A flash flood warning is issued when meteorologists are predicting an abnormally large volume of rainfall in a short period of time. The rain falls in such quantities for a short period that the ground can’t absorb the rain and it runs off the surface, following the path of least resistance until it gathers into fast moving streams on our roadways, sidewalks and in some cases, right through our homes.
The recent flash flooding in our area reminded me that sometimes as educators we need our own Flash Flood Warning. We’ve been deluged with educational initiatives that have left many teachers, leaders, parents and students feeling drowned by the fast moving changes sweeping public education. Although we may not have control over the deluge, we do have control over how we respond to it.
What are the steps you can take to manage the flash flood of initiatives?
Evaluate changes and initiatives from a systems perspective. Find out more about the initiative or change. Figure out where the changes fit in the system. Get in the habit of connecting and integrating rather than trying to layer initiative on top of initiative.
- How much of the new is really new to you?
- How does it fit with what you already know and do?
Manage your expectations for learning and changing practice. If you are trying to drink from the fire hose put it down! Although you may have high expectations for yourself, you also have to be realistic about how much of the new learning you can comprehend, internalize, and integrate into practice within a limited time period.
- Reflection and peer-to-peer learning are two ways you can help yourself manage your learning and increase how much you internalize and integrate into practice.
- Learning communities and other team structures provide opportunities for application of learning, peer networking and reflective practice. These structures and practices are associated with positive change in personal and organizational performance.
Identify your support. Support may come in different forms and it may not be obvious at first.
- Support could be in the form of another teacher or leader who is dealing with similar changes.
- Support could be in the form of a mentor who has successfully navigated flash floods of initiatives before and has lessons learned or a listening ear.
- Support may be found in structures and routines within your system that help you manage constraints in the system while providing stability during times of transition.
Identify your resources. New initiatives are not always accompanied by a wealth of resources—at least not initially. The spread of the initiative among other educators and education agencies may result in resources being developed. Many initiatives are derived from prior programs and research. Follow the source of the initiative.
- Look at funding and sponsoring organizations that are contributing to or involved in the initiative. Use keywords to find resources developed by or on behalf of these organizations.
- Remember your tax dollars are always at work! The federal government sponsors a lot of research and development in education. Look at the research behind the initiative to identify resources from early research and programs related to the initiative.
- Team up with others to identify and assess the usefulness of resources. You don’t have to use everything you find! Not all resources are created equally and more is not always better.
Finally, remember that flash floods are temporary. The waters will recede, some aspects of the landscape will have changed, and some of the strong structures—slightly weathered—will still be there to rely upon.