Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Another example of Shaping the Path

The last few weeks, I have been talking about "sw!tch," a book that outlines strategies for changes that actually work.  These changes fall into one of three categories:  Direct the rider (the rational side of people); motivate the elephant (the emotional side), or shape the path.
Here's another education example that uses the concept of Shaping the Path.

Natalie Elder took on the job of improving student achievement in an elementary school that had the worst test scores in the state of Tennessee.  After taking some of the usual steps to address behavior issues that impeded learning--suspending students, involving pollice when egregious rule breaking occurred--she realized that these actions were not going to get the results she wanted.

She focused on changing the way the day started.  She and her staff became valets, greeting every student as they arrived; saying hello to parents who were dropping off their children, escorting all children to the cafeteria.  This simple change meant the day was starting at a better place for the students.  In the process, she created an environment that allowed children to be good.  Students who were previously seen as "bad" suddenly started acting like "good" kids.

Small, simple changes that can make a difference.  Sometimes we are so focused on the end game that we cannot see how small steps can make a big difference.  How can you address the needs of the riders and elephants in your organization?  How can you shape the path so that you have a better chance of actually getting the change you seek.

Good stuff from TEDxMadtown

Got this in my email this morning!  What a terrific gift.  Shannon, thanks for sharing.

Hello Tedxmadtowners,

I hope this email finds you doing well and enjoying the start of the holidays with family and friends! I have been meaning to send this email for sometime now but have been busy with a very busy crew of 3rd graders.

I wanted to share something that happened to my students and I this year, as a direct result of the tedxmadtown event last spring.

Over the summer the school board in Oregon (where I teach) got ahold of my Tedtalk and asked me to attend a school board meeting to have a question and answer session about the event. They were very impressed and had nothing but positive feedback from my Tedtalk. At one point in my talk I had stated that my ideal classroom would be one where every child had an iPad in their hands. The school board president told me that "they were going to do all that they could to make that happen." At the time I really thought nothing of it.

Fast forward to September at a Wednesday staff meeting at my school...My principal started off the meeting by introducing our school's superintendent, technology coordinator and 2 board members. They were there to surprise me with my wish! But instead of iPads they purchased 24 google chromebooks for my classroom to pilot. You can imagine my surprise!

My students have been using the chromebooks now for almost two months and are loving it. It has changed the way I have been teaching and has been such a positive and engaging tool for the kids.

I owe a huge thank you to Deb and Adam and all involved for organizing and hosting tedxmadtown and for inviting me to speak! The goal of tedtalks, to motivate and inspire, definitely did so in my case. Twenty two eight year olds (and their teacher) can't thank you enough!

I hope you have a great holiday season!

Shannon Luehmann
Prairie View Elementary
Oregon, WI

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shaping the path

Last week, I talked about "sw!tch" a book that outlines strategies for change that actually work.  These changes fall into one of three categories:  Direct the rider (the rational side of people); motivate the elephant (the emotional side), or shape the path

High school teacher, Bart Millar, had a problem.  Two students showing up late for class, disrupting the lesson.  He tried the usual--refusing to let them in to class if they were late, send them to the principal's office.  Nothing worked.  Finally, Millar tweaked the environment (a shape the path strategy).  He bought a used couch and put it in front of the classroom.  It soon became the cool place to sit and the two students who had been tardy and disruptive, now showed up early to get a good seat. This strategy also probably appealed to the students' elephants.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How to change the little things

I've just finished reading a fascinating new book about change, "sw!tch: when change is hard."  Rather than focusing on the difficulties of change, the book outlines strategies for small changes that can make a big difference.  The authors, Chip and Dan Heath, outline three main concepts to consider when working on change: The rider (the rational side of people); the elephant (the emotional side) and the path (the environment in which the change will take place).  The Heaths ask us to consider that the change has less to do with plans and more to do with people.  Like Bridges, "Transitions," "sw!tch" focuses on the behavior of the individuals who need to implement the change.  In "Transitions," Bridges talks about how you need to give people space to make sense of the change before they can embrace it.  The Heath brothers drill down a bit further, outlining strategies to use when considering big changes.

Several education examples are included and I will summarize them over the next few posts.  The first involves a third grade teacher whose first classroom is made up struggling first graders.  This teacher, Crystal Jones, wanted her students to see themselves as successes, so she announced that by the end of the year they would be third graders, not in the literal sense, but in the sense that their reading ability would improve such that they would possess third grade reading skills.  She started calling her students "scholars."  By the end of the school year, 90 percent of the students were reading at a third grade level.  Jones had used one of the strategies that addresses the rider:  she made the goal clear and humongous.  She created a giant destination postcard:  reading at a third grade level by the end of the year, a goal that was irresistible to her students.  By engaging their riders, Crystal was able to change the future of the students in her classroom.