Leading Through Change; Challenges & Opportunities Ahead

Written by Stephen G. Peters, Ed.D.
Education Consultant and Partner with SitelogIQ

“We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do this. Whether we do it or not must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we have not done it so far.” This quote, by Dr. Ron Edmonds, one of education’s premiere thought leaders, has been the foundation of my core beliefs about education, schooling, and student achievement. Effective school’s research identifies leadership as one of the key components of success. Moreover, the leader sets the tone and facilitates the direction toward sustainable success. Today’s leaders and teachers find themselves embroiled in the storms of COVID-19 and the pandemic. It has frightened and confused almost everyone at the decision-making table. For some, it provides proof that the education system is not broken; it is delivering exactly what it is designed to deliver. Others believe, there are silver linings, some glaringly obvious to those who are on the front lines of this work.

We must congratulate and thank our educators for their response to everything thrown at them from the inception of the pandemic and diligence to stay the course. Even today, as I write this, the demands on educators, parents, students, communities, schools, and businesses continue to escalate beyond reasonable control.  As someone who started as a classroom teacher 37 years ago and became an assistant principal, principal, director of secondary education, superintendent, and currently, an educational consultant and executive coach of superintendents and principals, I have never seen the level of courage and conviction as I do currently.

Partnering with Dr. Mark Wilson of Georgia, the 2009 National Principal of the Year to co-author our book, “One., A Process for Building Schools of Excellence for Every One and Everyone,” we are helping school districts and schools examine ways to shift their focus from problems to solutions. We are advancing this work through a process of examining, reflecting, and connecting key questions of the past; What are we, am I doing to who are we, am I being? Years of being committed and involved in this work has taught us the impact of what people do will fall short if adults haven’t developed high levels of social-emotional being. Shifting the ultimate purpose of education to focus on the well-being for all is how we awaken, learn, evolve, transform, and become premiere educational institutions of teaching and learning.

As we embrace the challenges, both present and future, we must continue to explore the emergence of transformational leadership and how leaders can create learning environments that are academically excellent, equitable, inclusive, and socially just.  Grounded in research, Dr. Carolyn Shields presents an approach to leadership that is engaged, authentic, courageous, and effective in addressing the needs of today’s diverse student bodies. Featuring examples from schools and leaders, questions for reflection and links to website resources, ‘Becoming a Transformative Leader ‘, is an example of the practical guidance district leaders need to address the concerns that are keeping them up at night.

District and school leaders facing complex challenges that require changes in the way people have always done things should consider these 3 primary insights about change-capable leadership:

  • Examine and change yourself. Leading change successfully requires spending time outside of your comfort zone, realizing you don’t grow when you’re comfortable. As the leader of change efforts, you must change your mindset, actions, reactions, and behaviors.
  • Identify the signs. Recognize the early warning signs that direction chosen is not working and take decisive action to address.
  • Teamwork matters. Those closest to the problems always deserve a seat at the table to help solve those problems.

The reality of now forces us to change. We have been and are being challenged to do education differently. With love, compassion, and truth, we must now start thinking about continuous change, not just a single change here and there. We no longer have the luxury of dealing with a single change initiative or isolated change. Good intention is no longer good enough. Realizing change involves more obstacles than we think is a solid beginning to the following:

  • Understand and recognize the process of change and transition.
  • Apply key lessons to any system or process change challenge.
  • Explore and examine your own change preferences.
  • Identify and collaborate with stakeholders.

Adapting to the varying district and school schedules, hybrid working environments, fast-changing technologies, scheduling issues, parent components and community concerns is no easy feat. It is not surprising that upskilling and retooling have been identified as top priority for schools and those in them. We have arrived at a time, place, and space that we must realize, it’s no longer acceptable to survive this present storm, but to empower districts and schools to thrive in this new reality that is designed for them, not just around them. We must help district leaders and districts adapt and hit the ground running with the intention to never go back to normal, because normal never worked well for the PK-12 space.

There are opportunities for educators to embrace the silver linings that have revealed themselves, celebrate the many victories that are apparent on multiple fronts, and understand through it all, the work required now cannot be done in isolation. A synergistic approach to problem solving, a strategic, intentional and relentless pursuit of excellence is what our districts, schools and communities need most. The majority of this work can be achieved by having HOPE and the belief that you no longer have to do this alone. The future is bright for education as we all come together to HELP OTHERS PURSUE EDUCATION!

You can learn more about our customized School IQ solutions here and the work we’re doing by partnering with our K12 colleagues all across the U.S. to foster future-ready schools.

You can also review content from our recent HOPE Webinar series, where we hosted important conversations with colleagues and partners by visiting here.