Leading Change

At TASA Midwinter 2019 I had the opportunity to present a session titled Leading Change to Provide Access and Equity in Mathematics.  This session connected Kotter’s “Leading Change” to the development of an equitable mathematics program, including the establishment of a sense of urgency, creation of a guiding coalition, and development of a vision/strategy.  Participants considered how to extend their impact in their respective roles with Maxwell’s “The 5 Levels of Leadership.” The session wrapped up with practical strategies for a guaranteed and viable curriculum that is necessary for equitable access to high quality teaching.

First, I broke the ice with a reflection.

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Whether those initiatives were ones we led ourselves, or ones we have been on the receiving end of, the group of participants quickly bonded over the sharing of initiatives gone wrong.

Then, through the lens of Toy Story, I introduced the stages of Kotter’s change model.

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  1. Create a Sense of Urgency
  2. Build a Guiding Coalition
  3. Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives
  4. Enlist a Volunteer Army
  5. Enable Action by Removing Barriers
  6. Generate Short-Term Wins
  7. Sustain Acceleration
  8. Institute Change

By supporting the participants to make connections between the plot of the popular movie and the stages of Kotter’s change model, I encouraged them to paint a mental picture along the way.  This dual coding supported meaning making and understanding.

Then, it was their turn.  I showed a trailer for The Martian, starring Matt Damon.  I asked the participants to work in small groups to connect the plot of this movie to the stages of Kotter’s change model.

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This was successful!  By showing the trailer, the participants were provided some amount of background knowledge – even if they hadn’t seen the film.  And, by working in groups, the participants had an opportunity to collaborate and discuss the stages through  the lens of The Martian.

This opportunity to transfer understanding, albeit a small stretch, pushed the participants beyond their typical conference sit-and-get role.

Next, I shared my story to utilize Kotter’s change model to move toward a guaranteed and viable curriculum.

  1. Create a Sense of Urgency – Results of a recent audit revealed data around the timing (if ever) for certain student groups to achieve parity in our district.
  2. Build a Guiding Coalition – I empowered my team of instructional coaches at the time to advocate for the vision.
  3. Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives – Based on the mission, I guided the development of PK-12 Transfer Goals, establishment of High Priority Learning Standards, identification of high quality tier 1 instruction, and the creation of a Response to Intervention system.
  4. Enlist a Volunteer Army – Through a series of professional learning academies, additional advocates were brought on board.
  5. Enable Action by Removing Barriers – I spend time in the classroom and listen and respond to educators and learners.
  6. Generate Short-Term Wins – I spoke at our recent Convocation about Great Teaching and provide opportunities for educators to identify their own areas of growth.
  7. Sustain Acceleration – I have recently launched a podcast, designed to tell the story of educators working to make A Greater Impact.
  8. Institute Change – Through my role as President of the Texas Association of Supervisors of Mathematics and collaboration with the State Board of Education, along with opportunities opened for my educators, we are moving forward to institute change.

I concluded the session with a reflection of where we are in our leadership journey.  John Maxwell outlines the 5 Levels of Leadership:

  • The Pinnacle
  • People Development
  • Production
  • Permission
  • Position

Beginning at the bottom of the list, people follow because of our title.  We aim to become leaders who develop other leaders… who develop others.


If you were to describe your leadership through music, what would be on your Leadership Playlist?

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