I’ve been reading Robert Evans’ book, The Human Side of School Change, and driving everybody crazy quoting what he has to say about trying to implement a change in philosophy and practice in a school setting. The most important message for me is the not-so-new idea that asking a teachers to change their beliefs or their methods challenges the very core of their identity as a teacher. Teachers do what they do in their classrooms because they have come to believe, through experience, that it is the right way to do it. They have seen the effects and the results of their methods first hand. Yet sometimes change is necessary to provide our students with the knowledge and skills they will need to be successful in a world that is different from the world as experienced by their teachers.
My grandmother taught me how to make a killer pound cake – literally. Six eggs, three cups of sugar, three sticks of butter…. this is not a heart-friendly pound cake. But, oh, it melts in your mouth like no other cake can. When I make it, I try to do it just as she taught me because I know that’s what works. But I have to wonder if her grandmother or great-great-grandmother made it the same way. They certainly didn’t have the KitchenAid mixer or the Samsung oven I have. Did they beat the batter by hand? Was their oven heated by wood? Could I make the same cake that way today? Would I want to? Would they watch me do it my way and tell me that my cake is not the same as, not as good as theirs?
Times change. Needs change. Some of the skills we taught our students in the past may not be relevant anymore. Yet that fact does not make it any easier for teachers to embrace change. I think this will be a topic I will revisit many times, trying to find the best ways to ease in new attitudes, new ideas, and new skills. Our students are waiting for us.