Heroic Change agents use data to fight (and win) the good fight.

A superintendent I used to work for once said, “The only people who like change are wet babies.” It resonated with me then, and it still does so today. Because let’s face it, change is hard for folks. For even when you provide compelling data and a strong rationale for a new approach, the initial momentum can quickly subside as people return to their comfort zones.

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Hero allows a school to establish consistent practices in a more effective and efficient way. Yet as the implementation moves forward, some school users really embrace it whereas others may revert to what they have always done, since that feels more comfortable. They think to themselves, “This too shall pass.” And then before you know it, the momentum and aligned systems approach you have successfully launched starts to sputter. And even if things are going well and you see peaks in desired outcomes, there are always some natural valleys and dips where we see student behavior falter and implementation fidelity suffer.

So just how do you sustain your momentum? And how do you continue to align and scale up your efforts so that real, sustained change continues?

  • The first thing to consider is that while your absolute non-negotiable goal is to bring about improved outcomes for all students, much of what you must first focus on is your teachers. It really is indeed about the adults– and not so much about what they are not doing, but how you can provide support, systems, and structures so that as their beliefs continue to shift so do their actions and practices.
  • School can no doubt be stressful for both students and teachers. Their “buckets feel empty” and their social and emotional “bank accounts” are overdrawn and lacking the needed deposits. As a result, there may be an increase in student behaviors and teachers’ ability to respond to them in proactive, positive, and patient ways do not come as naturally. School leadership and your team of champions can help by planning and scheduling times during the week to model reinforcing students and to also reinforce or acknowledge teachers for their efforts in using Hero. Simple things as a handwritten note in their box, a comment on a post it note left on their desk after a class visit, a Hero icon placed on their door, a shout out or kudos in a staff email, at a staff or team meeting, or on your school’s social media account are examples of investments that will yield high returns and have their buckets overflowing in no time. Even more powerful? Reinforcing their efforts in way that speaks to the language of your school-wide expectations. For example, “Kudos to Mr. Jones for being Prepared today when our server went down. Although his students were working from the Internet, he had a backup plan that allowed learning to continue at a high level.”
  • Help your staff reflect on what they can control (and try to make this a norm):

    • Working as a team with school goals in mind
    • Using Hero consistently and strategically
    • Preventing undesired behaviors
    • Teaching desired behaviors
    • Approaching student behavior errors as they would learning errors
    • Focusing on what students are doing well and reinforcing these desired behaviors
    • Considering why some students are struggling and addressing things differently
    • Treating everyday as a new one (no grudges or taking things personally)
    • Actively planning for effective instruction and student engagement
    • Creating and sustaining a positive climate via modeling
    • Using proactive classroom management practices to foster an atmosphere of trust where students feel safe and compelled to demonstrate desired behaviors
  • Revisit expectations. Use Hero data to help identify what expectations may need the most reteaching, what students need some additional encouragement or support, and use this data strategically to mindfully reinforce desired behaviors.
  • Use Hero data and take time to celebrate what is working; tap into colleagues as a support network, and champion students and each other. Create chances to do this regularly at all levels (Hero Team, Leadership Team, and PLCs or Grade Level Teams; Schoolwide, Grade Levels, and at the Classroom level). Celebrate the small wins so you can make progress toward even bigger wins.
  • When using Hero data to help celebrate, praise, and reinforce staff efforts, be mindful of how you approach things if the data is not looking so good. If the data suggests that there is a systemic or school-wide issue, then as team do some problem solving first prior to possibly addressing the staff. For just as you should first reflect on your own practices if student behavior is not ideal, so should you if staff behaviors and usage are not what you would expect. There may be some simple tweaks or systems you could implement to help.
  • Consider other data to review or use, such as brief surveys, for feedback when implementing Hero. Utilize these pre/during/and post implementation to help make needed adjustments. Have a staff feedback box or online form for more regular feedback. Carve out time during team meetings for a quick check in and review of how things are going.
  • If data reveals that it is only a few staff members or a particular grade level or team that is not using Hero effectively, that is a conversation you have with them directly. For while it is easy to send an all staff email or address it during a faculty meeting, doing so will dampen morale and the good will and momentum you have built as a collective unit. So praise in public and address concerns more privately with the relevant parties– and let data lead the conversation. Often times a simple, “Help me understand” will disarm folks in a way where they acknowledge things, take ownership, and express a more open view about some support to improve their practices.
  • As you review data regularly and make adjustments in your approach, remember the classic DuFour PLC questions to reset and guide your work (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Many, 2010). These same questions can also be asked when you reflect on how to support staff members:
    • What do students need to know and be able to do?
    • How will we know when they have learned it?
    • What will we do when they have not learned it?
    • What will we do when they already know it?

While change is hard and systems or culture change indeed takes time (the full process can take anywhere from 3-5 years for sustained change), the investments you make now and beyond are worth it. Paying attention to the data and strategically using it to guide your efforts around how you support both students and teachers will lead to improved outcomes for all stakeholders. And that, my friend is, truly heroic.

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