Initiative Fatigue

“Really?!? Another thing? We are barely started with the last thing and the thing before that. I can’t even remember the main focus of the thing from last month. Is this one going to stick or is it going to be soon forgotten like last year’s thing? How can we have 50 things that we should be focusing on?”

Education can feel like this. It seems like there’s consistently a new initiative that will increase engagement, achievement, college and career readiness, test scores, community involvement, or one of the myriads of other things that we all know are important.

I was introduced to the term “initiative fatigue” this week and it’s resonating with me. There’s a sense in which it would be far better to do one or two things well than to do dozens of things poorly. I chatted with a group of educators about ways to introduce a new initiative so that it’s effective without being overwhelming. Here are a few things I gleaned:

  • Communication Matters: Explain the thinking behind the initiative and the plan for training, implementation, coaching, and follow up. Be sure that this communication is clear and thorough. Share stories and data to motivate and remove barriers.
  • The Team Matters: It’s important to start with a core group of teachers who are leaders, have a growth mindset, and have good classroom management and basic teaching skills. Get leaders like TOSAs, Curriculum and Instruction Coordinators, and Instructional Coaches on board.
  • Training Matters: Start with a clear understanding of the why (show data that connects the program directly to student achievement).
  • Practical Application Matters: Teach the skills and concepts for the new program in a way that makes classroom application really clear.
  • Practice Matters: Allow teachers to practice so that they will feel comfortable with the tools and application.
  • Support Matters: As teachers who have been trained roll the program out into their classes, offer lots of support (including emotional because change is hard).
  • Community and Collaboration Matter: Make sure that teachers are (and feel) connected to one another, as change is easier in community rather than in isolation. Have teachers participate in paired teaching. Get them in one another’s classrooms to observe and learn.

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