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Why Teachers Must Become Change Agents

Why Teachers Must Become Change Agents

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Published by: smkdhak on Aug 07, 2008
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09/24/2010

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Educational Leadership
Volume
50
Number 
6
March 1993
------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Professional Teacher 
Why Teachers Must Become Change Agents
 Michael G. Fullan
Teacher education programs must help teaching candidates tolink the moral purpose that influences them with the tools thatwill prepare them to engage in productive change.
Teaching at its core is a moral profession. Scratch a good teacher and youwill find a moral purpose. At the Faculty of Education, University of Toronto, we recently examined why people enter the teaching profession(Stiegelbauer 1992). In a random sample of 20 percent of 1,100 studentteachers, the most frequently mentioned theme was "to make a difference inthe lives of students." Of course, such statements cannot be taken at facevalue because people have a variety of motives for becoming teachers. Nonetheless, there is a strong kernel of truth to this conclusion.What happens in teacher preparation, the early years of teaching, andthroughout the career, however, is another story. Those with a clear sense of moral purpose often become disheartened, and those with a limited sense of  purpose are never called upon to demonstrate their commitment. In anextensive study of teacher burnout, Farber (1991) identifies the devastatingeffects of the growing "sense of inconsequentiality" that often accompaniesthe teacher's career. Many teachers, says Farber, begin their careers "with asense that their work is socially meaningful and will yield great personalsatisfactions. " This sense dissipates, however, as "the inevitable difficultiesof teaching ... interact with personal
 
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issues and vulnerabilities, as well as social pressure and values, to engender a sense of frustration and force a reassessment of the possibilities of the joband the investment one wants to make in it" (1991, p. 36).
A Natural Alliance
Certainly calls for reestablishing the moral foundation of teaching arewarranted, but increased commitment at the one-to-one and classroom levelsalone is a recipe for moral martyrdom. To have any chance of makingteaching a noble and effective profession—and this is my themehere—teachers must combine the mantle of moral purpose with the skills of change agentry.Moral purpose and change agentry, at first glance, appear to be strange bedfellows. On closer examination they are natural allies (Fullan 1993).Stated more directly, moral purpose—or making a difference—concerns bringing about improvements. It is, in other words, a
change theme
. Inaddition to the need to make moral purpose more explicit, educators need thetools to engage in change productively. Moral purpose keeps teachers closeto the needs of children and youth; change agentry causes them to develop better strategies for accomplishing their moral goals.Those skilled in change appreciate its volatile character, and they explicitlyseek ideas for coping with and influencing change toward some desiredends. I see four core capacities for building greater change capacity: personal vision-building, inquiry, mastery, and collaboration (see Senge1990 and Fullan 1993). Each of these has its institutional counterpart: sharedvision-building; organizational structures, norms, and practices of inquiry;the development of increased repertoires of skills and know-how amongorganizational members; and collaborative work cultures.
 
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But we are facing a huge dilemma. On the one hand, schools are expected toengage in continuous renewal, and change expectations are constantlyswirling around them. On the other hand, the way teachers are trained, theway schools are organized, the way the educational hierarchy operates, andthe way political decision makers treat educators results in a system that ismore likely to retain the status quo. One way out of this quandary is to makeexplicit the goals and skills of change agentry. To break the impasse, weneed a new conception of teacher professionalism that integrates moral purpose and change agentry, one that works simultaneously on individualand institutional development. One cannot wait for the other.
Personal Vision-Building
Working on personal visions means examining and re-examining why wecame into teaching. Asking "What difference am I trying to make personally?" is a good place to start.For most of us, the reasons are there, but possibly buried. For the beginningteacher, they may be underdeveloped. It is time to make them front andcenter. Block emphasizes that "creating a vision forces us to take a stand for a preferred future" (1987, p. 102). To articulate our vision of the future "is tocome out of the closet with our doubts about the organization and the way itoperates" (p. 105).Personal vision comes from within. It gives meaning to work, and it existsindependently of the organization or group we happen to be in. Once it getsgoing, it is not as private as it sounds. Especially in moral occupations liketeaching, the more one takes the risk to express personal purpose, the morekindred spirits one will find. Paradoxically, personal purpose is the route toorganizational change. When it is diminished, we see in its place group-think and a continual stream of fragmented, surface changes acquired uncriticallyand easily discarded.

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