The Human Element Of Change

Kyle Pace is a pioneering instructional technologist. Professionally, he helps teachers to more effectively integrate technology into their curriculum. He is an influential member of my PLN and a moderator of the weekly #edchat conversation on Twitter. I look forward to meeting him in person when we both are presenting at the KIPP conference in Las Vegas. He blogs at

First off I’d like to say thank you to Jason T. Bedell for inviting me to write a guest post on his site. I’m honored to have been invited and have my writing included with so many talented people. Please visit his site and follow him on Twitter if you aren’t already.

Change is hard. No doubt about it. We get into an established routine, get “set in our ways” so to speak, and we like it there. It’s the old, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” motto. Am I right? So what’s a good way to help encourage change in the long-term? I believe that the “human element” is very important.

I work with teachers every day. Sometimes it’s one on one during their plan time, before or after school, or a grade level or department might get some collaboration time for half of a day. It can come in various formats and I like that. However, no matter how small or large the group is I’m working with, I strive to not let the “human element” go by the waste side.

What do I mean by this? The concept really is pretty simple: Take the time to learn about the teachers you are working with! I know, what a crazy concept right? I mean, taking the time to make some kind of a connection with them. This could be something you have in common with them or it could be using your “spidey senses” to pick up on the fact that they had a really bad day and meeting with you after school is probably the last thing they want to be doing right now.

Or it could be that you’re meeting with the head volleyball coach and there’s a big match coming up, the band director who has a marching competition coming up, or the teacher that’s brand new to your district and has that look that says, “If I get one more thing to do I’m going to shoot fireballs out of my eyes!”.

This doesn’t even have to be directly related to changing pedagogy in regards to instructional technology. If you consider yourself a “change agent” in any educational area, this should be a practice you’re proficient at. Don’t forget the “human element”! Make connections, have normal conversations; it’s ok to talk about things unrelated to work once and a while!

You would be amazed at how bringing in the “human element” once and a while can have a long-term impact on change; for the better.

Thank you for reading and I certainly welcome your comments.

9 comments to The Human Element Of Change

  • Olaf
    Twitter: olafelch

    Thanks for giving a clear and concise message on the vital issue of managing change. It is something I’m involved in on a daily basis and I wholeheartedly support your call to remember that the people you are dealing with are just that – people. It’s very easy to forget that when you are dealing with organisations.

    But… (Aw c’mon. It would be boring if comments just agreed with the post!) ;o)

    In dealing with schools I find regularly that you come up against professional delayers who use the same manipulative skills to talk an issue to death – clarifying, consideration, discussion, and the unpredictability of the future are their chosen tools to make the idea of change die of boredom.

    For me it’s the classic conflict between the change agents (“If you’re not going forward, you’re going backwards”) and the champions of the status quo (“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”). The second option is often appealing to those in the middle simply because it requires less effort and is a known quantity.

    The danger of spending time getting to know the team, choosing your moment, compromising, and negotiating, is that the change can be rendered unworkable or you are confronted with the news that there is a wonderful new development that has just been publicised and maybe a workgroup should look at that and report back to the next meeting. (Also known as, back to square one).

    Please don’t get me wrong. I think you raised a point which is vital to remember, but getting controversial measures through (and just about every significant change I’ve seen in schools has been controversial) needs leaders with very tough man management skills.

    Believe it or not, I’m not a graduate of the Genghis Khan School of Management!
    .-= Olaf´s last blog ..Why should age determine ability? =-.

  • Colin Matheson
    Twitter: cytochromec

    I totally agree, however, teachers (maybe all people) do have a tendency to co-blab-orate instead of collaborate. You get in a room with another adult and you want to vent and chew the fat to make that human connection, and then 30 minutes of the 60 minute prep period is over. So while you should always lead with a “How’s it going?”, “How did today go?”, etc. question try not to follow it up with too much info about your day, and having the valuable session lose focus. That is just what I find happens sometimes with me.

  • Hadley Ferguson
    Twitter: hadleyjf

    I love Colin’s term “co-blab-orate.” There are definitely times when we simply need to let down and talk about ourselves or focus on something other than the students in our care.

    I am wondering if we couldn’t use the online collaboration strategies that we use with students. Could a faculty meeting begin apart, using a Wallwisher to brainstorm strategies or using a ning or some such site to discuss discipline issues or calendar difficulties? Let our F2F time be for connecting with each other and then immediately addressing the solutions and ideas already generated. Then everyone has some buy-in to the conversation, having already thought about the topic or questions and personally commented on it. The energy would be towards the topic.
    .-= Hadley Ferguson´s last blog ..First Do No Harm =-.

  • Mary Beth Hertz
    Twitter: mbteach

    In my opinion, any time you are trying to teach someone something you are better off getting to know them a bit first. My best PD has started with a warm up or some kind of simple check in by the leader. I also find that I need to remember, when working one on one with a colleague, what their background is and to make the session productive but friendly.

    I, too, love the “co-blab-erate” term, and it is often the downfall of many a meeting or training session. As a leader I have had no problem addressing the issue directly and reminding people what we are there to accomplish.

    I think that being more human also allows for better communication and people are more likely to ask for help or approach you later if they feel comfortable around you.

    Thanks, Kyle, for some good advice!
    .-= Mary Beth Hertz´s last blog ..Encouraging Dialogue =-.

  • Jason Bedell
    Twitter: jasontbedell

    I like Hadley’s idea of having faculty collaboration online when possible. It seems like teachers are often fried by the end of the day. It’s not always the optimal time for collaboration. Using tried and tested strategies that work with students will also work with teachers.
    .-= Jason Bedell´s last blog ..It’s Never Too Late to Teach an Old Dog New Tricks! =-.

  • Steven W. Anderson
    Twitter: web20classroom

    I think you said it with the first line. Change IS hard. I have been working with adults for almost 7 years now. When I first started in my rookie days I thought everyone would be as excited as I was to learn technology or a new teaching method as I was to show them. Yeah, those teachers are out there but sadly, they are few and far between. Most of the time I deal with educators who are willing but skeptical. They understand what we are doing and maybe even the why but they need time.

    I learned I had to do exactly what you described. I had to get to know the groups of people I was working with. In a past job I was the technology program for a school district of 19 schools. Just me. Thats it. So I had to learn 19 different staffs and 19 different ways of doing my work and that was really tough. But learning those things proved valuable come workshop time. There were some staffs I knew would never come to one of my workshops because they just weren’t ready. While I knew there would always be some schools represented. The key was I had to learn who I was dealing with. When I moved to working with just one school in another district I had to take time to learn the staff. What were their needs? Where were they? I could not come in and just do things my way. I work for them, not the other way ’round.

    Education is a very people centered business. But sometimes we forget that we are dealing with people. And we have to understand what we are dealing with!

    Thanks for the reminders and great post Kyle!
    .-= Steven W. Anderson´s last blog ..What Motivates You? =-.

  • [...] repeating too much of what my friends and colleagues Kyle Pace and Steven Anderson have already said on their posts on this blog, here are some [...]

  • Erin Klein
    Twitter: mimadisonklein

    Great post – thanks for the thoughtful discussion!

    Erin Klein
    @mimadisonklein (Twitter)
    Erin Klein´s last blog post ..Helping Students Grow with SMART

  • Wm Dean

    When you make requested changes for people who ask for them, it’s very different. They know they want the change so the job is make it happen. With the teachers, sounds like administration wants the change and the teachers aren’t sure. Little or no buy in to start.
    With NLP we discussed components of the new behavior, did a mental run thru of how it worked and installed the components. When they walked out the door, there was no question how they would handle the issue the next time it came up because that was already installed. They would just do the new behavior and later notice that it had changed. It could be tweaked later to add things. Your situation with the teachers is much harder and will take longer.

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