Don’t Change the Program; Change Your Mindset

With the start of the new year, we all think about change.  The interesting thing is that most people hate change, so we don’t call what we’re thinking about “changes.”  We call them “resolutions.”

And then a few weeks from now, we’re back to the way it was…because change is difficult.

In education today, there are many “new” programs being put into place.  A few years ago, the “Every Student Succeeds” Act was signed into law.  I wonder how many educators were involved in crafting that piece of legislation.  Not those who are education executives and have significant administrative experience, but today’s “boots on the ground” teachers who deal with children every day in the classroom.  These are the people who can create an outstanding lesson plan which covers a number of standards while taking into consideration multiple learning styles and domains, and then must deal with a child who finds the content boring because they’re two grade levels above the learning experience while the child sitting next to him is licking the floor.

As long as we continue to hang to “grade levels,” we’re always going to be trying to put, as Scripture puts it, “New wine into old wineskins.”  Do you know what happens when that occurs?  The wineskins break.  Therefore, new wine is put into new wineskins.  It’s not enough to change the policies; the framework needs to change as well.

But we don’t want to call it change, lest everyone digs their heels in, and labor unions protest even the most logical and practical repairs to a broken system.  Think back to March of 2020, when schools needed to pivot and change to remote learning.  We’ve had the technology for years…we just never used it, or thought since it wasn’t broken, why fix it?   Sure, schools have emergency drills – but private and faith-based schools were leading the way with “Chrome from home” programs since they were preparing for those “Snow Days” where school wouldn’t have to be cancelled, and the school year extended into the summer.  They were ready!  Public schools were not.

The point is that we really shouldn’t have to “change” any program, since if it doesn’t work, another program will be proffered to create yet another change.  The point is to establish basic and sound criteria and policies with goals that make sense and can be agreed upon.  The criteria and policies will dictate what changes, if necessary will need to be made.  As Simon Sinek offers in his text, “Start With Why” (2009), start with “why,” then move to “how” to achieve “what.”   The usual progress is offered in reverse – this is “what” we want to achieve, so here’s “how” we’re going to achieve it.  Notice “why” is left out of the process completely.  Perhaps little children already realize this – which is why they ask the “why” question incessantly.  You’d think by now we’d realize it’s the question which needs to be answered first.

But then, when you REALLY think about it, there’s even a more fundamental question than “why,” and it’s the one that causes the most discomfort.  The question is “Who,” and that’s when we realize the problem is usually us…which brings us back to our mindset, and the need to change it.