Teachers as Agents of Change

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Title: Using insights from the foundation disciplines in education, examine the extent to which classroom teachers see themselves as agents of change in their school. Discuss ONE way in which educators can become more committed to their role as change agents. Reshma Rambajan

University of the West Indies

Many researchers have addressed the issue of teachers as change agents. According to Fullan, (1993), “change is in essence, learning to do something differently, involving adjustments to many elements of classroom practice and everybody is a change agent in quality education” (p.24). The question however arises as to whether teachers see themselves as change agents. Bansford, (2000) states, “teachers do not view themselves as leaders and educating teachers as change agents is a challenge”(p.106). However according to Holt (1970), the best way to introduce change in our schools is through the teachers themselves .He writes; “The proper, the best and indeed the only source of lasting and significant change must be the teacher in the classroom”.(p. 211). Teachers are members of and identify with the system, they have a sense of pre- history about the school organization, they are aware of the norms of their colleagues, their attitudes, values and behavioural responses. Teachers may also live in the communities in which they teach which give them great insights concerning the values and attitudes of the community at large. Finally teachers are on the scene in the schools; therefore they are in a position to initiate planned change on the basis of needs and are available to implement these changes. Despite this there are many factors which prevent teachers from being an agent of change in schools. Factors which prevent teachers from being agents of change in schools include the change in school management. Prior to the turn of the century teachers received much of their direction from classroom practice from outside sources, primarily the community that hired them. Schools however with the demands placed by public pressure adopted a more “scientific management model” and the teacher lost most of their decision- making powers, according to Callahan (1962) “teachers were relieved of the burden of finding best methods for teaching children” (p.176). The second factor stems from this narrowing of teachers roles, the teachers poor self- image. This negative report of self tends to be related to feelings of helplessness and powerlessness which then generate apathetic and passive professional behaviour. Another major problem faced by teachers that inhibits them from taking leadership roles in change is their fear of reprisal, not only from administrators, but also from their colleagues. Both of these factors loom large in the willingness of teachers to engage in change. Fear of reprisal causes teachers to assume a passive role in the system to avoid being hassled, questioned, criticized or in any way draw attention to them. Included with this fear is the lack of administrative support for teacher – generated innovation. Administrative neutrality may be considered as disapproval and teachers may read this as negativism. Further, teachers’ complacency coupled with defensiveness of a profession that is seemingly under constant attack also interferes with teachers seeing themselves as agents of change in schools. Finally and a point which must not be overlooked is many times the sheer business of the job leaves little time for questioning or thoughtful analysis of the educational endeavour which might result in an effort towards change. While the above are contributing factors as to the extent teachers see themselves as agents of change, (1993), “the problems are most obvious. That is, teachers do not change schools because they do not know how to approach the job. Ignorance, rather than apathy, is a large part of their problem but ignorance can be corrected, if we as educators lead the way. Teachers are not dumb … they are just...
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