Talk of change begs the question that is most asked in a school introducing a change agenda. Why change if things are good? The question is asked by staff members who have been praised for their results, by parents worried about standards being diluted and even by alumni who pleased with the way things went when they were there.
The problem is that a school that does not change stagnates. It cannot adapt to the changing world around it, cannot adopt new opportunities that are presented and cannot respond to research that throws up new methodologies. Stasis becomes a force in itself, a reason for inactivity masquerading as activity. Lack of challenge soon degenerates into lack of effort. When we consider learning and achievement, we know that the greatest challenge and creative development occurs at the margins of our current experience. Whether it is the academic, the artist or the sportsman, the real effort and concentration occurs when they move from the familiar and the comfortable to the new and the different. As teachers we need to be challenged with change as we challenge students with new ideas. It is the change in our situation that leads us to the greatest creativity, and the creativity that is ultimately the most rewarding.
Discussion around change always brings reflection on the current situation, whatever the change may be. This example is a situation where there has been lot of discussion about change before the possibility of actual change arose.
Island School in Hong Kong opened in 1967 and moved into its current purpose built buildings in 1972.These buildings are suffering significant structural decay 40 years on, and are unlikely to be viable as a school within a few years. The decision has been taken to build a new Island School either on the same site or on a new site. The delay in the process has revolved around discussions with the Government about where we might build, or where we might go temporarily to build on the current site.
All of this means that the school needs to prepare to build a new school. But what should it look like? What facilities should it have? What characteristics of the current school must we preserve and what must we change? How will we teach in the new school, and what sort of building does that require? How do we teach now, and what must we continue and what must we change?
These questions have led to a very thorough examination of the state of the current school, our practices and our methodologies. This has been engaged in enthusiastically by staff, students and parents.
All discussion of change, small or large, can result in such self-examination at some scale. As I write this, we are still two years off knocking down the current school, but we still discuss the opportunities the change will give us.
The role of leadership is to discuss change, create change and to bring people through change. This can be uncomfortable, but is absolutely necessary.
If you are interested in the Island School Redevelopment project, look here.