"Engendering a Change Ethic in the Next Generation"

"Measuring Attitudes toward Change in Teaching Staff"

Engendering a Change Ethic
in the Next Generation

by Jamie McKenzie, Ed.D.

Even though nearly everyone concedes that the next century will be characterized by startling change, shifting rules and persistent uncertainty, many continue to educate children as if this were the 1950's, as if they could look forward to a life of tranquility and predictability.

No sooner does President Bush announce the end of the Cold War, than we find ourselves in the largest military mobilization since Vietnam as the Middle East rushes into the vacuum created by new Realpolitik and the world is turned topsy-turvy by the surprising turn of events. No sooner do we announce victory than we find ourselves immersed in a very painful relief operation inside Iraqi territory while the dictator remains in power despite the military defeat.

It is time to shift the mission of American schools to prepare a generation to embrace change with enthusiasm, to welcome surprise and to thrive on chaos (to use Tom Peter's term). It is our duty to create citizens with a change ethic. an appetite for change, a belief in the value of change and a toolkit of change strategies and skills - among these would be sensitivity to the needs of those being asked to change.

In Managing as a Performing Art, Peter Vaill portrays life in the Information Age as "permanent white water." One can never be quite sure what lies around the bend of the river. . . a stretch of calm or a thunderous waterfall. After decades of teaching students to color between the lines, obey the rules and avoid rocking the boat, we should now recognize that these behaviors are a sure recipe for extinction, an archaic collection of dinosaur strategies which inhibit adaptation, stifle inventiveness and undermine competitiveness.

It is as if we are playing a game of baseball, according to Vaill, in which anybody can move the bases anywhere anytime the ball is hit. To cope with rapidly shifting contexts, we need citizens and employees who are quick on their feet . . . people who are willing to rock the boat, make waves and ask questions. We need employees and citizens with a change ethic.

What evidence do we have of rapid change? We see a world turned upside down and inside out by recent events in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Enemies become friends. Friends become enemies. The apparent winners of World War II become the apparent losers in an economic war while the former Axis Powers flourish.

As power shifts in Europe, the foundations of NATO and decades worth of military strategies come tumbling down like a deck of cards blown by the winds of change. Security, once measured by the number of ICBM's and tanks, is now defined in some regions in terms of economic and social health. Empty shelves, trade deficits and national debts undermine public confidence and stability, drive the political agenda and determine who shall come to power. To Russians, for example, bread has become a more important policy issue than guns.

For most countries, it is now the economic war that matters most . . . a war we are ill-prepared to win unless we have a workforce which will restore American competitiveness. To achieve that kind of workforce we require schools and teachers willing to take a fresh approach to education.

How do we raise a generation with a change ethic? We make change and surprise constant elements in our classrooms. We attack routine and humdrum with adventure, inquiry and investigation. We ask students to wrestle with essential questions which awaken curiosity and provoke learning. We invite students to make meaning out of chaos and nonsense. We replace the ho hum routines of Industrial Age textbooks, ditto sheets and fill-in-the-blanks learning with problems, challenges and issues drawn from the "real world." We open up schools so that the world is the classroom instead of the classroom being the world. We create a change ethic by offering students a "real time," authentic education in "real time" schools.

The Davis-McKenzie Teacher Adaptability Quotient Scale

If you are presently a classroom teacher, answer the following questions to reflect your attitude toward the issues raised. If you are no longer a classroom teacher answer the questions as if you were still a classroom teacher.


1. The School Board is voting on a teacher exchange program to establish ffdd partnerships with similar districts in other states to exchange teachers for a year at a time with no loss of pay or benefits. How likely would you be to sign up for such a program?

a. when can I leave?
b. interested if various problems can be worked out
c. unlikely
d. no way

2. During the last month, how often have you varied your route to work?

a. 1-3 times
b. almost daily
c. never
d. four or more times

3. When was the last time you arrived to spend the night in a distant city without a hotel reservation made in advance?

a. never
b. 10 years ago
c. as a college student
d. this year

4. What is your preferred system for travel?

a. make your own reservations and itinerary in advance by researching several
books and other sources.
b. follow the planned itinerary in a travel book.
c. make it up as you go.
d. sign up for a package tour.

5. What is your approach to lesson plans?

a. Students help plan and direct the unit and the daily lessons through their reactions and questions.
b. I set major objectives make sure I have good material to stimulate thought
and then I see what happens.
c. I spend hours each week detailing the strategies and writing out how I will
d. I follow the sequence recommended by M. Hunter.

6. Given a choice, what would your preference be?

a. Two preparations daily for 3 sections of one course and 2 of another.
b. Five preparations daily for 5 different courses.
c. One preparation daily for 5 sections of the same course.
d. Four preparations daily for 4 different courses.

7. What happens to last year's lesson plans?

a. I use them again each year unless something dramatic has changed.
b. I keep them as a reference, but I tend to build around needs of the
students I have now.
c. They are carefully saved and then modified somewhat for the new year.
d. I throw them away and start fresh each year.

8. How often has your assignment changed during the past 5 years in terms of courses or levels (i.e., honors, AP, college prep, etc.) taught?

a. Several times
b. Once
c. Yearly
d. Never

9. How many components (such as cooperative learning, concept attainment or learning styles) have you added to your teaching repertoire during the past 5 years?

a. 5 or more components
b. 3-4 components
c. 1-2 components
d. None

10. When the leadership in your building or district changes, which of the following strategies would you be likely to adopt?

a. Sit back, keep a low profile and see what develops.
b. Ask for an appointment to present a list of suggested improvements and
c. Keep business as usual.
d. Greet the new leader and offer assistance.

11. How do you react when students raise current event issues at the beginning of a class?

a. Point out how frequently they have used current events as an excuse to
avoid "real work."
b. Briefly entertain the issues and then get on with the lesson.
c. Remind them of the class subject or topic and get on track.
d. Convert the issue into a teachable moment related to the class.

12. If the district advertised a weekend white water rafting trip, all expenses paid for teachers and administrators, what would be your response?

a. How tough is the river?
b. What's the point of this trip?
c. Sign me up!
d. No way!

13. How many professional magazines do you read each month?

a. 5 or more
b. 2-4
c. 1
d. None

14. When was the last time you visited classes in a school in a different district?

a. Several years ago.
b. This school year.
c. Never
d. Last year.

15. When was the last time you voluntarily participated in a course or staff development experience outside of the regular work day?

a. Never
b. Last year.
c. Several years ago.
d. This school year.

16. Given a teacher's guide for a text or course, how frequently would you consult and utilize the lesson strategies, suggestions and sequences provided therein?

a. Rarely
b. Occasionally
c. Almost never
d. Frequently

17. Thinking back to 1985, how many new software packages and/or educational technologies have you learned to use since then?

a. 5 or more
b. 2-4
c. 1
d. None

18. When learning a new software package, what is your preference?

a. Give me a few classes and a good manual and let me proceed through it step by step with lots of time to practice.
b. Let me just put it in the computer and see if I can make it work.
c. I want formal classroom training with a good deal of support before I have to use it in the classroom.
d. I like to learn it with an informal group of friends or colleagues who support each other.

19. How many of the following have you learned to use and now use frequently?