I was working this week with a great group of super energetic leaders – – we were getting organized on the Common Core (shocker!).  One of the things that dawned on me during our work together was this: sometimes when you want people to make a change, you have to give them permission to make that change.

Let me explain.

For so long we’ve locked educators into, say, a certain way of delivering their content.  (Statements like “I have to ‘get through’ all of the chapters by the end of the trimester” is one example that comes to mind).  While it’s become their habit, it also probably sticks in their minds as “the way we have to do things.”

I remember telling a teacher that she no longer had to do the handwriting program each day (she had done it for 15 years since the district had adopted the daily videos for handwriting instruction)…and she said, “Since when?”

The principal said, “Oh, we haven’t done that for 4 years.”

Her response?  “No one ever told ME!”

It was funny…but also a bit frightening when you really think about it!

She needed the permission to stop doing something that had previously been required.  I think we make too many assumptions that teachers know that they don’t have to do certain things anymore – but they didn’t quite catch our drift or remember the memo!  We need to be explicit and explain:

  1. What they need to stop and why
  2. What they need to replace it with and why

So, in the handwriting teacher example, the principal said, “Sally, we are discontinuing our daily handwriting practice videos starting right now, but we are replacing that with differentiated instruction for reading so that we can increase our target teaching in reading by 15 minutes daily.”

Now THAT’S clear!

Then, when we give folks permission to stop a certain practice, we MUST MUST MUST give them time and support in planning an alternative!

Oftentimes, we ask our teachers to make a change, but we forget that just informing them of the decisions (or new “thing”) doesn’t mean that they are able to incorporate that new thing right away.  We have to give permission…and then support as they plan.

So, the follow up to the handwriting teacher example would be, “So, I’ve asked our coach, Jennie, to work with your grade level during your next 2 team meetings to help you get up and running on your differentiated plans – the data, the teaching and the grouping.”