. Shanti I think you touched on some vital issues with creating change and maintaining the direction. The million dollar question is then HOW do leaders remain accountable to reporting progress on established school goals while at the same time provide support for those staff that may be struggling? Keeping in mind that change based on data and results is continual and that same staff member may in effect be in a state of perpetual catch-up.

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  26. In order to have the change, you need to “be the change”. The leader needs to be visibly invested in the direction the change is taking their staff. We have all heard the grumblings of staff over a new initiative when it is presented to them. If, however, it is presented with passion and then followed up on or modeled by school leaders it shows that there is “belief behind the blarney” and that influential people have bought in to the change and are working towards implementing it and helping others adjust. Too often is it introduced and then left, and when revisited we wonder why people aren’t on board.

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  27. To refer back to the Titanic analogy, leaders need to beware the big shiny baubles. Jumping on board of something new without understanding can lead to “that sinking feeling”. Just because something looks good, doesn’t mean you can explain why it is good. A strong captain must work with the “meat and potatoes” in order to sustain a fully functional crew. If you don’t work to achieve the understanding of both the change and your staff’s reaction to it you will have people “jumping ship”.

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  28. I definitely see change as a process, though some things, as teknoteach mentioned, are more of an event - one time changes that need to take place for student safety, etc.

    Idilworth mentioned the SEF process as an example of a change process rather than an event. However, having been a part of several SEF visits, and supporting a few District Support SEF schools I have seen times where SEF has become an event. For those schools that embrace SEF as a process and an opportunity for continued growth and learning it is a process that extends and continues beyond the present school year. These schools develop plans that they revisit, refine and monitor on an ongoing basis. They involve the staff in the creation of the plan and SEF is presented to the staff as what it is intended to be - a self-assessment process.

    However, in some cases I have seen schools that have established a plan out of the initial SEF district support visit in the fall but then did not necessarily implement the plan or revisit it on an ongoing basis throughout the year. Consequently, when the spring SEF district support visit came around - the pressure and tension in the school was high and the leadership team was asking for immediate changes to be made in the classrooms in preparation for the upcoming visit. This made it an event - the change was not sustainable, teachers were stressed and after the visit were releaved that they could 'go back to what they were doing before'. I would say this scenario is the exception rather than the rule but I have seen it happen.

    In the end, I feel that in order for sustainable change that impacts positively on student achievement and well-being to come about, it needs to be a shared process with a clear plan that is revisited regularly. I think that open communication with staff so they understand the process, the reasons for the changes and where they are heading is helpful as well.

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  29. Dave, you are so right when mention the importance of "being the change" - particularly the necessity to present change with confidence and a passion that is evident to staff. It means a lot of work on the part of the "presenter" but in the end it is work that is well worth the investment. Successful leaders are charismatic. They are able to bring staff on board with something they might not otherwise have considered, let alone decided to invest their time and expertise into. I think it's important from the get-go to let staff know that this is something that will be regularly monitored - and adjustments made accordingly. Those that may not be fully engaged in the initial stages may find themselves becoming more engaged as they process becomes a regular part of their focus.

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  30. Reading through all the responses to date, I'm thinking that, as leaders, we need to always be cognizant of the fact that any change we contemplate implementing at the school level needs to be very closely, if not completely, aligned with what is already in place. If staff believe that admin will jump on any bandwagon that goes by, they will develop a "this too shall pass" attitude and they would be correct because there's a limit to what can be sustained. I have learned that it's OK to decline an initiative if it does not align with the work already being done to support student achievement. Doug Reeves talks about "90% implementation" of a very limited number of initiatives (I don't recall the number) - more reason to think deeply, consider the SIP and SMART goal, and discuss with the leadership team before taking on anything new. If we are thoughtful, intentional and deliberate when it comes to change, we can ensure that it is regarded as process and not an event.

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  31. Athena loopstra22 July 2011 at 16:10

    Nadia, I can relate to your description of SEF as an event that stressed teachers and did not have a meaningful, long term impact. This is what happened at the school at which I teach and the following year the staff were confused as to why we were revisiting our SEF goals when, in their minds, it was an event that had passed the previous years. As leaders it is our responsibility to lead change that is not merely hoop jumping. Many of the posts have indicated ways that the leader can foster meaningful change, such as enthusiasm, a tight focus, communication and leading by example. We can see that the ideas and concepts are merely the starting point, the real art is in the implementation.

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  32. Lynne, your comment about teachers developing a 'this too shall pass' attitude is an important one. This came up last week as well when we were discussing leadership vs. management and how a clearly articulated vision was important in order to effectively lead. Without a clear vision, we tend to become 'bandwagon jumpers' and teachers are not quite sure where we (and they) are headed so sustainable change becomes very difficult to achieve.
    Thanks for reminding us that it's okay to decline an initiative - I think that saying 'no' can sometimes be very difficult to do.

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  33. A number of people's comments have made me think about the need to build strong positve working relationships with all staff - teachers, caretakers, secretarial, EA's, CYW's, etc - in order to mitigate a number of the issues raised: "this too will pass", "this is just an add on", seeing the SEF as an event or an add-on, getting staff buy-in to help create change, seeing the Administration as working to facilitiate and support staff rather than just following direction. Strong reationships build the trust needed to support people through the insecurity of change.

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  34. "Involve only a small number of people in making the change instead of a more broadly based group of stakeholders."
    This point made me think of the current initiative by the Ministry of Education to "INCREASE CAPACITY" and it is all that I hear my principal say when she selects an individual teacher or a group of teachers to participate in a planning or programming initiative. I can see the differences in "change" versus "process" in our school when ALL interested teachers are invited to attend a workshop or become a member of a learning team. In the past (I have been teaching for 22 years) the same individuals were named lead teachers and/or sent off to PD opportunities so they became quite knowledgeable and capable in their own situations. When these same individuals tried to convey the important learning and need for change to the staff, there was little, if any, buy-in. This stunted growth and change. There could be no change because the foundation of the staff-the majority of the stakeholders, were not given the opportunities to feel like leaders and learners attending PD opportunities. Yes, the individual who attended the PD did their best to deliver what they learned, yet each person takes something different away as learning when they are at a PD session. Process and growth toward change can more realistically be achieved if an increased number of teachers can be given the same opportunities to learn and grow together. Use a bottom up model not a top down model!

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  35. @Kim Garner, I really connect with what you said about distributed leadership as an effective way to create change. When teachers/individuals are given a sense of ownership and leadership where they know they are an important part of the STEERING of the TITANIC then all can push forward with a purpose and with pride. Do not lead by pulling, lead by pushing WITH the group to reach the collective goal. I really liked the analogy that you used!

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  36. @Shanti, you are so right! Not everyone's past experiences with change - whether it is in the classroom or in the school- have been positive. To support the jaded would mean to give them a sense of real involvement and importance in the process of change. Offering leadership opportunities to those who want it can help begin the process of mending disillusioned teachers' attitudes and can also infuse a new energy among the teachers who, as you say, can work toward a shared vision instead of someone else's vision!
    Merci!

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  37. @Daniella Scetto,
    Building capacity is important when thinking about change as a process rather than an event. I have also seen situations where the same teachers were always given the PD learning opportunities, etc. This becomes especially challenging when these teachers leave the school - the change that has happened is not sustainable. I've also seen other teachers on staff not volunteer any longer as they already know who will attend. It's amazing to see when those who do not normally attend the sessions are given the opportunity - how this changes the culture on staff and everyone begins to see themselves as part of the change process.

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  38. I think change that is sustainable and productive takes time, buy in and commitment from a team of people. Change as an event can occur but may not have lasting impact. I wondered about Brian’s comments regarding change at school following the process of Memo, Mention, Monitor. I wonder if the order instead should be Mention, Memo, Monitor. I don’t know if it was meant to be in that particular order or not.

    I want to also mention that change can occur at any level; be it grassroots or otherwise. In my opinion, change at the grassroots level tends to be more effective and has a greater lasting impact. I believe that there is a significant shift in education that is taking place at the grassroots level via social media, such as this venue. There are a number of educators making the shift into the 21st century via social media, networking and use of technology in teaching. All you have to do is follow #edchat on Twitter every Tuesday evening at 7pm to see the number of educators involved in creating change and reforming the way we teach. Administrators must be aware of the shift in mindset, and also have to get involved in this process.

    Teachers and Admin cannot be at loggerheads. For an effective school, everyone has to buy in to the idea of change from the bottom up.

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  39. I completely agree with Nadia's comments re: SEF being an unsustainable event. This year, we decided to create our SIP together involving our dept. heads and staff. We began with selecting our SEF parameters that the school would focus on at a staff meeting. After a democratic process of determining our SEF indicators, the Heads co-created an outline of the SIP. The process was reflective and it gave an opportunity for all in the building to give input.

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  40. I appreciate Safina's reference to grassroots change, especially her acknowledgement of the rapid and deep impact that Social Networking is having on learning for both teachers and, students. It prompted me to reflect, as I read through the thread that, quite logically, we have engaged in our dialogue using a teacher/leader-centric perspective. As we consider the powerful impact of grassroots change through mediated social networks; like blogging, Twitter and Facebook, how will be incorporate student voice and agency into our change leadership conversations and actions?

    ...as for the 3M's;for me there's no particular order, I see them as interrelated rather than sequenced. We do, generally, follow the Memo first model in organizations and systems- perhaps that's part of our problem sometimes?

    Brian Harrison

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