The challenge of change

19th January 2007 at 00:00
We live in a world where change is just about the only constant. We take for granted all the advances in technology of the last 20 or 30 years. We embrace change daily without giving it a second thought.

Maybe it's time to reflect on why so many of us revert from being enthusiastic about advancement in our personal lives to Luddites of almost giant proportions as soon as we enter the school gates. Opportunities and challenges offered to us as teachers are rejected by this resistance to change on the part of many colleagues, very quick to lay their woes at the door of school management, citing lack of support, training, resources, anything - without pausing for a moment to consider taking ownership of many of these challenges.

After all, our pupils do this every day. It never ceases to amaze me how the kids take all the ups and downs and changes in modern-day life in their stride almost without blinking an eye. Why can't we adults adopt the same coping mechanisms, rather than relying on cynicism, complaints and resistance to change.

Take the use of ICT, for example. Now, with the Glow project and the availability of interactive platforms in classrooms improving all the time, you would think teachers would be eager to introduce the internet into their classes.

Many see the possibilities and embrace the challenge. And many do not, preferring to hark back to the days when chalk and talk were king and queen in an unholy reign of teacher superiority. They sit around and complain, using any excuse not to update their professional skills, ducking out of in-service courses designed to break down the barriers surrounding ICT. In so doing, they magnify the credibility gap between teachers and pupils who access this technology every time they use webspaces, blogs, PlayStation and Bluetooth.

Faculties are another example of where resistance to change is stifling opportunities to improve quality. Many people view the loss of principal teachers as de-skilling, instead of considering it as a vital re-skilling advance in which all management roles are concentrated rather than duplicated across similar subjects. Businesses have been doing this for years, and the reputation of "blue-chip" management training schemes speaks for themselves

This can translate well into education. You don't need to be a brilliant mathematician or outstanding linguist to monitor teaching and learning, direct curricular development activities, co-ordinate administration and oversee new initiatives. But you do need to be a good manager, able to stand back and take an overview of the demands of the immediate against the long-term, and be totally familiar with the use of technology and ICT.

So, what to do then? How do schools address this, promoting an agenda for change? Surprisingly perhaps, we have to go back in time for a possible solution. The philosopher Proust hit the nail on the head when he said that "the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes".

Maybe we have to reflect on just why it is we can be so resistant to change in particular areas of our lives and yet so open in others, and try to re-examine our motivation from an entirely new standpoint. A new pair of eyes for a fast-changing and dynamic educational environment must play its part in the world in which we live today.

Jaye Richards teaches at Cathkin High, Rutherglen

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