Riding the Wave of Change

Riding the crest of the “schools of the future” wave may be dangerous for many independent schools. The crest of the wave is its highest peak and its longevity is unstable, as a wave crests just before it breaks, picking up both speed, momentum, and certainty towards shore. That the future is coming is inaccurate. “The future is already here;” as William Gibson, science fiction author, writes, “It is just not very unevenly distributed.” The “schools of the future” wave will break and reach us all, and as is often the case, those just behind the wave will be spared the frustration, anxiety, and failures of being on the “cutting edge.” The wave’s edge is a place for those who know the risks and are adroit in managing them. We shall be glad for them, as their experience can inform ours.

While educators must remain current in their field, contemplative, and plan adeptly for the changes occurring in the world and in the field of education, school leaders should not stress about their 21st century future. Too often school leaders are anxious that they may not have the latest and greatest technology or instructional methods. Excess energy and resources should not be squandered trying to be the “first to adopt” every idea presented by those who spend their time thinking futuristically. In fact, it may not be wise for schools to react to changes by immediately adopting the latest teaching techniques and technology. Schools must move into the future in a very strategic and thoughtful manner, focused on data not just hype, and not fearing the stigma of “being behind.” The learning from the successes and failures of those that do adopt early, those riding the edge, should fuel our thoughts and strategic discussions, not pressure school administrators into premature changes.

Independent schools are amazingly adaptive and are able to respond quickly when time warrants. Educators must be ready to change and adapt when sufficient research confirms the need for change and when resources are budgeted to get everyone onboard. Although your boat will have people both aft and fore, it is important that the institution’s commitment is unwavering before setting sail.

Few of us need more evidence that, indeed, the world has become flat, the global nature of education requires a new way of thinking, and technology is a part of our student’s DNA.  Careful consideration and strategic leadership must guide adaptation for schools as they prepare students for the future. Our schools must address the realities of the future, and they must do so intentionally and with clear purpose. The waves will ebb and flow, but the winds of change are strong and constant, creating tensions and stress. Our charge, as school leaders, is to not be clucked (surfer term for being afraid of waves) and to strategically find our path to dive in with purpose, confidence, and vision.

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