Center Director, Julia Koumbassa, Shares Her Process
If you want to get fellow educators into Learning Stories, you will need leadership and change management skills. Change is not always an easy process, and some people will resist change. So, to effectively convince others to follow suit by implementing Learning Stories in their programs, you need to think of the following five things when your center is new to Learning Stories.
Start with your “Why?”
If you cannot state the “why” behind the change, you won’t get others teaching Learning Stories. You need to be able to explain why the change is essential and what value it has to offer a center new to Learning Stories.
It would be best to determine how it benefits the community at large. Here are some ideas on how to build your why Learning Stories narrative:
- How Learning Stories enrich teaching
- Learning Stories for authentic assessment
- Learning Stories for connections to families and children
Figure out how it will help all of those involved, from the educators themselves to the families. Ask yourself why am I interested in Learning Stories, and then make a list. Then be able to communicate these reasons to those teachers you want interested in Learning Stories
Fitting Your Vision
You also need to see how it meshes with your values and vision. How does Learning Stories align with your program’s values, philosophies, or mission? Take out your values and underline things to connect why your values meet those of Learning Stories. Then you have a firm foundation to build on to demonstrate to others why Learning Stories would be an asset to your program.
The next thing to consider is your context or history that connects to Learning Stories. Think about the roles of families and culture. How will the families benefit? Once you know this, you will have reasons to express to teachers why they should begin teaching Learning Stories.
Leaders (such as teachers) must determine how Learning Stories might influence how you want to transform or strengthen practices in your program. For example, you might want to focus on learners’ strengths and how you can build upon them.
Lastly, what is your process for learning from what you are doing and for continuing to deepen your understanding and practice with Learning Stories? Here, you will think about how you will use Learning Stories and how it will become embedded into your program.
Once you know the “why,” you can effectively share it with other educators and promote Learning Stories within your program.
Your dispositions as a leader matter
When you are in a leadership role, you must understand how to be a great leader. You have to think about your image as a leader. You need to consider things like, are you approachable, and can people come and talk to you openly? Because some people may not be ready for a change, you must proactively be prepared to deal with these people.
So, to understand your strengths, you need self-reflection. Are you flexible? Can you make mistakes? Do you embrace risk or flinch from it? Are you collaborative? This one is essential because you need to be able to communicate and work with the whole community.
Other things to consider, are you supportive? A good-listener? Culturally inclusive? By knowing where you stand as a leader, you can be the foundation on which people can build a center new to Learning Stories.
It’s about relationships, always.
As a teacher, you know the value of relationships. They need to be fostered and allow room for growth. Leadership is also about relationships. You need a solid connection to achieve growth together and communicate feelings, ideas, and changes to have productive conversations.
If you are implementing Learning Stories and need teacher buy-in, you need to be open to questions and be ready to clarify to achieve mutual goals.
Remember that change is not linear
Change does not happen in a simple line. It twists and turns, and sometimes you make progress but then have to take a few steps back. Be prepared for roadblocks and mistakes. And you can’t give up just because it doesn’t work. Reevaluate and then try again. Give yourself permission to err and be ready to do the work to begin progressing again.
Approach change like an engineer!
When engineers want to create a new product, the first thing they do is build a prototype. They roll it out, test it, get feedback and then tweak the product based on feedback. Then they come out with the next model with all the necessary changes, and they keep doing this.
Educators do not do it like this. They put all the focus on the initial plans. They focus on training, staffing, understanding how it works, implementing a communication plan, and then throw caution to the wind and roll out the changes. But if it fails, they say, “Oh no, let’s try something else.” This method is not how it should be done.
Instead, we should assess where we went wrong, make the necessary tweaks and adjustments and then make a second attempt. That’s where real change is made.
How to Start a Movement
Leaders have to be ready to start things on their own. They have to be easy to follow, and then once someone shows interest, you must focus on the “first follower” and treat them like an equal.
Being a first follower is an unappreciated form of leadership. They are, in fact, the change that starts the movement and makes a leader a leader. The leader is the flint, and the first follower is the spark.
Then joins in the third person. And as we all know, three is a crowd. The movement you want to implement, like Learning Stories, must be public and available for all to see. Then more join, and you have momentum. Now you have movement.
The key is nurturing the first few followers and treating them as an equal. Make it all about the movement, and be public and easy to follow. But remember, there is no movement without the first follower. So, when implementing anything, always show the follower how to follow.
Our Change Process: The Importance of Early Adopters
When implementing change, the first followers or, in other words, “early adopters” are who you want to support.
What you water, give nutrients, and provide proper lighting for, is what grows.
During the change process, there will be a whole spectrum of individuals who will adapt to change in a myriad of ways. You need to be ready to deal with people from the entire range. First, you will have your innovators. They will be super excited and prepared to show others.
Next, you will have your early adopters. This will be a core group of individuals that are inspired by the innovators. They need to be nurtured and shown how to implement these changes.
After that, you will have the “early majority.” These are typically people who need more time and need the relationship kindled to progress.
Then there is the “late majority,” which is comprised of people who are not ready to take risks and need to see results and success before they embrace change.
Lastly, there are the “laggards.” Here you will have to determine what about Learning Stories makes it so difficult to adapt to change. Is it the method? We’ll explore this further.
Common Reasons for Resistance to Learning Stories
There are several reasons people will resist adapting to change. It could be a lack of inspiration. Or they may find it challenging to sit down and start writing from a blank page. Or they could even be intimidated. Writing tips here.
Then there is the language barrier that occurs in the melting pot society of today. To solve this issue, get learners to write in their preferred language. It will be easier for them and might not seem as intimidating.
Other times there is resistance is if people are struggling with technology. Though Educa is user-friendly, if they don’t like the teacher app, then use a word doc or even write the stories by hand.
Our Change Process: Give Teacher Time
While writing for families is tremendously self-affirming and positive for teachers, it can be intimidating at first. Add in a lack of confidence many feel about their writing, and you have a runway to writing Learning Stories that will take time.
Some people may be afraid of writing errors and don’t feel like they are good writers. In this instance, give them time, or show them other modes of creating stories. For example, have them record it in video format. It may provide them with the confidence they need.
Sometimes people believe that they don’t have enough time. But this is where you tell them that it can be only a paragraph. The trick is to get them started. Sometimes, they will get on a roll and write longer than they thought they would.
And then there is the fear of being judged. Tell these people just to write stories. Don’t set limits. Don’t correct or grade them. Don’t make them even stick to the format. If you are about to start implementing Learning Stories, make it optional. Use a no-pressure approach and build on it over time.
You will be amazed at the results.
Our Change Process: The Importance of Collaboration
Collaboration is vital. Create Learning Stories inquiry groups and lunches. Ensure that there is no pressure from leadership where they must get it right. Instead, make it about sharing things with your peers and sharing perspectives.
Take the bottoms-up approach and meet without supervision to collaborate freely. And be sure to mix in an early adopter with the next generation of Learning Story adopters to share their knowledge and enthusiasm. Furthermore, ensure that no one publishes a Learning Story without having someone else look at it. By collaborating, you are creating a movement.
Our Change Process: Engaging Families
The last step in the change process is engaging families. Once you have them onboard, you will make waves with your movement.
This integration is best done by passionate people, like the early adopters, who already have a good relationship with the families. They can help others get onboard with the change. Once the families are excited, they start talking to teachers and ask where their Learning Stories are. And right there, you have success.
Follow these guidelines, and soon your program and all its educators will be ready to implement Learning Stories as a tool to build relationships and teach others to enjoy writing.
NOTE: This article is based on a webinar called Transitioning to a Center to Learning Stories – a Leader’s Perspective. You can watch it here.