Let’s begin on a real tangent – all the best blog posts I have read do! My wife and I love watching the programme ‘Impractical Jokers’. It’s a really good programme that you can just zone out with. The premise of the entire show is that it’s about four, very immature men in their 30’s who go around and get each other to do really embarrassing things. The other three are generally hooked up to an earpiece in their ear and they have to do and say what they are told. I could go into more detail but that is the general idea. It’s a really good programme to watch whilst marking work, doesn’t take a lot to follow it!
Anyway, one particular challenge they like to do is give presentations about various things (could be first-aid, table manners, yoga…anything really) but the slides and activities have been planned by the other three. The person who gets the least votes on how good their presentation was by the (unaware) audience loses. As you can imagine, some ridiculous stuff is said and done but I’ve noticed something interesting (and here we get to my point). Usually one of two things happen. Either, no one votes to say they would take a class with them. The other thing that can happen is two or more people cast their vote. Hence, we see the necessity of leaders, but more importantly of followers.
Obviously for change to happen there has to be a leader. Without the leader, there is no vision, no end goal. It is the leader’s vision which drives what change is going to happen.
However, there is something we can learn from the Jokers mentioned. When one of them takes whatever appears on the slides they present in their stride, without any hesitation or chuckle (which I imagine is extremely difficult), they generally receive a more positive response. Basically, whatever crap they are saying, as long as they sound confident about the crap, then the people are more willing to accept the crap.
Now, change in education is a much more sensitive subject. Different opinions fly, views are varied and children’s learning – the future of our society – is at stake. So at this point let me make it clear I am not suggesting any educational changes suggested today are crap (although, I’m sure many of you would not hesitate to label some initiatives so). However, it is possible to suggest whatever change in education to staff, and if the leader is passionate enough about the change and give evidence as to how to benefits learning, then it is possible to start turning a few heads.
Now of course, one does not initiate educational change just by turning heads. The likelihood is that those heads will turn back very quickly – teachers have lots to do! But, the leader must keep momentum. Once attention is grabbed from their evidence and passion, demonstrating how this change would look in practice is key – and this must be sustained, not slow down.
Eventually, one will follow. And one is all that’s needed…
The First Follower/Second Leader
Let’s go back to the Jokers, because this is key to influencing change. I mentioned there is rarely only one person who votes. This is true. But I did not mention that, almost always, only one person puts their hand up first. This is the first follower. This is the key to making educational change possible. When the leader has done their bit and steps back, they must find that first follower, because it is them that changes that first “good idea” into “something we should do”.
The leader’s role is not done yet though. They must celebrate this first follower. They must promote their great work. This will help not only the first follower feel validated in their decision but will make the act of following seem more enticing.
If this continues, then we see change…
I could make this analogy last longer but I think you get the idea. As a leader, you must plan for those you predict will follow. You know who they are in your school. Those who are happy to have students come and observe, those who are a beacon of positivity, those who are willing to try things out, to be the best they can be. If you are able to catch one of them, then change can happen.
Of course, this is a very complex path, all educational change is. Yet, recognising the value of the first follower will enable change to happen much more successfully.
To end this post, enjoy this clip which is what helped me to visualise this concept of the first follower much more easily!
photo credit: donielle <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/31925990@N00/23826853483″>IMG_0242</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>