Chosen Change Versus Imposed Change

I am buzzing with creative juices as I network with new and exciting people, develop lessons and activities for my graduate classes, cultivate teacher leadership through varied grant activities, and hopefully make a difference in the field of education. Needless to say, I am exhausted. But it’s a feel-good exhaustion. The type that follows a vigorous workout or completion of a major project and brings a sense of satisfaction and endorphin rush that goes with the whole experience. And so it goes six months into my new position. The change of career and responsibilities I chose has been energizing, and that is a wonderful thing.

Change processes are interesting, and people’s perspectives and responses vary greatly depending on many things including how much skin they have in the game. In my case, the layers of skin invested are deep and the stakes high. I have to establish credibility in a new arena by quickly developing networks, skills and understandings necessary to serve at this level. My relationships with peers, subordinates, and supervisors will need careful attention and cultivation. That’s okay, however. I knew what I was in for when I began the application process, and I’ve willingly invested the necessary energy and efforts to make this change work. However, what if you’re not invested in the change process. What if the change was imposed and you have no sense of ownership or control over what’s being levied? What if you lack the confidence, skills, and knowledge to do the work? What if the whole experience leaves you feeling drained and helpless?


Cartoon taken with permission from Let’s Change the World!

As I mused in last week’s entry, not everyone involved with Race to the Top (RttT) bought in to the program, and for many, the change processes associated with RttT are frustrating, stressful, and overwhelming. For them, the entire Agenda is one of imposition. Yet there are others who see RttT as a chance to rethink how we do teaching and learning in public schools. Such individuals appreciate the academic rigor of Common Core State Standards, and recognize that teacher and principal evaluations offer leverage to get the important work done. They know the process is far from perfect, but they also believe we can do a better job educating students.

Our profession is at a pivot point with major skin in the game, and proactively approaching the stressors of school reform can be energizing if we’re willing to trust our colleagues and administrators, explore our blind spot, and stretch ourselves.  After all, if we hope to raise student achievement and better prepare students for 21st Century success, then don’t we need to rethink how we respond to the reform effort? If we want students to write from multiple sources, use text-based evidence to support positions, be fluent with mathematics, and apply mathematical concepts in novel ways, then shouldn’t we embrace the changes RttT brings? The fly in the ointment has been and continues to be value added measures of student growth. Alas, that is a topic for another day. Meanwhile, though RttT is not necessarily something we all signed up for years ago, do we have any choice but to raise the bar for students, teachers, and principals? After all, as the saying goes, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”


Author: Stephen Danna

Climate Reality Leader

2 thoughts on “Chosen Change Versus Imposed Change”

  1. You are right, Steve. Way too many teachers and administrators feel that these changes have been imposed, not chosen. And you know how the brain feels about not having choice or ownership in a project.

  2. Excellent post, thank you! Chosen and supported change creates empowerment, which is necessary for progress.
    Imposed change is just another way of using unnecessary power over others (and it also reads “bad management” with big, bold letters).

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