The How of Change in Education

Mar 22, 12 The How of Change in Education

The two year time frame for change is significant to me – after this current school year, I will have two years left of “being a parent” in the system.  My daughters have joked and asked me if my advocacy for changes in education and schools would come after they have graduated.  I guess that is a statement about the pace of change in education in itself!

So….what is feasible, achievable, and desirable for change in the next two years…?  I think a number of things may just happen.  For example, as younger teachers enter the profession, the use of technology and social media will become more embedded in teaching, learning and school practices.  I really hope “Early Learning” will be sorted out to authentically and realistically support the development of these youngsters starting their long school careers.  I appreciated Stephen Hurley’s writing and wishes for it here

Many will say the education system is doing just fine….that their kids are doing just fine….that schools are doing just fine.  But yet, how do we make sense of all the passionate individuals talking, advocating, volunteering, writing, blogging, tweeting, and speaking about and for changes in education?  And this is not limited to educators – this is also students, parents, business and community members, and trustees.  Are we wrong?  Some of us wrong?

We worry about being stuck in our echo chambers in our social media networks; we worry about whose voices are heard and not heard; we worry about the slow pace of change and progress; and we worry about funding limitations.  I think we may all wonder if we are participating and aligning with the appropriate groups and people and forums (online and offline) that will help us to be a part of the conversations and visions for change in education.  Sometimes it seems that certain “titles” will be more influential in change, but that may only be a perception created by the system.

Sir Ken Robinson’s recent suggestion to individuals to be a part of change in their own classrooms and personal situations has raised some question about our most effective place and capacity to create change for students in the system.  Stephen Hurley grappled well with this here  As for myself, as someone who mostly wears the parent hat trying to affect change and create supportive networks of stakeholders, I can relate to this.  Often when things become very frustrating and troubling, we are often advised, and in good intention I think, to just take care of our own kids….and get them through the system.  I guess there are things that we can always do, and not do, in our immediate circumstances, but doesn’t it admit defeat just a little bit?  Is this how we should all proceed (cope)?  As a parent, it is easy to feel powerless in the game of education and change – but I think the partnerships and shared conversations are needed and necessary to create bold and sustainable networks to guide change in education – as it will change.  I see social media helping a lot with this, as I previously blogged about here  I also sense some frustration from many about how to move our concerns to solutions and change.  I recently blogged about the same here

I am not sure I see the answer in just taking care of our immediate situation or context, whether a parent or educator.  We need to keep advocating and talking about the conditions for learning that our children will need to become resourceful and find purposeful life pursuits and opportunities.  I think the various conversations are growing, expanding and refining our ideas and increasing in momentum.  Evidence may not always be visible.   As we shift to more talking about and supporting the whole child and teaching the whole child within the context of our communities, things like standardized testing and competition amongst our schools will no longer fit.  A lot can change in two years and I think it needs to be allowed to be done.  If we value public education, it needs to be done.  We will have to take some risks and support one another.

So, I guess that is the change I think is possible….that the conversations and partnerships between educators and stakeholder partners will create “teams of change agents” that will learn and link together and “fan out” to create stronger ripples of change, influence and support for kids and schools.  These teams and networks will help strengthen other networks locally and across Canada.  It may seem worse before it gets better, but that may be part of the process to progress, and perhaps to many changes in the ways we do education and schooling.

As I was writing this, Carl Anderson (@anderscj) tweeted this quote by Naisbitt, “Most change is not in what we do, but how we do it.”  I think the how is key ahead.  I think the how has already started.

About Sheila Stewart

I am a parent of 2 teenagers who continue to teach me a lot. I have taught and tutored all ages - as young as 4 and adults of all ages. My more recent focus is helping adult newcomers with English language learning – supply teacher and tutor. I am also involved in supporting parent participation in education through various local and provincial networks and organizations. I have been involved in Ontario education for many years in different ways (educator, volunteer, researcher, parent, advocate), and now I am enjoying what I learn about education in other provinces through social media and conferences, etc.! Great to connect more on this collaborative blog site!


  1. Thanks for the post. I too feel that sense of helplessness sometimes when trying to affect change. The system is so large (and hence the problem) and it’s easy to feel defeated by it. I think the germ of change has to start with where you are, with your children or your students. If you are able to to want something ‘better’ for them, then why not more, why not everyone? And yes, social media is very important. We suddenly have a voice. There may be no one listening, but we DO have a voice. And if I have a voice and don’t raise it, then that’s a failure in me. It says something about me.

  2. Sheila Stewart /

    Thanks, Andrew. Sad if many are feeling this defeat. I often hear from people that they are not sure if and where their voice is valued. Also important amongst the voices is to hear what is not said. What do you think?

  3. I once heard a quote that America didn’t fight a ten-year war in Vietnam; it fought a one-year war for ten years in a row. It’s sort of the same in education. There are some overall structures in place, but the goals are almost exclusively one-year goals. Perhaps a school board will make a goal of improving results over 3-5 years, but their benchmarks will still be based on a yearly test/comparison. Are they even tracking/comparing how students are doing on their grade 3 EQAO vs. their grade 6 EQAO? I don’t think so. It’s always comparing this years crop of students to last years.

    Although many “five year plans” are disastrous ( such as the Great Leap Forward and all Toronto Maple Leafs plans), I think it is the fixation on “this year” that has put schools so far behind the rest of the world (in terms of technology, collaborative roles, new ideas, dynamic change, etc.).

    Poor teachers rely on parents and students realizing by Jan/Feb that it’s not worth fighting this year — the war is almost over. And hope for a better situation next year.

  4. Excellent point, Neil. That’s why SMART goals drive me crazy…they are timebound and the tether is short! We know that many good initiatives need a couple of years to take root, and a couple more to take flight! Very few governments are willing to give innovation time to do either…and that’s a problem.

  5. Sheila Stewart /

    Interesting what you have said about Jan/Feb., Neil. I was thinking along those lines recently too….it does seem like there is this point in the school year when things seem to fall a little “flat” and the focus shifts to a “next year” hope….hmmm.

    And hmmm, Stephen….maybe ‘the’ problem…..?

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