Don’t be afraid to make some people angry
In leading change, you’re going to make some people very uncomfortable, Magiera said—but you can’t shy away from innovation just because “you’re going to make some people mad.”
She showed a quote from Marzano that said administrators leading second-order change “must be willing to live through a period of frustration and even anger from some staff members. No doubt this takes a great personal toll on a school leader and might explain why many promising practices have not led to improved student achievement and ultimately have been abandoned.” But knowing it’s the right thing to do can help school leaders move forward with the change, Magiera said.
It also helps to find a crew of like-minded adventurers you can rely on when the going gets tough. “It’s important that you have a support system to tell you you’re not crazy,” she advised.
As CTO in Des Plaines, Magiera got a call from Google earlier this school year, asking if she would be interested in having her teachers pilot the company’s Google Expeditions virtual field trips with their classes. The call came on a Thursday, and Google was set to show up the following Monday.
Not wanting to miss this opportunity, Magiera said yes—but she didn’t think to check with the union first. She set about asking teachers if they would participate, but she received blowback from a union representative who objected to the lack of notice. Still, when Monday rolled around, the students in the participating classes “had these amazing experiences,” she said. They got to virtually visit remote places such as the Borneo rain forest, the ocean floor, and Mt. Everest. “I can’t wait to tell my parents where I went today,” one student told her.
Magiera acknowledged her mistake in not approaching the union first, but she said she didn’t regret saying yes to the opportunity. If she had worried about making people angry, those students never would have had such a transformative experience, she noted.
Share your “crazy pills”
After this two-day pilot project had ended, teachers who had taken part were looking for ways to continue leveraging the Expeditions technology, even though it wasn’t yet available commercially at the time.
“We had a team building homemade Google Cardboard kits,” she said, referring to the simple virtual-reality viewers that students use to experience Expeditions. Of course, these were the “hoorays” in her district, who were gushing about what their students had just experienced. But Magiera used their enthusiasm to help drive interest among the rest of the staff.
“Allow teachers to tell their stories,” she recommended. As these early adopters shared their excitement with colleagues, “more and more people were slowly buying the crazy.” She likened their enthusiasm to an addiction, adding: “Innovation is the only safe drug we should allow in school.”
Don’t get complacent
Magiera concluded her talk by quoting the entrepreneur, scientist, and author Astro Teller, who said: “Our ambitions are a glass ceiling in what we can accomplish.”
“Don’t let your own ambitions be your glass ceiling,” she urged attendees. “Remember to be courageous, and don’t forget that you can. If I say I can’t do it, I’ll never try.”
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