The most common question I am asked is:
Can school-level change occur in a context that lacks leadership support?
The short answer is yes!…However, the realisation is unfortunately not that simple.
Contrary to popular belief, significant and sustainable culture change does not occur from one grand gesture or idea. There are no magic wands, no short cuts and no pot luck. In fact, when such change attempts are rash and brazen, we often see an isolated few racing ahead without any followers. The momentum eventually fades; and although dispersed of much energy and effort, the gap between the current and the ideal still remains unchallenged and unchanged.
Although ‘top-down’ approaches when executed strategically are proven to create the most influence in the shortest amount of time, not all acts of change have the shelf life to lay in waiting.
Fortunately, the art of large-scale culture change is on the side of those of us sitting at the bottom of the organisational triangle.
You see, real change is accomplished through a series of small victories. That is, a series of acts and accomplishments that authentically spark new ways of thinking and doing; and often the best way to give voice and velocity to such is to cultivate from the ‘bottom-up.’
“Evey time you stand up for an ideal, you send forth a tiny ripple of hope.”
My advice: Be bold, but be realistic; and don’t waver on being professional.
Reflect on the context you are in. What principles and practices of inclusive schooling could you realistically enact? How will this look?
Ensure that you have done your homework and that you are always aiming for evidence-based practice. Engage in professional learning to increase your knowledge and understanding, and to provide substance and depth to what it is you are wanting to achieve.
To begin with, start small and look for opportunities that have minimal impact on whole-school operations.
Engage in cycles of inquiry to track your impact and make improvements along the way.
Collaborate with others to build community and to look for opportunities of scalability.
Finally, don’t be shy. Share your successes at all levels and use them to encourage others to seek out their own small victories.
My first small victory comprised of seeking out a general education teacher who was willing and open to the idea of merging my small, special education class with her regular class group. Together we collaborated to create one class that centred on a strong foundation of belonging and success. We shared our professional strengths to not only improve the outcomes of all students in the room, but to also improve our own capability. We created our own bubble of inclusion that impacted on no one in the organisation but ourselves; yet had great positive impact on the social-capital and learning of our combined 32 students.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”
– Lao Txu
What step will you take?