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Stop Chasing the Next Big Thing

Earlier this week, my Jeep rolled over the 100,000 mile mark. It was an exciting time for me. I know, that might seem a bit odd or even silly, but it marked the first time a vehicle I had owned from brand new hit this milestone. My wife and I took some pictures with the Jeep and even shared them on social media.

Why am I writing about a 100k milestone? Because it has me reflecting and thinking about consistency, things that work, and not always chasing that which is shiny and fancy and new. When I shared the photos of the Jeep cresting 100k, one of my best friends (and fellow Jeep owner) replied with:

“damn, it’s time for a new one bud!!”

But is it really? My Jeep looks just as awesome as it did the day I drove it off the lot back in 2014. It runs amazing, has no mechanical issues, and best of all…it’s paid for! Why do I need a new one? I used to think about and chase the new, the shiny, etc. I still value the new car smell, but I don’t NEED a new one.

So let’s make the connection, the leap if you will, to education. How often do we chase the shiny, new, and fancy in education? OFTEN!! I worked in a district where every time our curriculum director went to a conference we just cringed, knowing the next big thing was coming our way. When we begin to push our educators to throw away the things that work, that are tried and true, the dependable go-to strategies, we increase the likelihood of burnout.

I am comfortable in my Jeep, as I was with a couple go-to strategies as a teacher and as a leader. If I were always being pushed to drop what works to experiment with something new, it would seriously stress me out. At one point in time, the Jeep had to have a little work done and was in the shop for about a week. The separation anxiety was real. Imagine asking your teachers to not use their very best strategy for a week, a month, or ever again. This will certainly amp them up.

This is the time of year when change initiatives begin in neonatal stages. District and building leaders are thinking about what the next professional development focus will be and how it will be rolled out in the fall. If you’re in that position, let me give a few pieces of advice:

  1. Talk to your staff – learn about their needs and share with them what you are thinking and why. Data will tell a story about the needs for our students, but if we don’t allow our teachers to have a voice and share their insights from the actual classrooms, we are missing the point. Initiatives are designed to help teachers be their very best and to create a positive academic or behavioral impact on our students. Get staff on board before you run forward with an idea.
  2. Consider what already works – your staff needs to know that you aren’t going to take away their favorite or best strategy or actions in the classroom. If you are, you need to have solid justification as well as a plan to support them through the separation from that which they value and trust. If it doesn’t need to be eliminated, lean on consistency and allow staff to do what they are comfortable with while adjusting to the new expectations.
  3. Don’t gaslight them – I don’t need to be told it’s time to buy a new Jeep. I don’t need people telling me that I should trade it in. We gaslight our staff when we overload and overplay the ‘find your why’. Talk about their purpose, help them to find joy, support them, but don’t make them feel guilty for being who they are. Just because their purpose, or method of living that purpose, have changed doesn’t mean they need to be put down.
  4. Be present with them – don’t hide out and avoid questions about what you’re preparing to do. Be honest, be visible, and share the vision you have for the future.
  5. Take something off their plate – as leaders, we get frustrated with the unfunded mandates that so often come from the legislature or the department of education. If you add an initiative to your teachers plate, you better be willing to let something go and let them know it’s ok to stop doing something that is dragging them down.

It’s ok to bring positive change to your school and to your staff. There are certainly times when change is necessary and the addition of new skills and strategies will be of benefit to our teachers and, ultimately, our students. But don’t think you have to make change simply for the sake of making change. Don’t be afraid of what works. Don’t be afraid to honor what is consistent. Don’t feel the need to chase the new, the shiny, the next big thing.

Have a #RoadToAwesome week


Road to Awesome: The Journey of a Leader is now available. Click here to purchase the autographed copy.

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