Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hold a Wake for School Change

The Grieving Parentsphoto © 2008 Nick | more info (via: Wylio)

Earlier today, I tweeted this:
Since change is so tough and often compared to grieving, why not hold a wake for the old program/idea when we take our next step?
OK. So comparing the change process in schools to the grieving process is not my idea. I can't think of where I first heard about it, but a simple google search turned up many hits including scholarly articles and blog posts. Last week, George Couros posted on his blog about change and there was a deep conversation in the comments. In my comment, I said,
So, when we attempt to help teachers internalize the need for change, we must also help them work through some complex emotions. There is much literature about the change process following a pattern similar to that of grieving. Convincing facts and large amounts of data are not enough." 
I got thinking that there must be ways to actually do this.

Since reacting to change is like reacting to grief for some folks, why not use some of the grieving rituals to help with the process. Why not hold a wake; come together to mourn the loss of the old program or the way we used to do things. If we give folks time to grieve with one another we will be further on the way to smoothing the transition.

The "wake" would be relatively simple (and, unlike some traditions, there will be no drinking). Anyone who wants to would write something they will miss once the change happens. Put all of these ideas together in a box (better not make the box too much like a coffin). Then, with a tiny bit of ceremony, bury the box (literally, if that works for you).

Once the old idea/program/practice is buried, move on to welcoming the new idea/program/practice. Be explicit about both steps and be transparent about the "wake" and why you are doing this.

Those who are not looking forward to the change or who are still upset that the old way will be gone, will appreciate that you have at least acknowledged their point of view. And, it ought to be clear that the change is going to happen.

While this idea might seem a bit morbid, making changes in schools without finding a way to bring along the reluctant ones will be downright deadly.


cross posted to Connected Principals