The purpose of this paper is to discuss the factors that have shaped my attitude and involvement in leading educational change, and to investigate how my personal ability to manage change has shaped my leadership of educational change. This discussion will be blended with examples of change in my personal life, my own leadership experience and references to the literature in the field of leading educational change.
"Status quo" has always been a term with negative connotations for me. There has always been a feeling that without change, you stagnate and die, both personally and professionally. I'm not sure whether this perspective is a personality trait, a learning style or simply a philosophical attitude, but the need to investigate change, embrace change and reflect on change, has been an inner yearning throughout my life. Wheatley( 2001:1) asks the question "How can we evoke the innate human need to innovate?" I am genuinely surprised at how many teachers I've worked with who are avoiders of change and are quite professionally conservative in nature. Perhaps not as surprising is the encountered conservatism amongst principals; although possibly one influences the other. I am curious as to why education as a profession seems to lack inertia. Blenkin, Edwards & Kelly (1997) refer to work by Lortie (1975) who describes the culture of teaching as individualistic, present-oriented and conservative. Hargreaves (1989, in Blenkin et al 1997:219) claims "teachers avoid long term planning and collaboration with their colleagues and resist involvement in whole school policy-making in favour of gaining marginal improvements in time and resources to make their own individual classroom work easier". Blenkin et al (1997) when discussing educational change from a cultural perspective suggest that school cultures conspire to maintain the status quo. I prefer the four premises as rationale for change that Snowdon & Gorton ( 1998:121) use " (1) even if the status quo is not necessarily bad, there is usually room for improvement; (2) while all change does not necessarily lead to improvement, improvement is not likely to occur without change; (3) unless we attempt change, we are not likely to know whether a proposed innovation is better than the status quo; and (4) participation in the change process can result in greater understanding and appreciation of the desirable features of the status quo and can lead to a better understanding and appreciation of, and skill in, the change process itself."
Obviously change does not occur unencumbered. Change can hurt and often involves some form of death / loss in order to achieve life / gain, requiring the passage of a grieving process. Blenkin et al (1997) state " any event that brings about a change in personal identity involves feelings of loss, anxiety and conflict. The effect is akin to grieving " There is usually a breaking of some bonds before new bonds are forged. My divorce over thirteen years ago and more recently the death of my mother highlighted the impact of change in my life. Typically, not only in significant personal life changes but also in educational change, feelings of fear and resistance arise, often delaying a healthy transition into the inevitable.
"A sense of fear and dread about the "un-named" often crept into me when I felt challenged to stretch and to grow, to risk some new behaviour or idea, or to reach out toward something that still felt foreign or alien to my belief system or personal experience." (Rupp 2002:57)
In a professional sense I have experienced these feelings from others, as change has evoked in them a deep sense of resistance to the "unknown". Snowdon & Gorton (1998) state that wherever there is change, there will be restraining forces operating and Fullan (2001) succinctly affirms says that anxiety and struggle are a part of every change. Bassett (1998) suggests that changes in school leadership...