The Process of Change Doesn’t HAVE to be Stressful

Thanks to Twitter, I came across an article from the Business Insider dated November 15 titled: The 14 Most Stressful Jobs in America. In a comparison study of 747 different occupations, it was found that education administrators had the 3rd most stressful job right behind first line supervisors of police and mental health counselors. Surgeons rated 9th!

Anyone who has worked in the field of education knows that the job of an education administrator is stressful. Budget cuts, broad demand, high expectations, long days, sleepless nights, mandates and ambiguous laws are just a part of what school administrators experience in a day. I am not complaining, it’s a wonderfully rewarding job and the kids and teachers really make it worth the while.

The current path of education in Indiana certainly is not helping to make our jobs any less stressful. While our state’s standards of the past were always rigorous, they were also too numerous to clearly test. We have long been saddled with determining each year what the ISTEP+ test was going assess as it couldn’t possibly cover all of the standards evenly. It was a bit of an educated guessing game. Now, due to the pause and other squabbles, we don’t even know what standards we should be focusing on. Do we focus on current Indiana standards or Common Core? A guessing game seems to be a bit of an understatement for primary teachers who have had students studying Common Core for K-2 and the third grade ISTEP+ test is looming in their future.

With recent issues surrounding the state board, governor and state superintendent, pundits in Indiana have even talked about creating new Indiana-only standards that meet College and Career Readiness goals. Don’t get me wrong, I want to get this whole thing just as “right” as the rest of us does, but deciding what standards should be taught while students are being prepared to take a high stakes assessment that may or may not test what teachers taught them is hurting our schools, teachers, administrators and students. We have put teachers in a dark room, blindfolded them, and now we are talking about spinning them around and telling them they have to hit the target. That is stressful for teachers.

Teachers are looking to their administrators for leadership. We need to be able to say to them that if you do X, your results will be Y. We know what Y looks like…it’s measured by the IDoE. We just have much less of an idea what the future of X is and it is hurting our schools. Yes, it is much more complex than that, but at this point, teachers can perform their instruction at a very high level and have no assurance that their students will succeed on the high stakes ISTEP+ test. We need to help our teachers…they need us more than they ever have. That is stressful for administrators.

We need to set a direction and stick with it. Any significant change must be well planned in advance…years in advance. If we set off on a path, and part-way through our journey decide to sit for a year, and then look for a different path, not only will we arrive at our destination much later, we will find our energy depleted when we need it most.

I’m a proponent for change. Education is change, so I see leading that as the natural role of a school administrator. While change in itself doesn’t bother me, the process of poorly managed change can be horrible. We know that process is just as important as content as they go hand in hand. A good process can’t make a bad change good just like a poor process can’t make a good change successful. I don’t care how it is going to happen, but we all need to get on the same page. Indiana needs to choose College and Career Readiness able standards that are most akin to what we were expecting. We’ve already swallowed the pill and we survived. Let’s move forward as closely as we can in the direction that we had planned. It’s best for children.

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