The Arrogance of Complacency
If you don’t like something, change it.
If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
- Maya Angelou
I have been a professional educator since 2004. In that time, I have seen educational initiatives enacted, repealed, rewritten, abandoned, ignored, loathed, and praised. My mentor teacher explained to me that the pendulum swing of educational practice will never stop moving. Early on I learned to notice and embrace the inevitable change in education. Afterall, how arrogant would I be to assume what I am doing now is the way — the only way —the best way — to lead my young learners on their academic journeys.
As academic support resources develop, new versions are produced. These updated materials are changed by educational policy, state politics, and religious influence. In states like Minnesota, these changes are not as swayed by religion or state politics and try to present content that is inclusive. Over time, new practices and research indicate that there is a better way for students to learn.
Who am I to assume that my way is the best? It may feel comfortable to me because this is “what I know.” It may be that I only have the resources to support my current method of delivery. It may be that I am personally invested because I spent a great deal of time in past years designing and creating these learning experiences. I have heard them all, and I understand them all. I also see all these reasons as excuses — and selfish ones, too.
Change is the law of life.
And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.
- John F. Kennedy
Imagine if our medical professionals choose not to embrace the latest developments, practices, and research in their field. What if lawyers only applied information from cases before the time of their graduation and nothing current to draw from for defense. There was a time business owners could advertise in newspapers, and now they can advertise to a wider group of people for less using the internet and social media.
Change happens in all professions and when it is based on good practice, solid science, and current policy. It is time to take an open-minded look and accept that educators should be changing their practice, too. Look up and look forward. What worked 25, 15, or even five years ago is not what may work today. Educators must be accepting of updates, upgrades, and change or they will quickly become irrelevant.
If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even less.
- General Eric Shinseki
Be it positive or negative, every teacher I have had the privilege to work alongside has had an impact on my life as an educator. I have learned to keep my eyes, ears, and heart open during formal and informal interactions with colleagues. These observations have molded me into the teacher and leader I am today. We are all in a constant state of development — of progression. We are all moving in one of three directions. Fortunately, unlike the pendulum swings, we are in control of that movement and it can change if it is important to us and we want to.
It’s empowering when you are in the presence of someone who is moving forward. These are the individuals that inspire. They embrace change and see it as an opportunity to learn something new and do something incredible. These are our innovators. They are our problem-solvers and risk-takers. They are selfless and willing to share with others while also learning from those around them, too. They exude positivity and seek the silver lining when dealt an unexpected hand. They are keenly aware of drawbacks, but see them as opportunities to grow, apply their knowledge, and create a positive change in something new.
The more you interact with lateral moving folks, the more you realize how far apart you are getting. Just like moving laterally away, it becomes more and more difficult to maintain a productive conversation because you are still heading in different directions not due to arrogance entirely, but ignorance. The backward moving folks are easy to identify and ignore. The laterally moving colleagues are blind to their ways they simply need to see the benefits of moving forward. Fortunately, these people can begin redirecting forward by their colleagues or peers. It may not be easy to identify a lateral mover, because they may appear to try new things while perpetuating familiar and comfortable practices. These are the folks that will be the tipping point of a culture shift moving forward.
People moving backward are easy to identify. They are the negative nellies of the world. They gossip and talk behind backs without ever presenting solutions or acting to make things better for anyone but themselves. These are the arrogant few. Regardless of their knowledge base, they are deeply stuck in their own world. Like magnets, they are attracted to one another and try to impart their ways on others through passive-aggressive comments toward lateral movers and behind-closed-doors rants to those heading forward. Selfishness is prevalent. What’s in it for me? Will I get paid? But, I’ve been doing this for years! They are easily intimidated by others and fear being discovered for who they are. How you choose to engage these individuals will impact your life and career — along with your emotions.
All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.
- Ellen Glasgow
There is so much more to education than the changing content. Ask any highly-effective educator and they will tell you that relationships come first. After that, it’s a plate of personal and professional expectations.
Educator plates, like the plates of professionals worldwide, are very full. Couple your individual requirements, passions, and curiosities and it is easy to feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities to cater to the unique learning needs of each child. The best advice I have heard for decision makers in education is to ask “What are we going to take off the plate?” Sometimes taking something off the plate will have a greater benefit than adding something new.
The first step toward change is awareness.
The second step is acceptance.
- Nathaniel Branden
Regardless of the size of our plate, or what is on it, we all have a say in how we keep supporting ourselves, our families, and our students. Although we may have a voice, we cannot fully-control future initiatives, curricular changes, or decisions made by others that impact us as educators. We can control how we accept and apply the change bestowed upon us.
We have to take a breath and realize that change is a part of our profession and, if not now, when? If not us, who? Make the choice for yourself. How will you use change to make us all better? Who do you want to be? Pay attention to those around you and team up with the innovators — the risk-takers and problem solvers.
After all, if you are not a problem-solver you run the risk of being a problem-maker.
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
We are the change that we seek.
- Barack Obama