It was not all that long ago that the district I was working in was implementing a new program. The plan was to roll it out over three years. Kindergarten and first grades would be first, followed by second and finally third. In the first year of the implementation, for each grade level, the teachers were apprehensive. So many new initiatives have been introduced, throughout many of their careers, and only last for a time and then disappeared. What would be different about this one? Change is hard and takes time. They were already feeling the pressures of time and workload and were not welcoming anything that would demand more.
At the time I was one of the facilitators of this change and worked closely with a trainer for the program. One thing that resonated with me, from the beginning, was that trainer was not really a trainer she was a coach. She worked alongside us and guiding us bit by bit. She used the gradual release of responsibility model and her mantra was “Get Started and Get Better.” That became the motto we followed throughout the implementation.
As with all change there is resistance. I had been piloting this program, in my classroom, prior to the implementation using only a dvd as my guide. The original teacher’s manuals were difficult to follow, but with time and effort I found pockets of quality instruction laid out in the pages. Even with the very rough start I saw my students growing. I used this knowledge, of the positives in this program, as well as the relationships with teachers in the trenches to get people on board.
The implementation went well overall. We hit bumps across our journey, but we kept the focus on “Getting Started and Getting Better.” In my mind, staying where we were was not an option. I have always believed the #KidsDeserveIt.
The amazing thing was most of the teachers ended up loving the program. They saw significant student growth and fewer students needing intervention. What I have realized, over the years, is that it was not just the program that made such a huge difference. There are many programs with the content that was being shared. The difference was the coaching, professional support, collaboration, and lab site opportunities. The knowledge teachers had about the components of reading, word study, and writing had been elevated to a new level. There were structures in place to train new teachers, each year, to maintain the quality of instruction students were receiving. It was the PEOPLE making the difference. The program was only the catalyst. The structure it provided guided us through to what made a difference. But what made the difference was the people working together for one common goal with a safe environment that gave permission to take it slow and make mistakes.
My point is not that we should put programs in place, but that we need to work together to bring about change. At the time I was going through motions set in place for me. I chose to embrace it and make it the best it could be. It was not until recently, working in a new district, learning from my PLN’s that I realized the true value of that experience.
We were failing forward, providing safe environments, and giving teachers permission to make mistakes as they learn.
Getting started with #IMMOOC 2 is pushing me out of my comfort zone by asking me to blog. I want to grow so I need that push. I will be Getting Started and Getting Better. I will be making mistakes and the process will be messy. I am looking forward to how much I will grow and can not wait to continue to explore, wonder, and create with my PLN in order to model the Innovator’s Mindset for my students.
April Padalino and Cyndi Dull
We are educational coaches with a passion for learning and empowering students, parents, and educators to Bring Education to Life.