When It Comes to Change, Are You a Committed Sardine?
When schools and districts transition from teachers working in isolation to working in cultures of collaboration, one of the most frequently asked questions is, “What do we do if every teacher is not on board with making this change?” Leaders waiting for all teachers to embrace working in teams may hesitate taking the first step to becoming a professional learning community. It is extremely rare for groups to be naturally collaborative. Working collaboratively is a difficult and highly sophisticated process that takes tremendous effort, energy, and trust. Teachers must be given resources, tools, support, and time to learn to work together. By changing teacher behaviors first, principals of PLC schools have seen attitudes change and have witnessed teachers become more receptive to working in collaboration. So, do you wait for everyone to be on board with the idea of working together in collaborative teams, or do you move forward without total support and commitment?
Ian Jukes, codirector of the 21st Century Fluency Project, illustrates why expecting unanimous support of becoming a PLC is initially unrealistic. Jukes uses the powerful metaphor of the “committed sardine” when describing schools attempting to improve their cultures. When massive schools of sardines change direction (like schools change direction from teachers working in silos of isolation to working collaboratively), 100 percent of the sardines do not turn in the new direction at the same time. Only a very small number of sardines, 10-15 percent, committed to leading the change cause the entire mass to move in the new direction. Once the few make the turn, the rest of the school follow. Successful implementation of professional learning communities can be accomplished similarly with “committed sardines” willing to lead the change (Jukes, 2011).
At the beginning of the process, principals should identify a guiding coalition of teacher leaders and administrators who are willing to lead their schools toward becoming a PLC. This small group of committed sardines can facilitate, advise, and lead the cultural changes that need to occur. Like the school of sardines, once the benefits and results of implementing PLC concepts are seen as positive changes being made for the right reasons, the rest of the staff will follow.
Noted anthropologist Margaret Mead once wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world—indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” That’s why we must depend on that small group of committed sardines willing to lead and support cultural changes necessary for their schools to become successful high-performing PLCs.
Are you willing to do whatever it takes to become the school you envision? Are you a committed sardine?
Jukes, I. (2011). 21st century fluency project: The committed sardine blog. Retrieved from http://www.fluency21.com/.