You’ve almost certainly experienced an endless amount of school initiatives as a teacher or administrator. It’s impossible to avoid. No matter how well-intentioned or important, it’s inevitable that some new school initiatives get adopted but gradually abandoned which wastes valuable resources, undermines student success, and leads to teacher and administrative burnout.
That’s why it’s absolutely crucial that as a school administrator in charge of executing new initiatives you have a playbook that ensures you and your teachers are set up for success.
Whether it’s improving digital literacy, lowering disciplinary referrals in each grade, or reducing the cases of in-school bullying, an intentional, strategic game plan will greatly increase the likelihood of your new school initiative succeeding. And we’ve got you covered with three easy-to-implement strategies that can help.
1. Audit old initiatives when starting new ones to avoid change fatigue
As mentioned earlier, teachers and staff are used to a revolving door of new initiatives at the beginning of every school year, and each of those new initiatives is just one more thing that they have to remember to do each day, week, or month.
Change fatigue is the negative response to change that harms your employees’ mental well-being and affects organizational outcomes, and employees are growing less and less resilient to change. In fact, Gartner found that the amount of change an average employee can take before experiencing fatigue is 25% which is down from 50% in 2019 (full content available to Gartner clients).
That’s why it’s important to audit your older school initiatives at least once a year to determine which programs are obsolete, aren’t being enacted anymore with accuracy and consistency, or have significant overlap with other programs.
If you’ve never done an audit before, you might be surprised which initiatives can be entirely thrown out, or which might be combined due to overlap to make your teacher’s lives easier while making the program outcomes easier to achieve.
Taking on more responsibilities becomes significantly more palatable if you, as the program director, have shown that you care about your staff’s workload. This will show your teachers and staff that you are intentional about what you’re asking them to do and will increase the likelihood that the initiative will succeed.
Start by taking a hard look at what you want to accomplish with the new initiative. Once you’ve established your targeted objectives, analyze prior initiatives to see if any objectives are significantly overlapping. If you find overlap, either cut the older initiative or edit it so you aren’t overwhelming your teachers and students. Remember, it’s always best to have one clear way to tackle objectives.
2. Recognize success loudly and often to prevent burnout
One of the fastest ways to make sure an initiative dies by October is to assume that your teachers are as enthusiastic about meeting the objectives as you are. Your teachers have a lot going on from enacting school programs, managing classrooms of 25+ students, to lesson planning, so it’s forgivable for certain things to fall through the cracks, especially if it’s new to their routine.
Celebrate success at every single opportunity you can. Encourage your teachers to recognize their peers when they see something great. If you want your new school initiative to succeed, it’s important to demonstrate that it’s actually working, and recognizing success loudly and often is one of the best ways to do that.
In fact, Gartner found that social recognition (praise or acknowledgment offered in a public setting) had a stronger positive impact than personal recognition offered in private meetings (full content available to Gartner clients).
Another benefit of recognizing success is that it opens up honest communication about, not just your new initiatives, but also older initiatives as well. Once a rhythm of positive affirmation is established and teachers aren’t scared of openly communicating in staff meetings, you can begin having honest conversations about where the program might be falling flat as well.
This will ensure that you can adjust the program throughout the school year so that it has the greatest impact and chance of success.
Start every faculty meeting by recognizing how a teacher met or exceeded the goal and provide specific examples about how they did it. Better yet, have them explain how they are accomplishing the objectives because in-context, in-classroom examples are always more helpful than theoretical scenarios. Additionally, every six weeks, admins should make time to thoughtfully think about how their teachers are successfully achieving the initiative objectives.
3. Identify and address barriers to change by having honest conversations with teachers who are resistant to change
It’s inevitable that some members of your staff are going to be resistant to change. Whether it’s because they don’t agree with some of the objectives or they think they can meet the objectives in another way. It’s important to meet them where they are and have an honest conversation about it.
These conversations can be uncomfortable and hard to have, but meeting with resistant teachers face to face is important to the success of the initiative. Not only do you want near 100% buy-in from your staff, but you also don’t want your teachers to be miserable every time they have to plan around the initiative.
Many times, their resistance might be valid and could help you reshape how you plan and enact the new program. If you’re open to criticism and feedback, these conversations can eventually lead to buy-in from your resistant teachers, particularly if you’re willing to adjust and rethink.
Below we’ve included some examples of concerns your teachers might bring to your attention, along with what these concerns could mean.
If you hear…
- “I don’t have the right training for this.”
- This likely means there’s a comprehension problem where your teachers are unsure which tools or training they have at their disposal to get the job done.
- “I’ve never done anything like this before.”
- This could mean that they’re uncomfortable adapting to new working conditions.
- “I care a lot about…”
- This means that they might think the new initiative goes against the things they value and consider important.
The first thing you should do is, as discussed in “How to Get Buy-in from Your Teachers When Starting a New School Initiative,” start a committee that involves teachers. Then, hold open office hours for any teachers who might have concerns about the new program. That way, you give your teachers a chance to bring in any concerns or questions they have which they might be hesitant about.
Strategic, thoughtful execution is key to any new school initiative’s success
If you make sure each initiative is doing the most it can by auditing older programs, celebrating success early and often, and having honest, open conversations with your teachers who might be resistant to change, your new school program is significantly less likely to be dead in the water by winter break.
Now that you have some tools to help you with change management, you should adjust your planning time when deciding to adopt new initiatives so that all of these considerations can be followed every time to reduce change fatigue and increase the likelihood of success.
Once you’ve got a handle on the strategies necessary for a successful school program, you’ll increase student learning outcomes, reduce teacher and administrator burnout, and ensure every resource that’s being spent on your school is being put to good use.